You might be confident at interviews but if you can’t get short listed what can you do?

Over the years I’ve helped many people who’ve been frustrated at their lack of success in getting an interview. Once they’ve understood how it works, they’ve been able to write stronger applications and increase their chances of getting an interview.

Here’s some information and advice about some of the things that would be useful to know when applying for a job in the Charity Sector (or the NHS or Local Authority or Civil Service).

How does it work?

• These organisations tend to have a transparent recruitment policy to help reduce discrimination in the selection of candidates for interview and job offers.

• The organisation will start with describing the job (job description) and a person specification (the skills, qualities, behaviours, knowledge, qualifications and experience they think the ideal candidate needs in order to do the job well). The requirements are often split into essential and desirable. If there is a word count, address the essential criteria first.

• They will tend to use application forms rather than CVs to reduce discrimination and make it easier to compare applicants. The form will often have a page for you to write freestyle – it may be called ‘Supporting statement’, ‘Supporting evidence’, ‘personal statement’. It may include some questions that the employer specifically wants answering.

• The people shortlisting will be given all the applications – some organisations remove the personal details from the form in order to help reduce the possibility of discrimination – and will score applicants against each criteria on the person specification e.g. 0 – 4. Usually the people shortlisting will do this separately then come together to discuss their highest scoring candidates.

• 0 would be awarded to a candidate who has not mentioned that individual criteria on the person specification at all; 4 would be awarded to a candidate who has provided a robust example of how they meet that criteria. For help in understanding how to provide examples using a winning formula, download my free guide today:

• After each candidate’s application has been read and scored, the scores are added up. The people short listing will then compare their highest scoring candidates with the others and agree who they are inviting for interview. The number of people interviewed may well be based on the number of similar scoring candidates and/or the amount of time the interviewers have available.

What can you do to improve your chances of getting short-listed?

• If there is the chance to talk to someone ‘informally’ about the position then do it. It could give you more of a feel for the organisation, the post, why it’s vacant, and/or some of the jargon to help your application. Ask 2-3 sensible questions. Remember the person will be forming an impression of you on the phone and may be involved in the short listing/interviewing so keep it professional and don’t overshare.

• Think about your best 1-2 examples to demonstrate every point on the person specification. Don’t just save them for interview. You may be interviewed by people who did not carry out the short listing task. Even if they are the same people, you will be able to give a more detailed account in person (and you will bring your energy which is hard to portray on paper). For more information on how to write this bit, download my free information guide:

• Some employers will indicate which part of the process they are going to be looking for evidence of each criteria on the person specification e.g. interview, presentation, application form, test. Don’t worry about providing evidence for criteria other than those that will be measured by ‘application form’

• If there is a word limit, write your supporting statement in Word and then do a word count to see if you need to edit. There is no requirement to meet the word count but if you don’t write much you might not have enough evidence to be short listed. Most candidates find the biggest problem is keeping to the word limit. Font 11 is the best to use.

• Your best examples may not be from paid work. The important thing is demonstrating that you have either the skill, aptitude, experience or knowledge wherever it is gleaned from.

• Even if the interviewers know you e.g. you are volunteering for the organisation or you already work there in a paid position but you are seeking a different role/promotion, treat the process in exactly the same way (i.e. as if they don’t know anything about you.) This is to ensure you get scored fairly in the scoring process when applications are compared. You mustn’t rely on their prior knowledge of you as they will need to show transparency in their scoring of candidates and if you write little your score will be low.

• If there are lots of criteria on the person specification, you might choose to link them e.g. if you see Ability to deliver training in the Skills section and Experience of delivering training in the Experience section, you might use one example to show you have the experience and the skills you’ve applied to deliver successful training.

• Think about how you can make it easy for the reader. One method is provide your evidence for the person specification in the order it’s given and/or use bold to highlight the key words from the person specification that you use in your statement.

• Make sure you use the same words as in the person specification – human beings find it easier to relate to what they know already – e.g. if the term ‘interpersonal skills’ has been used then use this; if they’ve used ‘communication skills’ use that.

If you’d like to find out:

What the Charity sector is (and isn’t)
What types of jobs are available and where to look for them
How to successfully complete an application form for jobs in this sector

Then download my free 14 page guide today: