How to apply for an entry-level job

Random picture of 2 colleagues acting casual

I’ve just screened 200 résumés and read the accompanying covering letters. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Job description? An entry-level marketing job supporting the current marketing team with the possibility of fast-track career growth.

Believe me when I say it isn’t easy to pick the right person out of a pile of 200 CVs. It’s not that the right person for the job isn’t there. On the contrary: over half have the right profile and an impeccable cover letter. During the second screening of 100 selected CV’s , I just look at people’s motivation, and then discard 60 CV’s. But even now there are still 40 suitable applicants left: way too many to interview. So I’m forced to scrap applicants from the list — far too arbitrarily to my liking — to arrive at the maximum of 10 junior marketers to interview.

The problem isn’t the lack of good people, it’s that all the resumes look alike. Even the covering letters are perfectly interchangeable. Literally no one stands out. So here’s 8 tips that may help to more quickly snag the perfect entry-level job you need to launch your career.

1. Opt for a simple, stylish lay-out for your résumé

Illegible and ugly CVs invariably end up in the bin. You can find boatloads of great-looking résumé templates online: use them.

2. Be honest and relevant

There’s nothing so annoying as an exaggerated résumé. Limit the content to what’s relevant. Someone who’s looking for a junior profile knows you don’t have tonnes of experience. PS: nobody’s interested in your hobbies.

3. Avoid listing student jobs

They’re usually uninteresting and don’t help you get ahead. Limit student work to 1 line summing up all types of work you did.

4. Your LinkedIn profile is more important than your CV

Every recruiter will google you. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and start by clearly describing your current job or the kind of job you’re looking for. Tip: set your non-professional social media to private.

5. Pick the right profile picture

This is really important. By not adding a picture to your résumé, you’re always putting yourself at a disadvantage. Pick a recent photo that shows off who you are. No holiday snaps, no pets, no cut-off partners and definitely no sexy photos (what are you thinking?!). Make sure the picture on your CV is the same as on LinkedIn.

6. Put some energy into a personal cover letter

Assume that your résumé doesn’t have much going for it and that you’ll have to sell yourself another way. Explain who you are, why this job is for you, and why you would like to work for this company. Have someone revise your letter. Not your mom, though.

7. Keep it brief

200 words is ideal. Fewer than 100 words looks lazy. More than 500 words betrays a lack of structure. Don’t count on a personal interview to sell yourself, because by then it’ll be too late. This letter has got to do the trick.

8. Know the company you’re applying to

You often hear from people that they “must have sent out 100 application letters, but were never invited for an interview”. Well, if you copy-pasted 100 times, you got what you deserve. Changing the name of the company won’t cut the mustard. Make it personal.

If you adhere to these rules of thumb, you’ll definitely make it to the top 20%. And if you also manage to be ever so slightly more intriguing than your competitors, you’ll surely be given a shot at the job during a personal interview. Good luck!