A recent Wall Street Journal article, ‘Lifting the Curtain on the Hiring Process’, brought a different perspective to the hiring process; one which few applicants think about when applying for a job. The article suggests that for those applicants who are not hired, understanding the reasons why is typically a mystery. They may in fact rationalize the rejection without fully understanding what they could have done differently to land the job. Knowing what goes on in the hiring process, on the other hand, may give prospects the inside track for a job.
As someone who has spent a lot of time in the HR seat I can assure you there are many advantages to knowing what goes on, on the ‘other side of the desk’. Let me share a few insights with you.
First of all recruiting and hiring is a repetitive and often daunting task for any HR professional, especially in today’s job market where there can be hundreds of job applicants for every opening. As a job applicant you therefore need to ask yourself two questions:
What can I do to make the HR person’s job easier?
How do I go about making myself stand out in a crowd of hundreds?
We can look at some examples of how you, the job seeker, can address both of these questions through a carefully constructed job search campaign.
First, from the HR manager’s point of view, it is my job to screen out as many resumes as I can to come up with my top 20. So you, as the job seeker, need to craft a resume which is tailored to the job you are applying for. The resume should use key words which reflect specific required skills and experience specified in the job description or job posting. And, your resume must be chalked full of accomplishments. (I don’t care if you have 15 years of web design experience. I want to know what you did during that time that contributed to increasing the bottom line for your company.) If those components are included in your resume, you just made the top 20….you stood out and you made my job easier.
The Cover Letter
I am also a huge fan of cover letters. If I receive a resume without a cover letter it goes directly into the circular file next to my desk. A carefully written cover letter, on the other hand, tells me you know something about our business, what problems we are facing and a brief explanation as to why you are the most qualified person to solve those problems. In addition, a quality cover letter is an indicator of strong written communication skills. What company would not want to hire someone with excellent writing skills? A carefully written cover letter makes a huge first impression so take the time to write one. Not only have you made my job easier but now your resume goes into my ‘top 20’. You just stood out!
Be aware of when the interview process begins. It is very likely you will be contacted for a phone interview if you pass the resume screen. The first phone contact with a hiring professional is the official start of the interview process. Job seekers who have submitted resumes therefore need to anticipate a call for a phone interview. I can’t tell you how many people I have screened out during this process because they simply were caught off guard and did not present a professional image over the phone. I would suggest you keep handy a file on each company you submit a resume to, along with copious notes, including any job descriptions, ads or company web information. This is a similar mindset one would have when selling their house. When the house is on the market, it should always be kept clean and orderly. You, after all, are on the ‘market’ when you are in the midst of a job search, so plan accordingly. Start thinking of ‘yourself as a product’ and always focus on putting your best foot forward even if it is over the phone.
Here is another tip to make my job easier and increase your chances of being hired. Come to your interview prepared. Know what our business is about and ask thoughtful questions that indicate you have some understanding of what we do and that you are interested in our company. And, when you are asked questions, be succinct in your answers. Don’t tell me your life history when I ask, “So tell me a little bit about yourself.” Again, you need to prepare the answer to this question in advance, summarizing your personal brand and how your background, job interests and strengths make you the ideal candidate for our opening. Remember, I have lots of interviews to conduct, so if you bore me with a lot of non-essential gobbledygook you will just make my job more difficult and I can guarantee you won’t be invited back for a second interview.
The Employee Referral
If you possibly can, get a personal referral to the company you are applying to. Now your resume goes to the top of my pile (you stood out) and you just made my job a whole lot easier. Employers love to hire referrals. With a personal recommendation (a reference if you will) you are ten steps ahead of the other anonymous resumes on my desk. You will need to network to get these referrals. We will discuss networking in a future blog.
There you have it. Get noticed and do what you can to make the recruitment process easier for your future employer. I bet you’ll get noticed and get hired.