Insights from the Recruiting Department
The average corporate job posting usually brings in 250 resumes. Of those, only four to six candidates will get called for an interview. Needless to say, only one gets the job in the end. This means that for most jobs, you may only have a 0.4% chance of being the successful applicant.
It’s clear that a basic resume and cover letter aren’t enough to set you apart as a star candidate anymore. Companies are looking for increasingly extraordinary talent and will screen their applications accordingly. While you have your own unique skill set and value to offer, you may be left out of the running if you don’t communicate it effectively enough. For every application process, it is imperative to utilize the time with the recruiter to prove you are the right candidate for the job and keep yourself in that 0.4%.
Whether you’re looking for an entry-level position or have been in the workforce for years, here are some insider tips on how you can optimize your job applications and ace your interviews.
Tailor, tailor, tailor!
Once you’ve decided which positions you’re interested in and are ready to write your application, make sure you tailor it to the job description and company. Lauren Friese, founder of TalentEgg, doesn’t hesitate to stress the importance of applicants tailoring their applications to demonstrating genuine interest in the company they’re applying to. "It's not even about being flattering,” Lauren further shares. “It's about showing that you've done the research and you know what the opportunity is and why you would be good at it."
“The candidate [is noticeable when he or she] sends a cover letter that is genuinely specific to our company and the position he or she is applying for. When I receive template letters, it tells me that they could – and probably have – sent the same letter to 100 different companies,” adds David Bristol, president and CEO of Employee Solutions.
Not only will your tailored application catch the attention of recruiters, it can help optimize your resume for ATS (applicant tracking systems). 75% of companies now utilize ATS to screen resumes before a pair of human eyes lands on them, which saves them a lot of time and money. This involves scanning for keywords and phrases, quantifying their relevance, and aggregating the final score so that only the most relevant applications are sent through to the human reviewer.
“Busy recruiters and employers often utilize automated screening tools to analyze how closely a resume matches the job description. If there is not a strong correlation then your resume may never actually be seen by a human,” says Bob Myhal, CEO of NextHire.
Don’t just do well – stand out.
Every interview will be a different experience, but here are some skills you should lock down no matter what type of position you apply for:
- Answering basic interview questions in an insightful and effective way without sounding like you have spent the last 24 hours memorizing them. Consider using the STAR method to answer situational questions to ensure you present the situation, task, action, and result effectively.
- Exuding confidence and poise without seeming arrogant, which comes with practice. “Whether it’s in a mock interview or just practicing your answer in the mirror, talk through your response so that it feels natural and comfortable when you’re actually in the interview,” advises Emma Flowers, a career coach at The Muse.
- Asking genuinely profound questions at the end – this makes you look prepared and interested in working at the company. The Muse has provided an example of what a thoughtful question may sound like: “I noticed in your annual report that you faced unexpected profitability challenges last year due to the new tariffs. How is this team working through these issues, and how is the company overall addressing them?”
Once you have the basics down, think about how you can stand out during the small amount of facetime you have. The interview is your chance to shine and emphasize the value you can add to the company, so make the most of it! Here are some notable qualities hiring managers want to see candidates bring to the table:
- “When a candidate can answer a question in a brief, bright and confident way, that is a unique skill,” states Ben Martinez, HR Director at HireVue. “And intellectual curiosity. A candidate who enjoys problem solving, dedicates themselves to their profession, is a student to their trade, and is using that curiosity to drive their profession forward.”
- “The number one quality that makes job applicants stand out is demonstrating that you are results-oriented. Whether it’s a college student who led a project with a student group, or someone who has ten years of experience, I need to hear them talk about their past work in terms of achieving and working toward goals without significant prompting from me as the interviewer,” Tracy Prisson, founder and president of The Opportunities Project, muses.
- Joanne Chua, Regional Client Development Director for Robert Walters, adds that “businesses today face constant disruption, frequent restructuring and ongoing transformation – employers are looking for anecdotal evidence of your ability to survive and thrive in such a climate. Demonstrating ‘learning agility’ – a willingness and enthusiasm to move with the times – shows that you can cope and adapt in fast-moving world.”
For many candidates, the follow-up process is the last window of opportunity before the final hiring decision is made. Don’t copy and paste a generic follow-up template as you risk being forgotten among the masses of other candidates. When writing your thank-you notes, ensure that you approach them thoughtfully so that the reader remembers your interview and therefore, you.
If you’re looking for inspiration, here are nine examples of candidates who did something memorable and positive to distinguish themselves in interviews.
Remember: there’s more going on behind the scenes than you think.
Keep in mind that recruiters and HR managers are very busy people who have multiple responsibilities. You are not their only candidate! While they may not intend to ghost you, sometimes a packed schedule and shifting priorities can result in a delay or absence in updating you on your candidacy.
Susan Lamotte, founder of Exaqueo, shares that recruiters’ workloads can lead to uneven amounts of attention being divided between resumes. “A recruiter… usually [has] an unmanageable number [of positions she’s responsible for] … That means some resumes get the six-second glance, some get 30. There’s no guarantee of fairness — it’s absolutely impossible. And if she already has enough candidates interviewing, she might barely glance at new resumes.”
At the end of the day, sometimes it may be the time at which you apply or the recruiter’s schedule that results in an unsuccessful application. To get your foot a little further in the door, it can be useful to have a connection in the organization who can check up on the status of your application. “I could ignore resumes in my ATS queue but I couldn’t ignore a colleague at my door asking about a referral,” Lamotte recalls.
Establishing a network within the organizations you want to work at can also be helpful in netting you “insider” information, allowing you to gain a deeper (and often more realistic) understanding of what it’s like to work there. Even if your contacts aren’t recruiters, they may be people who have knowledge of or influence on the hiring process and work culture.!
Just ensure you don’t become overbearing in your outreach, or you risk making hiring managers nervous!
All things considered, many factors go into determining who gets a job and who doesn’t. As a candidate, ensure you demonstrate your skills and value while striving to build meaningful connections with your recruiter and other influential people. Treat every job application as a significant learning experience, and you will be able to take something away regardless of the final result.
For more support with navigating your career, book an appointment with your Career Advisor today or check out resources and events on Beedie Community!