1. Reach out
"To be honest, it’s immensely helpful to get a positive referral from someone working at the company that you would like to work for. Knowing someone will almost always get you a conversation with the recruiter or hiring manager. People trust those they know and assume a referral will be a good fit for the company."
Our recruiter estimates that they gets between 2 to 3 referrals for most job listings. These referrals almost always get invited to have an initial conversation with the recruiter. People trust those they know and assume a referral will be a good fit for the company.
But what if you don’t know anyone at the company? Are you never going to find an interview? You still have a chance. This is because companies don’t always hire candidates that are referred to them. In fact, our recruiter estimates that over 75% of referred candidates aren’t the right fit because they don’t have the right experience. That’s because there are two kinds of referrals.
- A personal referral is when you are referred to a recruiter simply because you know someone and they like you. This accounts for the majority of referrals that are given for open positions and speak to the character of the candidate but not their professional qualifications.
- A professional referral is when someone refers you because you have the best skills and experience for the job. The person referring you may have worked with you in a professional setting and thinks you would be a fantastic fit for the job. This is both a cultural fit and professional fit.
Our recruiter sees many personal referrals that don’t work out which leaves space for others to land the job. And what is the next best way to build rapport besides a referral? According to this HR Professional, reaching out directly to the hiring manager or recruiter helps. Websites including LinkedIn and Indeed allow you to find the hiring manager or recruiter for the role.
Reach out to them with a simple note introducing yourself, expressing your interest, and letting you know some of your key qualifications. Finish by asking them to find a time to connect. It could read like this:
I wanted to reach out and introduce myself. My name is Jared Carlson and I am applying to the xy role in the North America xy team. I am very interested to work at xy company because of the reason 1 and reason 2. I think I would be a great fit for the role because of my achievement 1 and achievement 2.
You can find a link to my resume here (include savviest resume link). Please let me know if there is a good time to connect this week.
Custom tailor your message to the company and role you are applying to and you will have a much better chance of getting a message back. Make sure you have your resume ready to include in the message as well. Our recruiter says very few candidates actually do this and that it sets yourself apart and will improve your chances of getting an interview.
"It shows you are motivated and organized and creates a personal connection with the recruiter or hiring manager"
For more tips about how to successfully find and impress the hiring manager read this article from The Muse. Doing just this one thing will improve your chances of getting the interview and landing the job.
2. No one size fits all resume
"Regardless of whether you are able to get a referral or are able to reach out to recruiter hiring manager directly, you should always submit a custom resume."
You should still apply to the role even if you aren't able to get a referral or reach out to the hiring manager, but be smart about it. More and more companies are using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter and eliminate resumes before they are even read by real people. A very interesting article in the WSJ article brings you into the inner world of how ATS work. It's worth a read.
Given this trend, we recommend using strong custom tailored resumes to get past the ATS and get hired. Custom tailored resumes match the language in the job description and are fine tuned to give you the best chances of getting an interview. You can create this resume on your own using a word template or using a resume builder like Savviest.
If you're at the beginning stages of writing your resume, check out our article on how to write a great resume that gets past automated systems. In addition to detailing how to get past an ATS, it also discusses the best practices to impress recruiters.
Remember, if your resume is generic it may not get past automated systems and recruiters will think you haven't put the time and effort into making your application the best possible. Give yourself a better chance of being hired by creating custom resumes for each application.
3. Be responsive
"One of the most common reasons candidates are eliminated from consideration is a lack of responsiveness. Being responsive shows that the candidate is organized and excited for the job. A lack of response shows the opposite."
In addition to creating custom tailored resumes, being responsive is one of the next most important things to get hired. If a recruiter or hiring manager reaches out to you, respond quickly. If you get a message in your email inbox or LinkedIn and you don’t respond for a week you are very unlikely to get asked to the next stage of the interview process.
Being responsive demonstrates that you are organized, professional, and respectful of others time. Every person wants to hire a candidate like this.
That doesn't mean you have to have the answer immediately. If you are swamped or don't have the capacity to respond fully, at least be in communication and let the hiring manager or recruiter know you received their message and will be in touch soon. For example:
- Thank you for your message. I will get my updated resume and cover letter to you shortly. Can you please send me a link to the job description so I can make sure I am including all my relevant skills and job history?
- Thank you for reaching out to me. I will need to check my schedule to see if a phone interview will work for next week. Can I let you know by this Friday?
Being responsive will not only help you get a job but also improve your general professional and personal life. In the digital age where the average person is so distracted, being present and responsive stands out and can be the differentiator in your job search. I've found a few best practices to become more responsive.
- Enable notifications for the apps where you need to respond quickly ex LinkedIn Messages or email. Alternatively, set a time or two during the day when you check these communication tools.
- Put all meetings and obligations on your calendar.
- Use a task manager to make sure you stay on top of all of your projects. I use todoist but there are plenty of other great ones out there.
- Practice mindfullness to allow you to procrastinate less and be more present.
Try these out and you will be more responsive in your professional and personal life. You will notice a difference in how people engage with you and set yourself apart.
4. Letters of recommendation
So you've mastered responsiveness and proactively reaching out to the recruiter or hiring manager? According to Forbes, "Savvy job seekers understand that it [letters of recommendation] can help give them an edge when it comes to obtaining a position."
The HR Recruiter we interviewed agreed and said it is important to ask for a letter of recommendation from your former employer and use it to apply to your job. This request can be done while you are working at your current job or shortly after leaving. Make sure you have a good relationship with the boss/colleague you are asking and that they respect you and the work you have done.
A letter of recommendation shows the recruiter what another person thinks of you, not just what you think of yourself. This unbiased data point provides insight into who you are as a candidate that you can't get from a simple one on one interview. For basic tips on how to write a letter of recommendation check out the Forbes article quoted above.
5. Ask the right questions
Congratulations! Following these first four steps will have likely helped you land an interview. Now it's time to impress the hiring manager. One way to do so is to ask the right questions during the interview process. Asking good questions shows the recruiter you are prepared and interested in the position for which you are applying.
Ask questions that show you’ve researched the company, demonstrate expertise, and help you understand if the position is a good fit for you. Here are three great examples of questions to ask:
- Research the company to find any recent news events referencing them. Ask a question that focuses on this news to show you are well researched in the company.
- Understand the requirements of the role and ask a question that demonstrates specific knowledege of the field you are going into. For a sales role, one might ask "What is the average deal size?" Or, "What is the sales cycle for the average product?"
- With all of your questions, make sure they are asked with the intention of getting insight into whether you would want to work at this job. You can ask "what would the day to day of this job look like?" to get insight into the responsabilities and routines or ask "What is your favorite part about working for this company?" which can help provide insight into the company culture.
These are just a few of many questions which demonstrate your experience and help you figure out whether the job will be a great fit. After all, interviewing is a two way street and it is just as important for you to find the right fit as the employer. Check out this New Yorker article for some great additional question ideas.
There are many challenges job seekers are faced with. It is sometimes hard to know how best to build your resume, make the right relationships, or prepare for an interview. Hopefully these 5 tips from an HR recruiter will make it a little bit easier. Even if you only adopt one or two of these best practices, you will be well on your way to finding your dream job!
If you found this interesting please share. For another insightful read, check out our article on why the resume is broken.