Lately, I’ve been assisting with the recruitment of new employees for a small boutique firm. Sorting and sifting through over 250 applicants for only 2 jobs has been an interesting and revealing exercise. I’ve noticed many mistakes in every stage of the recruitment process from how an applicant submits their interest and resume, to the phone screening process through to the in person interview.
If you are interested in standing out as a candidate, here are my 5 best strategies to help you avoid some derailing, yet common mistakes:
1. Be strategic about which jobs you apply for. The job market is highly competitive. Applying for any and every job is not the right strategy. Make sure your strengths, skills and experience are in alignment with the job description and the requirements of the job. Don’t waste a recruiter’s time and energy if you do not meet most of the job specifications but you really want to work for the company. A better strategy might be to network with employees within the organization until the right job comes up that matches your strengths, skills and experience.
2. Make it easy for a recruiter to pick you out of the multitude of job applicants. First impressions really do count. Your LinkedIn profile should include a professional looking headshot, summary and highlight relevant past experiences and education. However, remember even a great LinkedIn profile is not a substitute for a resume and quality cover letter. Make sure you have a well written and succinct resume that is also attractive to look at. Customize your resume and cover letter to the job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a creative marketing role, use your creativity. I once observed an applicant submit an infographic resume in response to a marketing role resulting in her landing an interview.
3. Don’t make the recruiter do your work. I’ve noticed applicants use minimal effort to apply for jobs online. I’ve seen scanty online resumes or no resumes, relying on LinkedIn profiles alone. Always include a full resume and where possible submit a cover letter which summarizes why you are applying for the position and why you are the right candidate for the job. This requires that you also do some research about the role, the organization and perhaps even the hiring manager. The better prepared you are, the greater your chance of landing the interview and the job.
4. Practice phone and email etiquette. Often it’s the little things that make a difference in landing you the job you want. Let’s start with making sure you spell check your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. Details matter! When engaging in email or online conversation with a recruiter or prospective employer use more formal email etiquette, including proper salutations, grammar and effective written communication skills. This is not the place to use “texting” language or abbreviations. During phone interviews, make sure you capture the interviewer’s name and use their name when asking or answering questions. People love to hear the sound of their name. It not only lets the interviewer know you are someone who listens but it also says you care. In a recent assignment, only 2 out of 20 applicants interviewed used my name in the phone interview. Both advanced to the in person interview stage. Lastly, always follow up a phone or in person interview with a thank you email. Not only is it good manners, but it’s another opportunity to make a good impression and gain share of mind with the recruiter or hiring manager. And because most interviewees don’t do these simple things, you will stand out.
5. Show up as your best self. So you’ve finally made it to the in person interview stage. Make sure your shoes are polished. Many hiring managers look at the shoes first. Sounds strange, but it does say a lot about your attention to detail. Shoes don’t lie. As for attire, I recommend at least one notch above how you would normally show up for the job. It is better to be over dressed than under dressed. Example, an applicant showed up to an interview in dress pants, dress shirt with the top button undone and a loose tie around his neck. He was being interviewed for a wealth management role where everyone wears a suit to the office. Unfortunately, he was ruled out before he even opened his mouth.
If you want to stand out as the ideal candidate, take the time to be strategic in your approach and in the interview process. That means careful planning and research, preparation, practice, and attention to detail. With a little extra effort you can stand out amongst the other candidates, and that little extra might be just enough to land you your dream job.