Want to make sure your job application gets seen, noticed, and called for an interview? Here’s how to submit one that will truly impress a recruiter.
There are plenty of articles out there on how to make yourself stand out as a job seeker. But the best way to learn anything is to go straight to the source — in this case, the recruiters and hiring managers who are fielding your calls, reviewing your resume and evaluating you in interviews.
We asked a number of these decision-makers what really makes candidates stand out, and what gets a job application sent straight to the rejection pile. And they had plenty to say on the subject. So we’ll step back and let them do most of the the talking.
Job hunters, get ready to take some notes. Here are seven must-dos when it comes to your next job application. (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Customize your cover letter
“It’s pretty obvious when a cover letter is canned,” says Laura Renner, founder of HiringCoach. “What gets my attention is a cover letter that I can tell was written specifically for the job.” She notices candidates who “Explain why the job is attractive to them, specifically. They’ll also explain any concerns on their resume, for instance: a gap in employment or that they’re moving to our location soon.”
Holly Bennett, HR and PR associate for Toronto Vaporizer, agrees. “Resumes submitted for a job posting without a cover letter really are just a piece of paper with qualifications, and they rarely give me insight into what an applicant is like, what they can do for our company and why they are applying to our job opening specifically,” she says.
“When I am reviewing resumes and cover letters, I am looking for applicants that are not just applying for the job stated, but are also applying to become part of our tight-knit team,” Bennett explains. “So reviewing personalized cover letters for cultural fit becomes a very key part of our HR process.”
2. Get a recommendation
“You’re much more likely to get to the top of the pile if someone else puts in a good word for you,” says Adrian Granzella Larssen, editor-in-chief of The Muse. “Scour your network to see if you have any first or second degree connections there, and if you do? Use them!”
Don’t forget to brief your references! This post explains how to go about it.
3. Research the company
Beyond simply Googling a potential employer, business author and speaker Barry Maher advises getting an inside look at how the company works:
“One applicant I know went far beyond checking out the company’s website and online articles about the company, and actually called a number of employees who held the type of position she was applying for, as well as several of their managers. She was able to show her understanding of the specific issues these employees faced and the ways the company wanted to deal with those issues.”
4. Show your work
Don’t let all that research go to waste; demonstrate your insider knowledge during the interview by asking thoughtful questions about company-specific issues and news.
Sean Milius, president and CEO of The Healthcare Initiative, recommends asking “specific questions like, ‘I see you had one of the most profitable quarters ever. What was behind that? How will it continue?’ versus standard interview questions everyone else will ask like, ‘Do you think I can do the job?’, ‘When will you have a decision?’ and ‘What is your leadership style?’”
5. Sell yourself as the solution to the company’s problems
“The most successful applicants understand that the job interview isn’t a classroom; it’s a sales call,” says Mike Bowman, owner of TheQuarterRoll.com.
“If the candidate goes in looking to be educated, entertained and wooed by the hiring manager, he is going to be rejected fairly quickly. However, if the candidate has done extensive research on the company and clearly describes the solutions he brings to the company’s pain, he will not only get the job, but a salary much higher than what was advertised.”
6. Go the extra mile
Anne St. Hilaire, marketing and PR coordinator for Recruiter.com, agrees with the importance of selling yourself as the solution and adds that being proactive in suggesting specific solutions can really grab a recruiter’s attention:
“If you come into the interview with a suggestion for a solution to one of our problems, a campaign or project that you have worked out ahead of time or even an evaluation of your own of past projects of ours, it shows that you have not only done your research, but that you are a self-starter and have already put work and effort into our company.”
7. Follow up
You’d think this would be an obvious tip, but you’d be surprised how many recruiters and hiring managers told us this simple step can make all the difference in helping a job seeker stand out.
“If a candidate reaches out specifically to follow-up on their resume, that really gets my attention,” says Milius. “You can go overboard and become a pest, but most applicants click send and wait. The ones who actually know where they sent their resume — and have the ability, desire and interest to see if it has been reviewed — are few and far between.”
Recruiters and hiring managers, what other advice would you offer to applicants?
Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.