As employers and people managers, most of us have been involved with working to hire the perfect fit as we grow our teams. But we’ve all experienced the other side of recruitment too. At one time or another, we’ve all been participated in a hiring process as job applicants. And chances are good that most of us will again in the future.
At Engaged HR, we’ve handled our fair share of recruitment processes, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of how to get a hiring team rooting for you. The cold hard truth? Most candidates don’t make it anywhere close to the finish line—so here are some insider secrets to maximize your chances of getting that all-important interview invitation next time you’re on the job hunt.
1. Tailor your efforts. Applying for jobs can be tedious, and it’s tempting to recycle your existing cover letter and resume for every job you apply for. Don’t. The “throw my resume at hundreds of job ads and see what sticks” approach? Not effective. We can smell a canned “my generic skills” resume from a mile away, and those applications are usually immediately shifted to the “meh” pile. So target your efforts—read up on the organization, track down a job description, and clearly show why you’re the best pick for this particular job.
2. Don’t just list your skills on your resume. It’s great that you have amazing interpersonal abilities and excellent MS Office skills. But unlike your mom, we don’t already know how fantastic you are, and that list of skills can mean different things to different people. So spell it out for us. Tell us when and where you got those skills. Use accurate dates for your experience and education, and include both month and year. We know that it’s hard remembering what you had for breakfast, never mind what month you started that job five years ago, but it gives a more complete picture of your job history. And if you’re sketchy on the details, we start to worry that you’re trying to hide something.
3. Length is less important than content. Your resume should be concise, well-organized, and tell us why you’re the rock star employee we’re looking for. But there’s no hard and fast rule on length. So use your judgment, keep it relevant and readable, and stop being overly worried about the length. If you feel your extensive relevant experience genuinely merits an extra page, go for it. That said, if you send us a 10-page resume using single spacing, 8-point font, and extra-narrow margins, you’re making it hard for us to stay friends.
4. The little things matter. Pay attention to the details of your application. This means reading the fine print on the job posting carefully, and following the instructions. If the posting says “please put the job title in the subject line”, then do it. If you ignore the directions and decide to get creative, there’s a good chance you’ll be screened out simply for not following instructions.
Before you hit “send”, let your application sit for a couple of hours and do another once-over to catch any small errors. Use spell check, and edit your work. Better yet, get someone else to be a second set of eyes. The last thing you want is to be screened out based on a careless mistake.
5. Be the keener. Have meaningful questions about the job description? Want more details on timelines? Like to know who to address your cover letter to? It’s fine to send a quick email or leave a voicemail to follow up and re-indicate your interest in the position. Reminding the person in charge of hiring that you exist can be a great way to get them to give your resume a second look. Pro tip: Leaving a good impression is key to using this strategy effectively. Make sure you have a reason for checking in, and you’re not just calling because you read on some blog somewhere that it’s a good idea to follow up.
6. Flexibility—it’s not just for yogis. Get invited for a phone interview, or better yet, an in-person interview? That’s fantastic. Now make yourself available. You’ve gotten this far in the process, so (assuming you’re still interested), show your prospective employers that you’re willing to make it work by doing everything you can to make the interview date they suggest. Usually there’s a whole slew of folks involved in the interview process, so your unwillingness to reschedule your haircut for an interview means that four other people have to rearrange their lives. And we know that you’ve got a lot on the go, so your flexibility during the process will definitely be noticed and appreciated!
The bottom line? Tailor your efforts, use spell check, and if you truly want the job, don’t be afraid to show it!
Your Engaged HR Assignment: On the job hunt? Keep the above suggestions in your back pocket as you sort out your job applications. Not looking but know someone who is? Pass along this article as well as our candidate interview tips to use as a guide during the recruitment process.