As someone who hires team members for my department, I get to see a lot of CVs. The quality of presentation and content from candidate to candidate varies a lot, in terms of both the CV and cover letter.
I have previously given advice on start a career in marketing, and questions to ask hiring your first full time marketing employee. In this post I’m going to share what I look for in a cover letter and CV when hiring for my team.
An understanding of my business and industry
This get you some serious bonus points! Your cover letter is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate you understand what our business does, and how you can contribute.
As a real world example of how not to do it, I have honestly had candidates ask me at the end of the interview what we did as a business!
A passion for marketing
I appreciate there aren’t always marketing jobs out there for people leaving university or those looking to get into the sector.
The candidates that really stand out for me are the ones who have done voluntary work, extra courses, or internships to get that all important experience. This shows real desire and a commitment to succeed that separates them from the pack.
Facts and figures
Over the years I have learned how to spot generalist statements that have very little meaning e.g.
“Optimising our strategic output for maximum impact”.
What I want to see are specific examples of the work you’ve done and the positive impact this has had on the business e.g.
“Restructured our AdWords account delivering a 12% increase in conversions and a 20% reduction in CPCs”.
If you make a claim in your CV that is designed to catch my eye, I’m going to ask you questions about it in the interview.
So, for example, if you say that part of your job is keyword research for SEO, I’ll ask you how you do the research.
Pretty straight forward, but you’d be amazed how many candidates throw in claims like that but clearly have no experience of doing it.
They know SEO is an important skills to have and hope that by using a buzzword like “keywords” that will be enough.
Unfortunately, within two questions I know you have lied and you aren’t getting this job.
Me: “What are the most important areas of on-site SEO to get right on a website?”
Me: “OK, how do you apply that to the website?”
Candidate: “Keywords are important”
Stick to areas you can confidently talk about in detail and be questioned on.
A critical and honest eye
I like cover letters that give me an opinion on our business/marketing. It shows the cover letter is original, and they are really thinking about who they are applying to.
Additionally, in the interview I always ask candidates if there is anything they would change about our website. This serves two purposes:
- One of the characteristics of a good marketer is to instinctively critically analyse any marketing they come across. This questions probes that skill.
- It shows whether they have bothered to do any research on the company. Again, I am always surprised how few to even look at the website, let alone do any real research.
Easy to digest format
As a candidate, you think you are unique and special because it is you. You know you would smash this job, and be a valued member of the team.
As an employer, you are a faceless piece of paper amongst many, many others. Finding the people to invite in for an interview is also another job amongst many others that day. I don’t have time to read dozens of text heavy cover letters and CVs.
Use a modern and simple design, highlighting the key marketing experience you have at the top of your CV, using bullet points and key facts.