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Practical tips for job searching & the Likeability Factor - Part 4 - Things you need to know

Posted on 26 July 2019

A general guideline for job seekers.

Once you have completed your CV, send it to friends and family to critique. This is really important. So many people add “Attention to detail” as a strength but their CV’s have spelling mistakes! Seriously!? Spell checker is there!!! Use it. Even one little spelling mistake could result in your CV being excluded.

Grammar is also important. If English is not your first language, get an English-speaking person to edit and translate. (Forgive me for not taking my own advice 😊)

Nothing turns a hiring manager or recruiter off more than someone who is sloppy and lazy. Let me count the ways people are sloppy and lazy…

Cutting and pasting their current job description! No! No! and another No! That is not original. Those employment contracts and job descriptions are a CYA (cover your ass) for the employer so they go into every tiny detail of what is expected of you, for THAT job. We don’t need to see that. We just want to know what it is that you know /do/can offer. Be concise and to the point. Tell us what your job function is, how you achieve it, and what tools you use. Here again, take a look at the job ad and change the wording to indicate that this is what you currently do. Use bullets.

Do not apply for jobs you are NOT equipped to do. If you have the skills they require, but not all of the experience, do not apply if you are more than a year short on the experience.

If the ad says “Must have own car” and you don’t even have a driver’s license and there is no car in your distant future, do not apply on the off-chance. There is a reason they want someone to have their own car. The job probably entails travel to clients.

You have no commercial experience, but you apply for a senior role.

I once advertised for someone with SAP experience and I received in a CV from a general worker. She applied because she has SOAP experience as she was a cleaner at a company. Now while it gave me a giggle, it just made me realise how people don’t read the ads. Some people say take a chance, which is not always a bad thing, but there are some chances you don’t take. For heaven’s sake, what would you DO if by some fluke you actually got that job?

Many ads are wish lists and have room for negotiation. If you have most of the skills and only lack one or two, by all means apply. If you have most of the experience but not all, then apply

If there is a job advertised that you just KNOW you could do, but you don’t have all of the essential skills and experience, but want to get your CV in front of them, do it BUT make sure that in your cover letter you explain in detail why you applied for the role. Again, not just cliché’s but your thoughts and justifications, include why you believe you could do the job, and what it would take to meet the requirements listed that you are not a fit for. Include a time frame it would take for you to get up to speed. Remember, the client has a NEED, how are you able to fill this, and how quickly? See more on this topic under Networking.

Pick a role that is closest to your experience and skills, and write a well-crafted email stating why you took a chance applying, even while knowing you will not be successful, and asking them to add you to the database for when there are roles that are suitable.

Applying for roles you are not suited for can backfire. Recruiters and HR managers are under a lot of pressure to find the right hires and seeing the same CV for many different advertised roles that the applicant is not suitable for can result in your CV being deleted and not added to the database for future roles that could be suitable. Do not “spray and pray” your CV.

This applies to going via recruitment agencies too. Pick a few reputable agents and get them to present you. Listing your CV with 10 different agents may seem like a good idea, but many recruiters are also notorious for doing the “spray & pray” method. There are also many pitfalls here. Read Conclusion BEFORE selecting recruiters.

My pet peeves (and I am not alone in this)

Receiving emails with nothing but an attachment. Guess what happens to those? They get deleted! I don’t open, I don’t check the name. I just delete. There are many reasons for that but the main concern is security (and the fact that I think you are not serious in your job search and lack the commitment to follow through with the process). I have no idea what is in the attachment, or why you are emailing me and I will probably block you because I think you are a clever spammer.

The same applies for those mails that say. “Attached is my CV for your attention” or something along those lines. Give me details people! I want to know why you are mailing me. I have many jobs that I source for. Which job are you applying for, why are you applying, why do you think you are a match? Tell me in your email.

While on the subject of attachments. Do not send copies of degrees / certificates. Once the recruiter starts working with you, they will request those. Also, do not send files as a .zip attachment, unless requested to do so. Most people won’t open them. Pdf or word doc’s only. Do not send photographs of your CV’s! I personally don’t understand why someone would do that. If you have a copy of the pic to attach, surely you must have a copy of the CV too?

Keep those certificates off the main body of your CV. As mentioned, we will request these. You have already stated on your CV what degrees / certifications you have.

The body of your email

Most people attach a cover letter and a CV. My advice to you is that the body of your email becomes your cover letter.

This email is the most important part of the process as far as I am concerned. Yes, AI is taking a lot of the human factor out of job seeking and that is a shame, as the people behind the CV’s are real and deserve to be heard, especially if they are doing things right, but the many smaller recruitment companies still believe in the human factor and opening a mail that clearly spells out who you are and why you are mailing is first prize. I like you already!

