The full cake

As any chef will tell you, ingredients alone do not make a cake. There is work in mixing, baking and icing, to deliver a treat that people will enjoy, rather than eating raw ingredients.

Recently I was reminded there are similarities in job hunting. In discussion with a job search client, they didn't see the need to tailor their application to the role they were applying for. They believed all the information was in their CV, if a recruiter was prepared to dig around.

Becoming the solution


I explained two key principles:

First, a job vacancy is a "cry for help" from an organisation. The employer is stating publicly that they soon will not have a General Manager, Operations Manager or CFO. This is a major "problem" to them and they need to find the right person soon, or major cracks will appear.

Second, a job description is like a cake. Different ingredients (desired skills, experience and qualifications) are mixed and baked together to create a position that is the perfect fit for the problem the employer has.

Therefore it's vital you assess the key parts of the job description (those desired skills, experience and qualifications) and "mirror" them in your CV, cover letter and interview, highlighting you as a "tailored solution" to their "problem".

Presenting only the ingredients

The problem is most people who apply do not deliver a cake, but just present their entire career (the raw ingredients) to the recruiter or HR team. Sadly this is where many top candidates drop out of the initial short list, as during the initial cursory scan of their CV by a recruiter, the candidate has not presented a "solution" that quickly makes sense.

Different types of applications

It's important to get the mix just right: Many people provide too many ingredients, showing themselves as overqualified and over-experienced, probably wanting more money than the role is paying.

Others provide too few ingredients, promoting themselves as totally unqualified and inexperienced.

Many present extra ingredients that are not wanted (potatoes and chicken), and confuse the recruiter.

Let them eat cake

Recruiters and HR professionals are not mind readers. If you don't present your background and experience in a way that is relevant to the appointment, they will assume you don't have the skills needed and your application will quickly move to the unwanted pile.

When you apply for your next role, think of presenting not just the ingredients, but delivering a delicious gateau on a platter, with cherries on top. Let recruiters and HR professionals "eat cake" next time you apply for your dream role.

• Tom O'Neil is an award-winning business speaker, international author of The 1% Principle, and MD of both CV.CO.NZ and You can contact tom at