July 5, 2020, by Katie Andrews

Advice for job seekers series: Highlight your contribution, not time served

There’s no question that the current pandemic and the responses to it have been devastating for many; not only in human health terms but economically too.  Many people have found themselves unexpectedly looking for work in a jobs market that has markedly changed in a relatively short time.

For those looking for work for the first time in many years, it may be a whole new ball game.  Understanding how the recruitment and selection process may have changed is key to being prepared for seeking and applying for new roles.

In a series of daily blogs, Dr Terri Simpkin, Associate Professor at the Nottingham University Business School, and former Human Resources Director, provides some insight and tips on navigating modern job search practices.

It’s recruitment, but not as you knew it.

In the not too distant past, job hunting was often characterised by pounding the pavement dropping off CVs, letters of introduction or personal resumes to businesses that might be looking to hire new employees.

Not anymore.

Even prior to lockdown, it was highly unlikely that organisations, particularly chains or larger firms, would accept unsolicited applications ‘in store’ or via branches.  The recruitment and selection process has largely been centralised or outsourced and at least in part, automated and managed online.

This means your approach to finding a new job might need to be updated to suit the ways in which organisations manage their hiring practices and to improve your chances of finding and getting the job you want.*

*(The move to online recruitment and selection methods assumes that applicants have access to hardware such as a laptop, desktop computer or a smart device as well as reliable internet access to engage with the application process.  This may be a disadvantage, so be prepared to seek assistance from friends, family or community groups that may be able to help.)

Advice for job seekers: Highlight your contribution, not time served

Many people make the mistake of assuming that longevity in a job will communicate capability or potential in a new role.  This is not true.  When looking at applications, recruiters are looking for the value and capability individuals will bring to the role.  Application letters and CVs should highlight the contributions made rather than just time served.  Consider these two examples –

“I’ve been employed at Acme Accounting for 13 years as a customer accounts manager.”


“As a customer accounts manager at Acme, I introduced new processes that reduced bad debts by 35%, improved our productivity by 23% and enhanced our relationships with key accounts to improve cash flow.”

Which application would you be more likely to consider?

Quick Tip – Really think about what you have brought to your previous roles and what benefit your capabilities and experience will be to a new employer.  Get help if you find it difficult to sing your own praises.  If there was ever a place to be honest and open about your past successes, it’s during a job application process!

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