The best application I have received came from a young lady who listed the requirements I had advertised and rated herself on each and every one of them. Simple isn’t it? She took the time to read my ad, she did not send me a generic email, but tailored her mail to exactly what it was I was looking for. Obviously, I immediately opened her CV. She was made an offer a week later by my client. Now what was the lesson in that? She made job seeking a job. She paid attention to detail, was not sloppy in her application, made sure to get my attention by listing the skills I was looking for and matching it to her skills. She added VALUE to her application and immediately scored high on Likeability Factor. I did not have to wade through her CV to find the match.

Yes, it is my job to wade through CV’s to find the gold nugget but if I am sitting with hundreds of unopened emails in my inbox, which mails do you think I am going to open first? Yip, the one’s that add value to my workday and save me time and frustration.

So, if you are looking for a job, gear your application to the gate keeper. Possibly a non-technical hiring person. Keep it simple and to the point. Highlighting your tech skills / tools and why you are a fit. Once you get past the gatekeeper, they will send it on to the technical person, and you can impress them at the interview.

A lot of this guide is written based on my IT Recruitment experience, but it is the same for all industries. Apply it to the job you are looking for and your industry.

I talk a lot about the likeability factor. Here is why. Do you know how HR/Recruiters sum you up when they interview you? They imagine themselves in a car on a long trip with you. They wonder how you will relate to the rest of the team in the organization. They like your skills, but they must also know that you will fit in. That likeability factor is not just about the type of person you are. It is also about your team spirit, how you handle difficult situations, how you relate to people and situations. Show that likeability from the get go.


If you are a 1st time job seeker you won’t have work references in the industry you are applying to but you do have Professors that can vouch for you. Get the head of the department to write a letter vouching for your behavior, commitment, attendance, team work etc. Perhaps you had a part-time job? Great reference. Going forward in your career, references become all important. More details later

Let Your References Know They May Be Contacted

General Tips regarding references - I touched on this earlier in the Branding section

Do not put family members or friends as a reference.

DO test your references.

Make sure they are the right person. Ask their permission to use them as a referee. A work colleague or your best mate will not cut it. You definitely had someone you reported to and they are the people we want to talk to. We want to know that you can do the things you said you could do on your CV. That you did it well. That you did work for that length of time and left for the reasons you cited on your CV. We want to know that you had a good work ethic, that you got on well with your peers, handled responsibility well, could take constructive criticism, and just an all-round good employee. Most importantly, we want to know if they would re-employ you given the opportunity

Make sure your references contact details are up to date and preferably not a Gmail account. We realise that sometimes this is unavoidable as people move on. If they are still at the same company try and provide the company switchboard number, that will add credibility to your references. Do all of this before you start your jobhunting. There is nothing more annoying than when we are at the final stages of the recruiting process and we are unable to check your references.

Sometimes you will get a bad reference, but we weigh the bad with the good. I mentioned earlier that you test your references. Chat to your references and ask them if they would give you a good reference, and if not, why not. You then have an explanation for the hiring people. Sometimes it is a personality conflict, or they expected too much. If it is a more serious offence, then that is a whole different story and not something this guide can help you with, but be upfront and honest about it.

We have many applicants who list false references. They provide a Gmail account and a mobile number. The recruiters who are on top of their game will research your reference and check that they are who you say they are.

Once you have secured a position, don’t forget to thank them. Potential employers often make offers based on what your references have to say

Lying on your CV.

Many applicants are tempted to exaggerate on their CV to make a good impression. Do not lie…ever! You will be caught out and could possibly face legal woes. If you did not get that degree or finish that course, be honest about it. If you are only mediocre in a certain skill, be honest about it. If you have a criminal record, tell us. We are going to find out anyway. Most recruiters I know will do their best to clear up these issues and guide you to find solutions

However, you can get into big trouble with the law if you:

· Exaggerated your time with previous companies

· Made up and added an extra title / role / responsibility that you've never held

· Lied about your previous salary to justify your new salary expectation

· Claimed to be registered with a national professional body when you aren’t

· Claimed to have any kind of academic qualification when you’ve never completed the course

Most companies check details. There are professional verification companies that do this as a service. They verify every single bit of information you supply.

Go over your CV again, and make the necessary changes. Start applying with your updated and improved, honest CV. Don’t forget to update your online CV too.

If you take a chance with a dishonest CV, you will live a life constantly having to look over your shoulder, because your dodgy CV got you hired for a position you’re not qualified for, and you will have to lie for the rest of your career.

Not only that, but it could result in a criminal record should you be found out and up to 5 years for misrepresenting your qualifications

Avoid a criminal record at all cost

A criminal record will haunt you for the rest of your life. We have older candidates who have criminal records from the 80’s for possession, fighting and drunken driving. Getting these records expunged can take months, assuming you are eligible.

Finding a job with a criminal record is challenging, even if the crime was minor. Failure to disclose any criminal convictions can lead to a later dismissal if the truth comes to light.

