Inspired/deflated by one particularly wordy job specification I recently had to prise open with a crowbar for a client, I posted the following on LinkedIn:
“Is it just me, or have job specs gone completely doolally lately? It seems like they are getting longer and longer and longer and longer by the minute, and the incidence of impenetrable language is reaching record levels. Wading through one here for a client and it seems to be going out of its way to say the same thing five times in five slightly different ways. Is it just me?”
Turns out it wasn’t just me, though I accept that a solitary social media post cannot be represented as a forensic evaluation of attitudes across the spectrum. But a few things surprised me, primarily the numbers who people who commented on, or liked, the post. Those who commented admitted to a fair degree of exasperation when faced with over-wrought job specs.
We are unlikely to lead a Simple Job Spec revolution, so we must deal with what we have.
An unduly long job spec presents a candidate with a number of problems that they might summarise as follows: “If the job spec is four pages, and I want to try to ‘tick all the boxes in it’, with some elaboration, along with all the other stuff I put into my CV, am I likely to end up with an eight-page CV – and who’s going to read that?”
So how might you, as a candidate, make sure you don’t get lost in the deepest recesses of the spec?
First off, do your research. Show this exhaustive job spec to various people who know, or work at, the company; or who previously worked there; or who know the sector inside out. The purpose of your research is to reduce the, say, 35 points listed on the spec to approximately ten points that really count.
Then set about addressing those ten key points in your CV and cover letter. By addressing them, I mean mentioning examples where you have displayed the skills or gained the experience mentioned in the ten points.
In this way, you will be able to craft a tight CV and cover letter in response to the essence of what is included in the job spec.
However, for this to be an effective method, your research has got to be spot on. An experienced, trained or ‘insider’ eye may spot a hidden gem parked away in a corner of the job spec. It might be something you’d overlook at first, second, or, indeed, tenth reading. But if it’s important, it should be addressed: by doing your research, you give yourself a better chance of identifying those gems and stealing a march on your competitors.
When doing your research, you may uncover a gem not listed in the job spec at all. It may be something the company wants but didn’t put on the job spec for a variety of reasons, or it might even be something the company didn’t realise it wanted or needed it became available.
By isolating these items, you get to the heart of the matter. You can still get it all done in a two-page CV and one-page cover letter.
Liam Horan is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Ballinrobe.
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