I’ve processed hundreds of job applications during my content marketing career, mainly for writing and graphic design positions here at Axonn.
What surprises me is just how many of these hundreds of eager jobseekers are failing to do what I would view as pretty basic things when sending in their CVs and cover letters, harming their chances of securing an interview in the process.
What’s even more surprising is that these errors are things you wouldn’t expect from someone wanting to work in an industry where the ability to tell a great story in an accurate and engaging way is essential. This might be because I’ve recruited for largely entry-level roles, but I still see inadequate applications from more experienced people who really should know better.
Here are three of the things (in my opinion) anyone looking to break into content marketing really should be doing:
1) Proofread your cover letter and CV - a lot
It pains me to say it, but here you go: I’ve lost count of the number of cover letters and CVs I’ve seen containing typos and other grammatical errors.
The absolute last thing any recruitment manager wants to see is their company’s name misspelled throughout the cover letter, or the declaration that an applicant for a writing vacancy has ‘great attention detail’ (true story). This is even more the case in the content marketing industry!
At best, a typo in your CV suggests a temporary oversight. At worst, it indicates that you don’t pay attention to your work and/or you’re not taking the application seriously. Recruiters being the cautious folk that they are, I’m pretty sure they would err towards the latter in drawing their conclusions.
What to do: Read your cover letter and CV and concentrate on each word separately, rather than skimming sentences to get the overall meaning. Proofread it twice in this way - once from top to bottom, and then again from bottom to top, effectively reading it backwards. Also, try to get someone else with a good grasp of grammar to take a final look for you.
The same principles apply whether you’re submitting an infographic CV or a video of yourself explaining why you’re perfect for the job. Check all your spellings and that any graphs/charts are actually accurate and, in the case of a video, make sure you’re pronouncing everything correctly! Ditto for your portfolio, too.
2) Keep it succinct
I’m a great believer in keeping a cover letter to one page and a CV to two pages, although other recruiters’ preferences will almost certainly vary depending on the role and sector. Regardless, we’re busy people with many applications to get through, so keeping things short, sweet and relevant is extremely helpful.
I see a job application as a ‘teaser’ of what could potentially come at the interview stage; the point is to intrigue the hiring manager by highlighting where your skills and experience match the job description, and to explain why you’re confident you can live up to the other parts of the ad where your CV doesn’t make this clear, along with the motivating factors for your content marketing career (see my next point). Anything else is just waffling, frankly.
What to do: While checking your cover letter and CV as per my first point, look out for any unnecessary text and pare your application back to the bare minimum of information.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative or mention all the things you think are relevant, but you should look out for anything in your cover letter that basically repeats a lot of what’s in your CV, as well as any overly flowery language.
3) Display your passion for content marketing
The cover letter is a fantastic opportunity to grab the recruiting company’s interest by showing your passion for content marketing, the role and/or the organisation, and revealing why you’re so keen to get the job.
I hasten to add that this doesn’t necessarily mean you should spend three paragraphs gushing about how much you love Company X and why you think they’re going places. You can still open up about your motivations in a more restrained manner, but keep it focused on what drives you on a day-to-day basis and how the job fits into your longer-term career plans.
I concede that this can be a difficult thing to do if you want to present yourself in as professional a manner as possible, but don’t forget that recruiters are people too! We’d much rather get a sense of who you are and where you want to be than a simple list of all the jobs you’ve been in, which we can get from your CV anyway. And don’t forget that if there’s one thing content marketers love, it’s a good story.
What to do: Explain why you’re applying for the job and go into a little bit of detail. Don’t just say ‘I wish to progress my career further in content marketing’ - tell the recruiter why this is the case.