The Election Is Coming! Every week sees a new list of available seats rolled out seeking prospective candidates. Some are a more tempting prospect than others but all require the completion of a three page ‘Candidate CV’. This is the vital first stage in the selection process so it needs to be done well.
The importance of the application form
The Candidate CV is all the selectors will know about most applicants when they sit down to sift up to 300 starters down to the dozen – at the most – who will be called to interview. Local candidates or well known celebrities have a massive advantage but anyone else needs a CV that will stand out from the crowd. The purpose of the CV is to get you through the door of the interview room and if it can’t do that you have a serious problem.
But the CV will also follow you through the entire process like a faithful dog. At the interview, every selector will have a copy. If there are two interview stages, everyone who attends the final public meeting will have a copy too. There could be hundreds of them in circulation by the end so be prepared for copies to pop up in surprising places after you have triumphed and won the seat.
Any typing errors, obvious mistakes or untruths in the document will also follow you – and they won’t help your chances.
That’s why it is so important to plan the CV, draft it several times and eliminate all of the errors. A second pair of eyes is really helpful when it comes to picking up mistakes.
You need to think about the constituency and what they need – then match those needs to the experience and skills you have to offer. There’s no point majoring on knife crime in a predominantly rural constituency or on farm subsidies in Inner London.
Use local names and examples to illustrate the points you make. A session researching on line should turn up some useful indicators.
Use your own experience to explain how you would approach and solve those problems. Make it unique to you so that you stand out from the field.
Remember it’s not an exam or an essay. Long blocks of text telling them what they already know are really off putting, so break it up into manageable paragraphs that are easy to read.
Put the strongest points at the beginning and the end of the page. These are the parts that naturally draw attention and are most likely to be read.
List the things you hope to achieve but keep it manageable and readable. Make them relevant to the constituency and to your own experience.
In my opinion there should be no more than three key pledges. People remember things in threes but they struggle with larger numbers.
In the current climate resolving Brexit should be one of the top priorities for anyone seeking election anywhere. Leave or Remain – be completely open and honest about where you stand.
Remember that achievements are about more than the job titles you have held. Sitting in The Big Chair isn’t enough – they want to know how you used your political power to help people and get results.
These results can of course include successful campaigns. How many votes did you get? What was the majority, or the percentage swing? How many members did you recruit? How much money did you raise? And how did you achieve all this?
Most applications now include endorsements from supportive public figures, so CVs can look naked without them.
Obviously, existing politicians make good endorsements but don’t overlook political commentators, media figures or senior business people who may be willing to help you. Political activists can also give good endorsements to back up your campaigning claims.
Think carefully about what an endorsement says. Too many are little more than name dropping with no attention to the actual content. Well used endorsements can praise you for things you might not be able to say about yourself without looking immodest. If you are hard working, caring, and likeable it looks much better to get other people to make those claims for you.
Ultimately the only way to see if a Candidate CV is effective is to put it out there, so apply for seats and take notice of any feedback you get.
For most candidates the selection process is a bruising journey. You can afford to lose an interview but you should never lose the opportunity to learn from it and be better next time.
I have helped dozens of successful candidates with their applications and CVs so contact me for more detailed advice.