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It’s no secret that job-hunting is a tough process. If I had a dollar for every time somebody sighed to me, “Finding a new job is a job in itself” I’d have at least an extra $4 per week. How best to make your application stand out, without coming off as a tosser or fake in the process, seems to be the elusive secret most chased by candidates right now. From graduates through to leadership, everyone is asking.

A Google search on the topic returns a bunch of predictable (stale) advice: Tailor your CV and cover letter to the position. Don’t try to “sell” yourself. Express personality, but remain professional. Maybe call to … YAAAWWWNNN. Sorry, I just fell asleep mid-sentence.

The Muse actually have some killer advice, although how well-received it would be in our still-somewhat-backward market is questionable. Included in their list of 11 Awesome Job Application Add-ons That Get the Attention of Hiring Managers are recommendations to share what you’re currently reading, a link to your personal blog, quirky interests or facts about yourself, gap years and travel experiences, and what really drives you. My interest was instantly piqued, and I know my time screening CVs would be a hell of a lot more entertaining if people diversified to include this sort of information, but I’m painfully aware that what I find interesting isn’t on the same page as many hiring managers. The relevance of such information would also be sorely dependent on the type of role applied for – it’s all well and good to wax lyrical about your time sinking super-sized pints at Oktoberfest, and somehow tie that into diatribe about what an awesome team player you are, but is a time-poor call centre manager going to care (or respect you for it)? Probably not.

Here are my two cents:

  1. Ditch the cliches. Especially that one about being equally comfortable working independently or in a team. Seriously. Please. It’s like the food packaging that proudly declares “Made in New Zealand from local & imported ingredients”. They may as well just say “Made in New Zealand from ingredients.” And you may as well just say “I am good at working.”
  2. Use decent fonts. This shouldn’t be difficult, but it is. Play it safe if you have to, and stick with Arial or Helvetica. Times New Roman harks back to 1992 and Comic Sans (which was literally invented for comic books) is most definitely not appropriate for CVs. In fact, it’s not really appropriate, full stop. It has no place being used anywhere, for anything. Comic Sans is instant cringe-factor, and even worse when you jazz it up with a “cool” colour like Microsoft-issue purple.
  3. Write it yourself. Or if you haven’t, make it sound like you have. Inject some personality. Don’t use words you don’t understand. Somebody might say these back to you one day, and it’s embarrassing for both parties when it becomes apparent you used a thesaurus then forgot what the word originally was.
  4. Do not speak about yourself in third person. Just don’t. Same goes for your LinkedIn profile.
  5. Be clear, concise and to the point. Again, this sounds basic, but there are still a remarkable volume of 12+ page CVs floating around out there, with the first few pages dedicated to self-important waffle. Make bullet points informative but brief. Remember this is a document that should ideally lead to a conversation, where you will be able to explain things in depth. If you have had a lot of roles, or your roles require a fair bit of explanation and therefore spill over a few pages, pop a Career Summary on page 1 to quickly outline the years worked, where & what of each position.


CVs are deeply personal documents, so I’m a firm believer you should take any advice with a grain of salt, including my own. Heck, my CV wasn’t always the finely honed work of art that it is today. You might have a 26-page third-person resume typed in Curlz that you absolutely love, and you know what? That’s okay. I probably won’t read all 26 pages, but it’s yours to do what you want with.

We have all had some shockers come across our desk at some point or other. What’s your pet peeve in job applications? The most commonly repeated mistake you wish people would get right? Or on the flipside, is there anything outstanding you’ve seen that you think candidates would benefit from taking on board? Shout out below, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Natasha Foster

Recruitment Consultant at New Zealand firm Rice Consulting, shaking things up in the HR world. Photographer on the side, Te Reo student, rock climber and learner surfer. Most happy off the grid.