By: Greg Thorpe

Making a great first impression when applying for a job is no longer confined to the CV and covering letter. Your first point of contact with a potential employer may now be on social media, for example through LinkedIn. Even when you apply for a role in the traditional way, the employer may check out your Facebook profile or Google you, before they decide whether to shortlist your application.

Consequently, there is more to standing out on paper than having a professionally written CV. Here we share our tips for making a great first impression when applying for jobs and when attending an interview.

Your digital presence

Many jobs go unadvertised because they are filled using social recruiting. Employers and recruiters search for passive and active candidates on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Passive candidates are hot property, these are people who are not actively looking for a new job but if the right opportunity comes along they may be interested. Platforms like LinkedIn have made recruiting passive candidates much easier; recruiters can search online using a variety of filters to identify potential candidates. This means that active candidates have more competition and really must ensure that their social profiles stand out.

This can be challenging if you don’t want your current employer to find out. A top tip is to change your privacy settings so that your LinkedIn network is not notified of any profile changes – a sure giveaway that you’re looking for a new job!

Although LinkedIn is the ‘professional network’ and therefore your LinkedIn profile needs to be in great shape, don’t discount other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Depending on the role you’re looking for and your industry, employers may be using these to recruit as well.

They may also be using them to vet candidates. So even if your Facebook profile is used entirely for social interactions, a potential employer may be looking at it. Therefore, it is essential to make sure there is no content on there that might leave a less than desirable impression: if in doubt lock down your profile by changing your privacy settings.

Your CV

At some point in the recruitment process you will be asked for a CV. The purpose of a CV is to get an interview, not to share your life history, so keep it succinct and relevant to the job opportunity.

Potential employers may have 100s of CVs to look through and so you only have a few seconds to stand out. Therefore, keep to a traditional format so employers can find the information they require, and highlight the most important information first.

A short, punchy personal statement is a great starting point giving employers a clear idea of your experience and the value you can add to their company. This should then be followed by your work history in chronological order focusing on your most relevant responsibilities, achievements and skills that make you a great fit for their role.

Always proofread for spelling and grammatical mistakes – these will make you stand out for the wrong reasons – and get a second opinion from a trusted colleague or your recruitment consultant.

Standing out at an interview

One of the best ways you can stand out in an interview is by being confident and engaging. Confidence comes from doing your homework, and knowing that you’re a great fit for the job. We recommend that you do plenty of research on the company before you attend so you can speak with confidence about the role, your experience, and how you can help them fulfil their objectives.

Many interviewers are using competency-based interview (CBI) techniques to discover more about candidates’ skills, qualities and motivations. They may ask questions like “give an example of a time when you had to make a difficult decision.”

If you’re unprepared for this type of questioning it can be very unsettling and you may struggle to think of something to say that reflects positively on your abilities. Therefore, it is really important to prepare for CBI type questions.

Search online for competency-based interview questions to familiarise yourself with what you might get asked. Then give some thought about your experience, personal qualities and achievements, and how you can use these to answer questions providing the detail and insights the interviewer is looking for.

Preparation is the key to a successful interview and you’ll find it much easier to be engaging and make a great impression if you prepare thoroughly beforehand. It will also help you manage those interview nerves!

For more interview advice have a look at this list of Dos and Don’ts, and possible interview questions here.