Today’s economic environment has made it difficult for both employment seekers and employers to get the right person or land the right job. If you’re an employer, you probably are inundated with non-qualified resumes. If you’re an employment seeker, then you probably may not have received the response you’re seeking.
What does it take to get in front of a decision maker? What does it take to attract the right talent? Persistence, clarity and a strategic plan are the key elements. I’ve had the opportunity to interview and meet many wonderful applicants – who unfortunately have been affected by one of our Nation’s worst economies. The commonality I saw amongst candidates was the inability to differentiate themselves from their peers. An example of this was writing a resume that read like a job description. A resume that did not tell recruiters much about the applicant’s working environment, their goals and/or their intangible traits.
In applying to a company for a job, another commonality I saw was that applicants had not always properly researched the industry, the trends and the competitive landscape. They were able to focus on the requirements for the job, but because employers can – and in some cases, have to be more stringent – with their screening process, applicants were not able to effectively communicate their understanding of what the company was looking for. I know, I know, I know…we can’t be psychic to be able to read the interviewer’s mind, but we can be inquisitive.
Companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or Talent Management Systems (TMS) to pull resumes from large internet job posting websites. When a requisition (an approved job/position order) is opened – it is done so with specific key words and hopefully an updated job description. To sell the “sizzle,” companies will highlight the benefits of working for their company and why qualified applicants should apply. Here is an example of how the tool is used:
Let’s say there is a positiion for a Customer Service Representative. The recruiter will write the job description, the hours, the type of customer service, whether it be over the phone or in person along with compensation and benefits. A good recruiter will set up parameters to screen only qualified people in, such as: Must have 3 years of experience. If you don’t meet the requirements and you call the company to check the status of your submittal, the recruiter will more than likely outline why you were not called and refer to the requirements. Some recruiters may even take it to the extent in saying that you didn’t read the posting in its entirety. In setting up the job posting, the recruiter may add key words such as – customer service, friendly, de-escalation, so on and so forth. THOSE are all key words you want to keep in mind as you write your resume.
The resume should be written in a manner that it will appeal to the specific posting you are applying for and to the person who will be reading it. But we still haven’t touched on what differentiates you from your peers and how you should market yourself, right?
Picking up the phone and calling the company and obtaining the name of the point of contact in charge of that requisition is a good point to start from. If a job ad does not put an office number or their name of the company, you can look at the fax number and Google it to see where it goes to. Name Sourcing is another effective way of meeting the end-user. Name sourcing is not a tactic that is always used effectively though. Applicants who call and ask for the point of contact along with a direct office line; or email – will undeniably and most typically distinguish themselves from other peers who may deposit their resume into a databank.
You see what happens when you respond through a company’s website or through one of the major internet job posting boards is that your resume will go into a public folder (within the corporation’s HR team). And when that public folder receives up to 150 resumes a day, it is difficult for any human to review all these resumes. This is why it is more beneficial to make contact with a human to give them a glimpse of yourself, whether if it is through a voice mail, email or through a conversation. The first contact is the most important. You don’t want to impose on that recruiter’s time, but instead ask if you can set up an appointment. Don’t talk about all of your accomplishments because this will only make you appear desperate (even if you are). What you would like to mention is your understanding of what their company is looking for. You may mention a brief comment on the market trends for that particular industry. I’m not saying that you should become a Subject Matter Expert (SME) but rather to make yourself different.
It is best to discuss the challenges and trends first in place of your accomplishments, unless you are asked. It is an unwritten rule of ettiquette in the application process. I can remember listening to my recruiters saying, “Gosh this person just dumped their whole life story on me.” A professional introduction will get you farther in your favor, if you keep it brief on that first phone call, “Hello Mr. Jones, I am calling about the Customer Service position you have listed on ABC job board. I don’t want to take too much of your time, but in reviewing your company and the ad, I see there is a strong possibility of a partnership. I’d like to know what the best way would be, for me to secure an appointment with you or your company.”
It’s important to take notes during your call or conversation; this so you can jot down important comments or bits of information the person is sharing with you. You want to further research the company, the position and the opportunity. This so that when the recruiter asks what you know about the company you can let them know about your findings. Let the recruiter know that you did your research and have a good understanding and will be sure to ask questions at the right time. Seek the advice from others, ask questions, ask for their opinions on the company and/or position. Sometimes we get so excited that we build tunnel vision and miss perhaps small details but crucial to the next step in the process.
During the interview, it is best to arrive 15 minutes in advance and most of all, make a friend with the receptionist. Receptionists are often used as intuitive screeners to see what they think of you as you wait in the lobby. I normally make small talk about their day and how it’s going. A firm handshake and a wonderful smile go a long ways. I will hold off on talking about the interview as that would be another topic in itself, but will not hold back on mentioning, “closing the interviewer.” Have three questions with two alternate questions to ask at the end of the interview. I always advise people five questions, because if the interviewer is good at what he or she does – they will have pre-answered your questions during the interview. Closing the interviewer is showing your interest by asking questions such as: What kind of timeline are you looking at in making a decision? Can you share with me how many candidates I’m competing against?