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Five ways to make sure you don’t get a job interview

By EthicalJobs.com.au founder Michael Cebon

EthicalJobs.com.au has been doing a bit of recruiting of our own this year, and it’s been a fascinating experience to observe the sort of results that organisations advertising on the site must see every day.

While we’ve had heaps of really fantastic applications, the reality is that the vast majority of applicants will not get an interview. For the jobs we’ve advertised this year, we’ve had between 25 and 150 applications for each one, and we only interview about 5 or 6 people for each position.

With those odds in mind, I thought it might be useful for ethical job-seekers to think about some of the things you might be doing that are stopping you from getting an interview for that dream ethical job.

A job application is a small ad for you, your skills and your experience. The idea is to impress the employer just enough to be invited for an interview where you can show them what you’re made of.  But while you might be the best candidate for the role, you’re competing against possibly hundreds of other people.

And if you’re doing any of the things on the list below, it’s possible that you’ll never get the chance to show an interviewer how good you really are:

1) Address your letter to “Dear Sir/Madam”.

Honestly, I get applications addressed to “Dear Sir/Madam” even though my name is clearly on the job ad’s application instructions – and “Michael” is clearly a sir, not a madam!

This spells “lazy” and “no attention to detail”. Almost every job on EthicalJobs.com.au includes the name of the person you’re sending your application to. If you ignore the person’s name, and address them as “Dear Sir” or “Dear “Madam”, (or worse, “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern”) it shows you either haven’t read the job ad, or you don’t care enough to address your cover letter properly.

On the rare occasion that a job ad doesn’t specify who to send it to – do some research! Check the organisation’s website for more info, and if that doesn’t help, call the organisation and ask the receptionist or someone in the HR/recruitment team who to address your application to.

Reading a personalised application makes a world of difference to me.

2) Make spelling, grammar or punctuation errors – lots!

Okay, great spelling and grammar isn’t essential for every job, but for any job where you might be writing for public purposes, putting words together clearly and without errors is super important.

Applying for an administration, communications, event management, advocacy, policy, media, education, fundraising, research or project management job with even a single error in your cover-letter or CV could mean the difference between an interview and no interview.

Even for jobs where you’re not writing for public consumption, errors in an application say “lack of attention to detail” to the reader.

3) Get the name of the organisation you’re applying to wrong

Yep, this really happens. Needless to say, it really reflects on a person’s attention to detail when they haven’t even bothered to work out what the organisation’s actual name is. It should be easy enough to work out – all ads on EthicalJobs.com.au include “Organisation Name” at the top of the ad.

To err on the safe side, double check the organisation’s name before you send your application.

4) Mis-spell the name of the person you’re writing to.

Yep, this happens too (although more occasionally than applicants getting the organisation’s name wrong). Again, it’s a question of attention to detail, but names are an especially touchy subject for some people, which is all the more reason to make sure you get them right.

5) Send your application late.

A late application doesn’t always spell doom, but part of the reason organisations create application procedures is to test how well you can follow them.

An application deadline is like any other deadline – and your ability to meet the application deadline reflects to some degree on your ability to meet deadlines in general – an important skill in many jobs.

That said, if you’ve just found a job on the site that’s perfect for you, but the applications close in a day or two, don’t be afraid to call the organisation, explain the situation and ask if they would accept a late application. Most will say yes, and it makes a much better impression to ask for permission, rather than just sending it late.


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