If you’re applying for a job, please don’t do this…

I am currently recruiting and have so far waded through 179 applications . 179*! And every one is from a real live human being so I take the time to genuinely consider their CV and the cover letter they’ve composed. A big chunk of these applications have one or more major issues: not necessarily a lack of qualification or experience, more that the application itself prompts some cause for concern.

I’ve recruited for entry-level roles and managerial vacancies, and while there are definitely some people who need more of a support network to help them represent themselves properly in a job application situation, people of every level should be avoiding these pitfalls…

1. Maybe don’t use your personal email address

This is a pet hate of mine, so it gets top billing. It’s not enough to mean you automatically won’t get an interview, but it will make me think twice. Please bear in mind when you apply for a job that the recruiting manager has no idea who you are. And that their vacancy will receive many applications, into the hundreds if it’s not a managerial role.

Your email address is one of the first- if not the first- thing that someone will find out about you so try to think about what you’re saying with that email address. Ultimately, any employer wants to know you can act reasonably in a work situation and with a bit of common sense- if you can’t do that with your email address, why should I believe you can do it at work?

If you’re basically or then I don’t judge your personal choices! But your common sense is definitely under scrutiny. And no, I’m barely exaggerating. is an example of one I’ve had the pleasure of receiving a job application from. I don’t even know what it means.

Also, generally avoid the word ‘dolphin’ in your email address. Please.

I very much enjoy getting tipsy. I don't need to include it on my CV.
I very much enjoy getting tipsy. I don’t need to include it on my CV.

Even email addresses that don’t suggest a full and exciting social life can be problematic; I wouldn’t discount somebody great for this reason, but there’s always that confusion when the address seems to be somebody else’s name… If you’re Bob, why is your email address Pam? Just do yourself a favour and create an email address that is basically the name on your application- it makes everything simpler.

2. Fill in the blanks

I don’t know you, your hopes, your dreams. If all you’ve ever wanted was to move from Galway to London (or vice versa) then good for you! But if your CV states that you currently live in Galway, then it’s probably worth mentioning how and why you’re applying for a job across an actual sea. Even places closer by: if it’s an hour and a half from your city to mine, you clearly aren’t going to be commuting, and interviewing you is going to be a bitch. So state in your cover letter that you’re looking to move, or how you think you could make the role work, because otherwise I will think you’re just not paying attention. I shouldn’t have to work to understand your application.

Similar is true of career breaks and periods out of work: do not just leave gaps. If you were raising a family or had caring responsibilities then just put that in. If you were ill or had trouble finding work, these things are totally understandable but still worth a mention. Again, just try to bear in mind that you’re taking the guesswork out of the situation. The employer doesn’t want to have to try to figure stuff out so KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Which in this case means filling in the gaps.

3. Have an up-to-date CV

Boring? Obvious? Yes! Totally! And yet I see covering letters and personal statements all the freaking time that seem to contradict the CV provided alongside. On the current vacancy we ask whether a particular qualification has been achieved, and the proportion of people who answer yes and then it’s nowhere to be seen on their CV is frankly staggering. Do you not care enough to keep your CV current? Are you fibbing about having passed? Again, I don’t want to be the Miss Marple of Reed, digging to find out the truth. Just tell me what I need to know.

These are my beautiful cats. I very much enjoy cats. I don't need to include it on my CV.
These are my beautiful cats. I very much enjoy cats. I don’t need to include it on my CV.

And make it suitable for a lay person. If you have an HR professional doing the recruiting- which may well be the case in a larger organisation- then they’re likely to understand what your qualifications mean. Similarly, if you’re applying for a very specialist job in, say, a riding school, then listing all your horse-related achievements makes perfect sense. But if in doubt, just spell out what all these letters and names mean. I’m not going to sit and Google your acronym so just make it easy. On my CV I say that I have the Investment Management Certificate (glamour!), I don’t just put ‘IMC’ and let employers guess at what particular IMC that might be.

Other quick wins to bear in mind:

4. CVs of more than 2 pages won’t get read. Fact.

5. Get a friend to read your CV. If you can’t even capitalise your own address, or spell the name of your last employer correctly, I’m not sure I want to entrust you with my organisation’s financial future. So ask a mate to check it.

