Wednesday, 15 September 2010

What REALLY happens to my application?

Most of you will have some idea of what happens to your application or CV once you hit 'submit', but it strikes me that no true 'insiders guide' is really that without actually taking you through the steps that your application will take before they come back to you with a yay or a nay.

Obviously the process is slightly different for each company, but broadly speaking, the journey is usually pretty similar...

So... you hit submit / go / complete.... most companies that recruit more that 30 grads these days have a system that manages the applications. The most common ones are by GTI and WCN, but also Taleo or Stepstone to name but a few of the big players.

Those systems have a few key features that are used:
1 - they flag anyone that doesn't meet the minimum requirements when it comes to degree results (i.e. less than 2.1), A-level results (300-340 is often the min), etc.  If you have a genuine 'legitimate' reason for results that don't meet the minimum (e.g. illness or death of close family), then it can be difficult to flag this appropriately. Even if you add it to your cover letter, etc, then if they have a system like this, you will get rejected before anyone even looks at your letter.  If you do have a circumstance like this, it is worth writing to HR (if you can get a response) or visiting them at a careers fair to ask the question.
2 - they help identify star/key candidates. Based on the criteria you have completed, they can flag 'top 10%' candidates to a recruiter. e.g. a combination of a particular uni, with an internship, with certain results, might get you classified as a 'top candidate'.  This functionality allows recruiters to get to the top candidates quickly without having to go through the whole pile of applications. These are the candidates that everyone will want, so they want to get back to them quickly, get them in for interview, and, if appropriate, get jobs offered quickly. The system helps with this.

Once the system has 'done its stuff', a lot of firms will have a review by the graduate recruiters. They are looking for evidence such as:
- strong uni and degree
- strong modules and results
- interesting internship
- evidence of extra-curricular activities
- overall good CV structure, good grammar and spelling
- good cover letter with evidence that effort was made - personalised and tailored

If you get through that stage, then the final stage is a review by the line/the business.  This is the major hurdle... after this, you're in for an interview and you can really show what you can do and not be relying on a CV to represent you anymore...

The CVs will be supplied to the business according to their preference. Some are happy to log onto the system and review them online. However, lots like to get paper copies so that they can review them in some 'spare' time - e.g. in a meeting where they are only passively listening, on the train, on a business trip, etc.  Or some just block book an afternoon with their team and blast through 500 CVs together making piles of 'yes' 'no's and 'maybe's.

They will be specifically looking at the detail on your CV around your internship and your modules and really judging whether the skills and modues you've developed are relevant to the area they recruit in. Often if a CV is good but not quite right for this particular area, they will flag to HR that it needs to be sent elsewhere / put in someone elses 'pile'.

No matter what anyone tells you, and no matter how 'slick' the process is, there is an element of luck required at this stage. The things that can influence your 'luck' are:

- the 'Halo' effect:   if you have a similar background to the reviewer
- if you have an interest that is of interest to them... (sailing, shooting, boxing, ballet...)
- if you did the same degree / went to the same uni as the reviewer
- an internship at a company they used to work for

Unfortunately CV reviewing is subjective, no matter how many guidance notes a company has. There are ways to make your own luck - I've mentioned many of these in my other blogs... (e.g. visiting them at careers fairs, etc).

I hope the above highlights HOW important your CV/cover letter/application are. It doesn't matter how good you are, how many people say you are amazing and will have no problem getting a job, etc etc. The CV is the golden ticket to getting in the door....

Very few companies will provide you any feedback specific to your CV. This is partly because they may not know - 98% of the time, the business will just send back the CV with a 'no' - they wont give a reason.  Equally, for legal reasons they don't want to go into the detail as to why they rejected you incase you sue them for some reason...

I hope that gives you a flavour of what goes on 'behind the scenes'. Once we as recruiters have the pile of 'yes' CVs back, the excitement starts. Somewhere in the pile are the 400 stars that we will hire for this year.... let the search commence!!

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