An In-[ctrl-V]-enient Truth


A student who copies and pastes

Has applications going to waste

They never hear back

Because it’s a fact

That personalisation will win you the race 

At this time of year in SOAS Careers Service we’re speaking to a lot of our students and graduates. A theme that has come up recently is ‘copy and paste’ applications. Whilst copy and paste is a convenient function, it’s not a great approach to writing an application.

The problem with copying and pasting your CVs, Covering Letters and job applications is that you’ll not address the nuances and specific criteria that each organisation expects for a role.

Picture yourself in the recruiter’s chair.

You receive a pile of job applications. Some that vaguely fit the role that you’re trying to fill, but not completely, a few of which at best go in the maybe pile. Applicants might say that they’re interested in the job opportunity, but they don’t clearly link their individual experiences to the job criteria, haven’t highlighted specific examples or even seem particularly interested in the role.

They start ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ as the opening and each share a number of similarities. They all profess a passion for the sector and organisation. What exactly is it that they are passionate about?

They love the recent bit of news about the organisation, but have barely engaged with anything from further back. And again, what is it that they love about that particular press release? They don’t even engage with the role and how it fits into the organisation. There’s a sense that these applications have been sent to more than just your organisation, a bit of a scatter-gun approach.

You then receive a few applications that have had more thought put into them and really address the needs of the role. Instantly you’re much more interested in these applicants. They’ve called to find out who to address their application to which is always a good start. They highlight what their motivation is, by actually saying what the organisation and sector mean to them.

Without using the word ‘passion’, they demonstrate their enthusiasm with much more clarity by using specific examples and precise language.

Their knowledge, skills and experiences are clearly linked to the role they’re applying for. They understand what the role is, and have clearly made the effort to engage with the job description. They haven’t just used examples, but also demonstrated the results of their work. The time and efforts that have gone into composing these applications make it easier to justify shortlisting for interview.

As a recruiter, the basics that you want in an application is a sense that the applicant has made an effort and understands the role that they’ve applied for. After that, it comes down to the applicants who demonstrate the best fit for the role, based on qualifications, experience and their attitude.

Using the copy and paste function is easy, but it’s unlikely to impress the recruiter when the application doesn’t specifically meet the needs of the role. Put yourself in the recruiter’s position for a moment and think about what they want from your application.

Jai Shah, Careers Consultant