When companies run criminal checks, your result can come back as inconclusive, which means your fingerprints need to be checked against the police database. There are reasons this could be the case if you do not have a criminal record. Being processed and locked up with no charges being filed is one way. I had a candidate whose results came back as inconclusive, yet he had no criminal record. He was stopped at a road block after a company function and they hauled him off to the police station. There he was booked (fingerprints taken) and thrown into a cell overnight. The next morning they released him with no charges being filed. You would think that was the end of the story, but his fingerprints were sent to the SAPS fingerprint database, and he was flagged even though he did not have a criminal record. 3 years later I had to do due diligence for a client about to make an offer and he was flagged as inconclusive. It took an affidavit from the arresting officer, and lots of paperwork and phone calls to get on record for his new employer that he did not have a criminal record. He has since had the flag removed through a process that is available through the Department of Justice. That evening nearly cost him the job, but his new employer was willing to take a chance because we could detail what happened, with corresponding documentation, showing he had no criminal record. That process took over a month and he was a great candidate so the employer waited, then made an offer.

Here is what to do if you have been flagged or have a criminal record

Go to your nearest police station to have your fingerprints taken. There is a small cost for this. They will then submit them to the CRC (Criminal Record Centre) in Pretoria on your behalf, however, if you are able to and in the interest of saving time, take your fingerprints directly to the CRC in Pretoria. Find their details online.

After submitting your application there is a wait of 4 to 6 weeks. Once you receive your certificate, and you have a criminal record, take it to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in Pretoria or send it via mail to apply for:

· Presidential Pardon

· Clearance Certificate

· Criminal Record Expungement.

This process take can take up to 4 months, so you need to be patient


Networking is essential and should be part of your daily routine. Send connection invitations to people at the companies you are interested in, those who are influencers, those who have the same education, skills, are in the jobs you aspire to. Connect with recruiters, HR managers. Tip: when sending a LI invitation, always include a small introduction. Invitations with messages are more likely to be accepted.

Join Meetups and see where meetings are being held that are relevant to your field of interest. Make a point of attending and meeting these people. Let them get to know you and that increases your chances of finding employment. Look for people who can be mentors


Once you have updated your LinkedIn profile, search for people at companies you would like to work for, who are in the position you aspire to. Send them a connection request with a note that you are really interested in their company and why. Once the person accepts your connection, send them a Thank you mail and ask them if they would be willing to mentor you? If they say no, ask them who in the company you could approach. Don’t send them your CV, just open a conversation with them. When you see a job posted by the company, then ask if they would put in a word for you and who the best person would be for you to send your CV to.

People are generally nice and like to help people.

Join groups

I cannot count how many times employers want to know how active you are in these groups. By being part of a professional community, and participating in discussions, asking intelligent questions, shows a commitment and passion for your chosen field. Google the different professional bodies, sign up, get their newsletters, join their online community. Join Meetups and go meet these people. Meetups is a site for people who want to meet people who are likeminded. Your future employer could be there. It is not a hookup site but a place to network

If you are a developer, write code and make it available on GitHub. This is your showcase. If you have a website or an online portfolio, make it visible and add the links to your LI profile and CV. Give them a visual sense of what you can do.

Stay busy

Do not just sit at home. Some graduates have been at home for years, waiting for that job to come to them. Sending out 100’s of CV’s will not get you the job if you do not present yourself well. Start a project, take online courses, upgrade your skills, go networking, get online, ask for assistance, referrals, offer your services on a part time basis to charities where you are able to use your skills. All of these activities show passion!

Preferably start a project to work on. Technology changes rapidly, keep up to date

Be Responsive

Be prompt. If you have applied for roles, check your mail regularly and respond as quickly as possible. Often diaries need to be juggled so confirmation of interview invites need to be responded to quickly. If you wait too long, the hiring manager or recruiter may assume you are not interested and move on.

How to respond to negative feedback received after sending out your CV

Not receiving feedback to your applications is real, people are really bad at responding to applicants. I think this is a time & bulk factor but if you do receive a response to say your application was not successful., do not reply with just a “thanks”. That just closes the door for future opportunities at that company.

You now have a two-way communication with that company (hopefully it did not come from an automated response). Chances are you have been added to their database for future roles. Take the time to respond professionally by saying thank you for their response, and you really look forward to hearing from them again when something suitable is available.

Don't become despondent...remember...every no brings you closer to a yes.

and then.....You have been invited to an Interview!

Part 5 - Practical Ideas for job searching & the Likeability Factor - Preparing for that interview. THE most important step

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Have you caught up with the previous related posts?

Part 1 - Practical Ideas for job searching & the Likeability Factor - Part 1 - Introduction

Part 2 - Practical Ideas for job searching & the Likeability Factor - Part 2 - Preparing your Brand

Part 3 - Practical Ideas for job searching & the Likeability Factor - Part 3 - Preparing your CV