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How to impress potential employers in 6 seconds

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It is critical that your résumé makes you stand out and that your cover letters succinctly summarise your application.

In my previous write-up, I focused on the significant first steps for skilled migrants to kick start their professional careers in Australia. In this edition of this 3 part series, I will focus on the process of applying for jobs as you seek your first professional break as a new migrant.

Get your professional résumé in order

The most potent tool to showcase your skills and work experience to potential employers in Australia is your résumé or CV. According to a recently published news piece, applicants have merely 6 seconds to impress potential employers with their résumé. So, it is critical that your résumé makesa candidate for the jobs that you apply for. However, a résumé structured and written to impress in the Indian job market may in fact work against you in the Australian job market.

Here are a few handy suggestions for you to draw a résumé as you start applying for jobs in Australia:

    • You do not have to include your photo, or your age on your résumé. Neither do you have to specify your gender.
    • Make sure you have your most relevant (and updated) contact details clearly stated at the top of the résumé.
    • Often, while assisting new migrants from India, I have come across job titles mentioned on résumés that do not clearly state the ‘level and complexity’ of their previous roles, or even worse, may wrongly state the ‘scope and responsibility’ associated with previous roles thereby reducing your chances to be shortlisted for the jobs that you are applying for in Australia.
    • An example is when a résumé stating a candidate’s Indian work experience states jobs held as an ‘Executive’ or ‘Senior Manager’ or similar ‘senior’ titles, and the candidate is applying for entry level roles in Australia. Potential employers are not likely to short-list such candidates for they may seem over-qualified for the jobs they may be applying for.
    • So, ensure that the titles of your previous roles clarify the accountability and the complexity of the work undertaken in those roles and that such titles are not working against you in the Australia job market.
    • Your résumé must state your ‘key achievements’ in your prior roles. Merely jotting down the range of tasks you may have undertaken in previous roles will not help your cause in securing an interview.
    • Make sure you list any non-paid/volunteer work that you may have undertaken in Australia. Such work will be considered as local work experience and will enhance your chances of success. You may have scored some local referees from such non-paid work who may be able to put in a good word for you.
    • Your résumé should reflect any relevant local education, training, or accreditations that you may have undertaken in Australia.
    • Review your résumé for typos and grammatical errors.

Cover Letters and why they are important

As you start applying for roles in Australia, you will find that most employers seek a ‘cover letter’ along with your résumé. ‘Cover letters’ are a critical tool for you to catch the eye of a potential employer. A cover letter does not have to be ‘war and peace’ – it must succinctly summarise your application for the role that you are applying for while guiding the recruiter to your skills and experience listed in the attached résumé. Always remember that your cover letter is not your résumé (and vice-versa).

Invest the time in customising your cover letters for the roles that you apply for. Merely copying and pasting the same cover letter for various roles may come across as lazy and will reduce your chances of success. Some common pitfalls in relation to cover letters are:

    • Candidates send the same cover letter to multiple employers and in doing so may not review and update the ‘job titles’ or ‘job reference numbers’ for various roles thereby making themselves a candidate for immediate rejection.
    • Generic cover letters may sound extremely vague and superfluous and may not communicate your true desire and drive to seek the role that you are applying for.
    • As stated above, cover letters are not meant to be ‘war and peace’ – not many recruiters will have time to go through lengthy cover letters and this may work against you in the selection process.
    • If the employer has stated that a cover letter is mandatory, do not just send a copy of your résumé or attach the résumé twice to bypass the ‘cover letter’ requirement.

Often, an employer (especially public sector employers) may seek applicants to address the key recruitment criteria – take the time to logically address each of those criteria by providing examples from your prior work experience, education, or training.

Assistance with cover letters and résumés

Whilst there are numerous agencies and personnel who may be able to assist you in drafting a cover letter and résumé for a fee, agencies such as AMES, Australia are an extremely helpful organisation running various programs for new migrants and refugees. Their services include providing support in reviewing and updating the résumés and cover letters for new migrants so that they stand a better chance in scoring that ‘first’ job in Australia. There are programs aimed at placing new migrants into short term ‘work experience’ roles to help them secure some valuable local ‘Australian’ work experience.

Ames, Australia has programs to assist migrants with all facets of employment ranging from English language courses, vocational training, and assistance with job applications and interviewing techniques. Most of these services may be available for no cost to the migrants (please contact AMES, Australia directly to find out about the cost structures of their services).

AMES, Australia has a vast network of professional mentors who work closely with new migrants to help them in curating their résumés and cover letters to better suit the Australia job market, thereby enhancing their chances of success. These mentors also assist with mock interviews and interviewing techniques as candidates progress through the selection process.

Whilst, I have focused on AMES, Australia in this write-up due to my association with them as a volunteer, they are not the only agency assisting migrants in getting job ready. As I wrote in my previous write-up, agencies like Centre Link may also be able to assist migrants in getting job ready through a range of other agencies.

So draw out your résumé and start updating it today. Seek some help, should you need it, and ensure that your résumé and your cover letter make a compelling case for you to be shortlisted for an interview by your potential employers. Patience is the key. Do not feel disheartened if it takes a few tries.

As that old saying goes ‘keep trying until you succeed’.  

Note: In the next part of this series, I will write about the interview process and how to sparkle in an interview.

Sanam Sharma is a human resources professional and mentors new migrants at AMES. He is a published author and regularly writes flash fiction and poetry for his blog "Small town boy".

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