Job Applications: Why Do You Seek Approval?

I’m teaching my CV/cover letter writing course tomorrow morning, and I already know what will go wrong.

Not wrong, exactly, but where I’ll meet the most resistance and get the most questions from my course takers. This moment comes around slide 8, when I insert the following question somewhere into my instruction: Why do you seek their approval?

‘Their’ in this case refers to the recruiter(s) reading the CV and/or letter my students have submitted when trying to land a new job.

Please like me

Where does this need in us come from, when did it start? I’d wager in childhood, where trying to please the adults in our lives was an ingrained part of most of our upbringing. Doing the right thing at home, giving the right answer at school, etc.

So it’s no wonder, then, that this belief carries over into our adult lives. We transfer the need to please onto the imaginary person we see reading our application where we tell about our skills and experience for the job at hand. We write with their judgement/approval in mind.

Up to this point tomorrow I’ll have been trying to get the people in the room to rethink another entrenched belief, that they have to use fancy business words and phrases in order to impress the reader/recruiter as to how smart and experienced they are:

a bottom-line professional, a motivated self-starter, a detail-oriented administrator…

Isn’t everyone a motivated self-starter?

The list goes on. I’m not making fun of them or anyone else – have been a ‘motivated self-starter’ myself in a previous CV life. But can you do better?

To paraphrase a certain former presidential candidate, ‘Yes, you can.’

You can start by mentally throwing out vague business-y terms that mean nothing, and start by writing what you actually did at your last job. What you’re doing now. No fancy frills and embellishments, just the truth.

Who you actually are as an individual (emphasis on last word).

Get over it

But first you need to get over the feeling of seeking the approval of whomever is reading what you’ve put down on digital paper.

It’s not easy to do, either mentally or in practice. I get that, But if you do manage it, you’ll have the freedom to tell this person just why you’re the best candidate out there for the job.

How will all the above advice go over? I’ll find out tomorrow.

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