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Sat 30 Mar 2013 12:00 PM

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The Dos and Don’ts of job applications

There’s a lot you should and shouldn’t do when submitting an application. We take a look at some of the most common mistakes, as well as what employers are looking for in new staff, with the help of REED Global and the British Council

The Dos and Don’ts of job applications

Job-seekers based in the Middle East are committing simple errors when applying for positions, hampering their chances of landing a dream job, according to the recruitment company REED Global.

With job application activity increasing significantly since the New Year, REED’s Dubai-based team compiled UAE-specific research from 2012 analysing common factors that led to job applications being rejected.

Examples included applicants distributing multiple versions of their CV containing significant content differences, having errors in the subject line of their email, and making blanket applications for a company’s available positions.

Other mistakes included applying for jobs using informal email addresses, failing to update contact details and replying “yes” to every question on a screening questionnaire.

Addressing job-hunters who use informal email addresses when submitting CVs or applications, Ash Athawale, recruitment manager at REED, said: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. These first impressions are absolutely vital and using an unprofessional email address that starts with something like ‘partygirl’ or ‘gamerboy24x7’ won’t impress a recruiter.”

Recruiters are also wary of candidates who send out multiples versions of their CV, sometimes including significant differences in content.

“Both internal and external recruiters will have a copy of your resume already on file and if the ‘latest’ version you send varies significantly from what they have already, you’re setting off red flags, said Mr Athawale.

He advises job-seekers to adapt their cover letter or summary according to the position they’re applying for, but to leave job titles, dates of employment and scope of work done unchanged.

Another common mistake is making blanket applications for a host of jobs, rather than choosing positions that match specific skills. Recruiters receive applications in one central email box and will delete applicants who respond to multiple jobs that a company posts, REED stressed.

REED also warned people against answering positively to all screening questions on job boards.

“Not all answers to job application have an expected answer of “Yes”, said Mr Athawale.

“I have periodically posed questions where the answer should be ‘No’. For example ‘Do you have a work ethic that is questioned by your superiors?’ or ‘Are you applying for this job without reading the description?’”

Job-seekers should also check the contact details they provided in past applications, with some listing a work phone number or email address that became out of date after changing employers.  Companies also have the right to scan employees’ work email meaning there should be no expectation of privacy if you are found looking for a job on company time.

And those who think their private lives are private should think again, REED warned.

“The first thing recruiters do when they see a good profile is look up the applicant on LinkedIn, Facebook or other professional and social networks and perform a general web search on their name or email address,” said Mr Athawale.

“Finding out about your social life outside of work, including embarrassing pictures, will guarantee you don’t get a call back.”

If you want to know how you can increase your chances more positively, then new research by the British Council in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs can lead the way.

Finding qualified candidates and keeping up with technological innovation are the two most pressing business challenges facing UAE employers, according to the research.

Employers were asked what skills and qualifications were most required to meet business needs.

It found that intercultural skills are currently amongst the most valued by employers in the UAE: 59 per cent said staff with intercultural skills are likely to be promoted more quickly (compared to 37 per cent average across the nine countries surveyed) and 57 per cent of UAE employers actively screen for intercultural skills in their recruitment process (compared to 46 per cent average).

When asked to define ‘intercultural’ skills, UAE employers said these included the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints, adapt easily to different cultural settings, demonstrate respect for others, and communicate in foreign languages.

They reported that employees with these skills are more likely to bring in new clients, work well in diverse teams, and build trust and relationships with clients. Employees who lack intercultural skills leave their organisation susceptible to risks including conflict and miscommunication within teams, loss of clients and loss of sales.

The research also revealed that finding candidates with good communications skills is a more pressing human resources issue for UAE employers than finding candidates with the right formal qualifications.  A high 71 per cent of employers felt that UAE educators could do more to develop good communications skills in employees of the future.

The research was launched at the British Council’s annual conference for the world’s education leaders, Going Global, held earlier this year in Dubai.

Speaking at the event, Gordon Slaven, UAE country director of the British Council, said “Employers in the UAE are looking to the country’s educators to play a greater role in developing good communication skills so students are able to meet the demands of an increasingly fast-paced  global marketplace.”

Clifford Young, managing director of Ipsos Public Affairs’ public sector research and political polling in the US, added: “In an increasingly globalised world, the market is demanding more than hard skills.

“UAE employers are placing an especially high value on candidates who have the flexibility to adapt to new technological innovations, new ways of thinking, who demonstrate respect for others and who understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints.

“Those who develop these skills will have a clear advantage in their own careers and will help ensure the UAE continues to grow its influence in the global market.”