I used to be very anal about my applications where I would take the job specification and copy the criteria into a Microsoft Word document. I would write my responses of evidence and demonstration of experience in some sort of assignment style, which could become lengthy. This was effective as it got me interviews, but I found it such a slog to do for each job. But a good thing is that you save it as a template and rework it for the next job you want to apply for.
However, when applying for non-public sector jobs I found that employers only wanted a cover letter and a CV, which is very common in this sector. So I produced a very informative cover letter that wasn't too lengthy and described myself and related to the job I was applying for - again this worked well and got me interviews. However, when I came across some public sector jobs, I found that they were interested in having a cover letter as well as a written application. Again this is common, but I haven't supplied a cover letter in the past as my application pretty much did that. I tried the private sector approach to the public sector vacancies and used the cover letter format demonstrating only the best aspects of me to get instant interest. Yes you would think this would be common sense and was widely known, but as I had been employed at a further education college for just about 7 years, this turned out to be a CPD exercise as I mentioned earlier.
Employers responded well to my short detailed cover letter and from now on I will use this approach. I liked how I introduced myself, evidenced my qualifications and demonstrated experience whilst relating it to the position. I even put in hyperlinks to pieces of work I had captured on this blog. This proved useful for an interview I attended later. Plus, employers will search on you, so you might as well give them the correct and accurate sites you want them to find.
I experienced that most private sector organisations are a lot slower in their recruitment processes. Which I think is a positive move as many public sector jobs rush to get someone in and don't carefully consider the people they are taking on. In the private sector I also had a few informal interviews where we got acquainted and had an informal chat about myself and the role, which would then lead onto a full interview. However, as long-drawn it may seem you do want to know as soon as possible if you have been successful or not.
In some interviews I experienced they didn't tend to prompt me for more information. When I was younger I definitely remember the interview panel trying to get more information out of me if I was a bit quieter or not meeting any criteria. It's such a shame because the best candidate will slip through the employer's fingers as they have not go to know the person more. I'm not saying they have to get to know them well enough to be best buddies but see beyond the administration. In the long it will save them time and money if that person decides to leave. If there is an interesting candidate, employers should take the time to prompt them on areas that may spark a memory that they can explain and expand more on. You could say the candidate should be more prepared but nothing ever goes fully to plan even if you prepare for every question and event of an interview. You just don't know what will be asked or happen. Everyone has potential to get the job and it's the interviewers' critical task to ensure they delve into that potential of a candidate, even if it is not instant. Employers should critically look at the candidate's CV and professional history - as you would normally expect. Employers should try and tease out more information out of a candidate and know how they arrived at this position. What are their motivations and intentions for applying for the job? Why do they want to do this job? Just ask, that is all it takes. Employers may be surprised that the best candidate was right in front of them. When I used to recruit and interview our Digital Learning Design apprentices, I applied my empathetic side and saw them for who they were, why they were here and what they could offer and where they want to be in the future.
I also found that some interviews tend to be treated like a tick box exercise to meet paperwork obligations. I believe that interviews go well beyond ticking and scoring. To me it's about looking at a person holistically. This is where I believe online presence such as professional ePortfolios, blogs etc are really useful. I was surprised in one interview I had with a private company, when they opened up my blog and LinkedIn profile and asked me questions from the content on there. These are opportunities for employers to really get to know candidates as a person not just to entertain and dazzle them with what they want to hear. As part of this interview I was also put on the spot to review one of their new apps and give some developmental suggestions. I did of course, but at the same time were they just getting quick feedback on their products?
Usually the best person has all the required qualifications and experience, but they may not express themselves as best as they could or be as extrovert as others. Which doesn't mean they are not right for the job, they just haven't done what might have been expected of them to have said or done in the interview. Therefore the best person not getting the job due to someone just ticking all the boxes, which may incur more time and costs in replacing later as they were not the right candidate. Just my narrative from my experiences but always food for thought.