Don’t get ‘egg on your face’ during job applications*, put EGs on your CV !
The job application process is a strange but necessary activity. In many cases, an employer doesn’t know any of the applicants on a personal or professional basis (and vice versa), which means they will have to select candidates for interview on the basis of their CV and covering letter* alone.
This makes these documents absolutely crucial to the success of an application and can mean the difference between them being allocated to the “Yes” or the “No” pile during selection. Not only should a CV and cover letter set out your experiences and match you to the job requirements, they have to act as a ‘sales pitch’ to persuade the employer of your suitability for their job vacancy.
This is not an easy thing to do in writing….
I’ve written a lot on the subject of job applications (see my blog archive), as well as delivering group workshops in person and online. I also offer 1-2-1 CV consultations. So, what can I add to what I’m already advising on this subject?
Employers want E.G.s to show evidence of an applicant’s skills and experiences.
How can you do this? Let me explain what I did in a recent group workshop during a career development programme, that you can apply to your own CV on an individual basis.
During the workshop, we did an exercise where the participant PhD and postdoctoral researchers brainstormed in small groups all the tasks that they do and wrote each of them on a separate sticky note. The results were very interesting (and colourful) and consisted of a wide range of research and associated activities, such as using or developing particular techniques and methodologies, reading and writing research papers, supervising students, reviewing papers, organising events, data analysis, managing resources, side-interests such as public outreach and working with charities, even socialising with colleagues and, of course the inevitable cake club!
This first stage of the exercise generated a huge number of vibrant sticky notes! It was quite incredible to see how varied the role of a researcher is and to appreciate the talent that exists in the ‘engine rooms’ of universities and research institutes. PhD and early career researchers work hard to generate the data that prove or disprove hypotheses and which are the basis of fundamental discoveries and new innovations. It is these tasks that are sometimes overlooked, taken for granted or even dismissed by researchers themselves as being unremarkable.
This is a fundamental error of judgement!
In fact, these core and research-associated tasks act as vital evidence of key skills that are highly valued by employers. The problem is that many PhD CVs hide these talents when they apply for jobs in industry or business, either by not even including them on their CV, or by submitting an academic CV for a non-academic job.
In my workshops and other trainings, I try to redress the balance and help researchers to discover and promote their skills using relevant and impressive examples in their CV and covering letter. Which brings me onto Step 2 of this workshop exercise:
The next stage involved structuring the sticky notes into some semblance of order and placing them into appropriate Skill categories. After some lively discussion and debate, decisions were made, resulting in a very colourful whiteboard (see photo above). Several interesting conclusions were made from the exercise:
- Researchers possess loads of skills, not least of all the skill of learning more skills!
- Researchers can use these examples in a CV, covering letter, in their LinkedIn profile and at interview to demonstrate skills and experiences to employers that are impressive, genuine and meaningful.
Using a cut-down version of the STAR technique, the one- or two-word tasks can be converted into short sentences to contextualise a particular skill, when/where it was used and what exactly was done and achieved as a result.
- Responsibilities during research and being a leader in scientific committees required management, decision making and execution to meet targets.
- Collection and analysis of data into deliverable results and seek alternatives and solutions either in scientific projects or in equipment trouble shooting.
So, why not take a look at your own CV and see if you can add examples to demonstrate your wide-ranging skills, especially if you’re looking to move into industry or business. It’s helpful to get it done sooner rather than later. You never know you may be head-hunted next week and asked to send in your CV, so it’ll be good to go!
*Note 1: An English idiom meaning, don’t risk embarrassment.
*Note 2: This is where the art of networking and making contact with potential employers, and others in your career sector of interest, can give you an advantage over other candidates. See the Networking column in my Blog Archive