6. Don’t be weird. A bit of colour, or an unusual layout (as long as it makes sense) is a nice change for the poor, tired recruiter’s eyes. But don’t go on about unions ruining your year at a French university, or your obsession with the knowledge provided by Dan Brown books. Out of context it’s just  weird.

7. ‘Going to the gym’ and ‘reading’. Everyone puts these as their interests. It’s in no way a deal-breaker but it makes you stick out about as much as calling yourself easy-going in an online dating profile. Oh, do you like staying in and going out with friends too??

Oh you mean you like reading? Why didn't you say so!
Oh you mean you like reading? Why didn’t you say so!

8. Volunteering is great.

9. Try not to apply if you can’t even be bothered to slightly tailor your covering letter. I know it’s tough out there, I really do. But receiving the same covering letter you already had saved on the recruitment website without even changing the job title and company name is so depressing. Ideally you should refer to the detail in the job ad but in an entry-level job, if you really feel you don’t have loads to say, just keep it to the point but personalise it to the vacancy.

10. Don’t Dear Sir me if you’re writing to my email address. In my old job I asked all applicants to email me directly. So howabout ‘Dear Laura’ or ‘Dear Ms Bosslady’ rather than ‘Dear Sir’ if you know. My. Effing. Name.

Bonus tip: Want the job, give me a call. Nothing sticks in the mind of a recruiting manager more than the person who took the time to double-check a detail, or ask an intelligent question. It makes us feel wanted and warm inside! And when it comes down to you and the similarly-qualified person, I potentially already have a bond with you.

I hope these help? It’s genuinely so frustrating to see bright young people who have loads of potential making it opaque. If you don’t do your CV right there’s a bunch of people right behind you who will, and will get interviewed before you. Also, I just had to get this off my chest; I’ve been holding on to that ‘daddysmyangel’ thing for years…




* since starting writing this, it’s jumped to 198. I haven’t read all of the new ones.

Category: Comment, Life
Side volume for comparison

The Holy Grail for fine-haired women!

I have fine, fine, baby hair. If you have such hair and you’re ok with it then I’m thrilled for you, but I can only describe my hair as thin and also crappy. Realising the LIE of most famous women’s hair- that even a full barnet is usually enhanced by extensions, I’m looking at you Kate Middleton- has helped my pain a little. But the fact remains that my hair is poker-straight, ‘lank’ is not too harsh a word most days, and it’s prone to being weighed down by product so it’s a constant balancing act to get the combination right. And even when that happens, an hour later it’s flat-to-head.

When I went for a haircut November last year and asked for ‘shoulder-length’, I was nearly inconsolable when she cut it to my chin. It’s not a flattering length on me, having such a round face, and it meant losing a good 6-8 inches, around half of which I had not intended to lose. “Oh well”, I thought, “at least I’ll be able to get some volume in my hair again”. NU-UH. Taking care of my hair, regularly colouring it, and using decent products means that my mane is as healthy as it’s ever been, which makes it even more difficult to style. If that sounds illogical, just think about how much easier it is to get volume and texture into hair with broken bits and messed-up hair shafts. Stupid healthy hair was doing me no favours.

Not the length I wanted, but at least she gave me a terrible blow-dry as well!
Not the length I wanted, but at least she gave me a terrible blow-dry as well! FLAT.

With the exception of following the advice of the hairdresser who proclaimed to 15 year old me that “only a perm will help!”, I have tried almost everything. I dry my hair upside-down, which for me has always got the closest to root-lift that I’ll ever see, but for a special occasion I’ll get the Remington Big Hair out. It’s not a game-changer but I find it using at the just-drier-than-towel-dried stage, with a blowdry lotion or spray can have a good lifting result. Never use mousse with the Big Hair though, or you’l end up with a knot the size of your fist.

When it comes to volumising shampoos and conditioners, I have used A LOT of them, cheap and pricey. Whenever I think something is making a difference, it’s not long before the effect wears off and I’m back to limp hair. I have tried all the usual suspects: Bumble & Bumble, Ojon, Philip Kingsley, Percy & Reed, most of the brands they sell in Boots. Until recently, I was exclusive with TIGI Bed Head Epic Volume and we were very happy together. It makes my hair marginally more voluminous than not using it, and by buying the large 750ml sizes, it’s actually insanely cheap and convenient too. But it’s not the change I want to see in the world.

I like this stuff, but at £21 for the two I think it represents good value too...
I like this stuff, and at £22 for the two I think it represents good value too…

In the last month (six weeks probably) there have been two main things that have changed. The first is that after a year of trying to grow my hair to shoulder-length, I’ve realised that I need to give in and live with the bob. I got the first haircut that I’ve been happy with for aaaages (thanks weird Chris at the Toni & Guy near work…) and I finally tried L’Oreal Fibrology. I’m not going to go on about it but after Sali Hughes recommended Firbology and I realised that I’d been using the Thickness Booster too often in the shower (it’s only supposed to be twice a week), I am now very impressed by the results. But shampoo and conditioner alone can only do so much. I need much, much more…

The much more is styling product. Before I do anything, I prep with a primer. I know this sounds like a needless step but I genuinely have found that it helps my ‘style’ to have staying power. It’s not a cheap product but a very small amount goes a long way (yes, really) and although the Living Proof one has achieved cult status, lots of people prefer Percy & Reed Perfectly Perfecting Wonder Balm and I bloody love it.

I know it's £18, but I got mine free from a magazine... If in doubt, buy from QVC so you can send it back if you hate it
I know it’s £18, but I got mine free from a magazine… If in doubt, buy from QVC so you can send it back if you hate it

Too much mousse will overload my hair and ultimately make it greasy, but lotions, sprays, volumising oil, and the like just aren’t enough to get any real hold into my hair. I’ve tried combinations of products for years but when I finally stumbled across TIGI Bed Head Small Talk (currently £7.99) and gave it a go, I realised that the consistency is different to anything I’ve tried before. It’s got a sticky, elastic quality to it that bouffs up my hair; the first time I used it was a revelation and it has been ever since. You can even get a mini travel version for around a fiver, but you have to keep looking as it often sells out.


The Small Talk is good teamed with TIGI Bed Head Superstar Queen for a Day Thickening Spray, but it’s awesome teamed with £1.49 super-product, Boots Essential Extra Firm Hold Mousse.  When Sali Hughes recommended it on her 50 Best Beauty Buys Under £20 earlier this year, I could not have been more cynical, but this stuff is a freaking god-send. The staying power of a mousse, with the weird elastic alien consistency of the Small Talk, is a winning combination and I can see the actual root-lift hours later. Try it- I beg you.

Straight after blow-drying. Yes, I have a vest on
Straight after blow-drying. Yes, I have a vest on

Just before I blow-dry (upside down, and after my fringe has been done separately) I use a teeny bit of the L’Oreal Fibrology Serum on my ends. It makes me feel like I’m fully committing to the Fibrology regime, and having my ends a bit silkier so I can straighten them helps give my hair the illusion of thickness. I want root lift, but wispy ends can undermine your whole effort.

Quite a good fringe...
Quite a good fringe…

After blow-drying, I tip my head upside-down and spray some VO5 Plump It Up Dry Backcomb Spray (a bargain product that lasts forever) or Colab Dry Shampoo, which I’ve stockpiled at home. I also really like TRESemme Texture Style Devine Definition Spray for adding a little definition to my layers, but you must be sparing with it. A light spray, at about half arm’s length, leave it a few seconds then run your fingers through your layers. I then, of course, finish with hairspray. I’m a die-hard TREsemme Freeze Spray fan but a lighter hairspray in this case is no bad thing. I like Fudge Skyscraper, which is around £9 but cheaper stuff will do just as well, I’m sure.

And finally, the acid test. Does my hair, after the commute, windy London, and a day in the office, still have a bit of oomph left? Yes, for THE FIRST TIME EVER, I can confirm that my hair actually has some life at 5pm. Those with genuinely fine hair will know how rare this is. I am going to stockpile all of these babies! Never. Going. Back.

Hours later! Crap picture, but baby fine hair that still has some life
Hours later! Crap picture, but baby fine hair that still has some life
Why so surprised...?
Why so surprised…?
Side volume for comparison
Side volume for comparison
Category: Life, Style