Why is it so difficult to find good people to hire? I hear this all the time from recruiters and HR managers. I recently put a job post on Indeed and received over 450 replies. I went through every one and it took me 2 weeks in my off-hours to do so. Wow, except that I only kept 22 and interviewed only 6! Below are some of my suggestions because I hope it will be helpful to tell you, from a hiring manager’s point of view, why you aren’t getting your resume pulled out of the pack.
I am going to make an assumption that if you respond to a job post, you actually want the job. Right? If so, that desire does not come across in most job replies, cover letters or resumes. That’s a huge problem and we’re just getting started.
If the job you want exists, there’s a way to get it, but you just have to think about it differently. For some jobs, it will be a longer-term process with a few extra steps. For most jobs that are already posted somewhere, here is what you need to do.
One would think this would be obvious, but my experience with the 450 resumes is that only a fraction – maybe 10% followed the request in the job post. Answer the questions and follow the directions in the post and that means READ the whole job post. If you can’t take the time to read, research and respond accordingly – do you think the hiring person on the other end didn’t notice?
Write a better cover letter that applies to that specific job. Copy and paste is okay for a paragraph or two but be original in each. Add more information about that specific job and how you are the one for the job. In order to be specific in the cover letter, you will need to do some research.
Do some research.
The level of research you need to do depends on the job position. If the job is for a social media expert, look at the company’s social content. If the job is for a sales or high-level business development position, examine the website and get an understanding of who the company is selling to. Who would you (as the new hire) be targeting? How will you sell to that audience? How will you add value? Put that in your cover letter.
Really want that job? Propose what you would do during your first month on the job. This allows you to take charge of the hiring process. Modify your resume with a short paragraph at the top about how you would approach the position.
Yes, all this takes time but it won’t go unnoticed by the hiring manager.
Look at the company’s Facebook or Instagram pages to get an understanding about the demographics of the employees, the company culture, mission, and more.
Review other social content sources liked LinkedIn to discover what articles are being written about the company, whether the company is keeping up with industry trends, who the founders are and their experience, the type of people and companies who are following the company, the frequency of activity, and more. All this provides insight that you can include in a sentence or two in your cover letter to show you researched. Be careful though about mentioning things you see on Facebook or elsewhere that might seem like stalking. Don’t get personal – stick to business related statements.
Think like a hiring manager.
Imagine the hiring manager has to choose between two applicants.
Applicant 1: Has a college degree in marketing but their cover letter is clearly a copy and paste and not really relevant to your job listing.
Applicant 2: Has no college degree, but has clearly defined experience working on projects like yours and a LinkedIn page with several testimonials. In addition, their cover letter contains a couple of well-written typo-free sentences about a recent LinkedIn or Facebook post you wrote.
You may not want to hear this, but a college degree is not everything these days. It IS in some professions and certain cases, but the working world is moving fast. Jobs are changing, and your 10-year old degree is already dated for some of the jobs out there today.
If you are looking for a digital marketing social media job (and these are in high demand), you need to have a solid social media (professionally acceptable) online presence. Create a business Facebook page and keep your personal thoughts on your personal FB page. Use LinkedIn only for business talk, shares and groups, and don’t post a dating-style photo.
If you do (or want to do) content writing, show links to content you have written. Prove you can write.
Showing your work on a website or in social media proves you can do the work. This goes without saying for photographers, videographers, illustrators, and such but this also applies to everyone that wants to get the job they want. Generally, hiring managers today see a lack of social media presence as a sign that you don’t realize the importance of the internet, you don’t have strong communication skills, or you’re hiding something about your professional image.
Video is good even if that’s not the job you want. If you have the skills, create a short job pitch video instead of a cover letter. Keep it short, smile and sell your best qualities (without being arrogant).
Okay, you have an interview, now how will you interview virtually?
Pretend you’re not (interviewing virtually). Yes, that’s hard but practice in advance. Pretend and prepare as if you were sitting in a room with 5 VPs.
Dress (at least from the waist up like news broadcasters do) professionally. Do your hair and put on a professional-looking top.
Wake up. How many times have I interviewed someone virtually that seemed like they just got up (even though it was 11AM)? Too many. You want a virtual job? Be awake and alert and show your personality. Speak up.
Be ready for the tough questions. Can you do the job? Will you do the job? And will you fit in? Those are the 3 things hiring managers must know before you move forward. The questions will be asked in a lot of ways, but your answers need to prove you can and will.
You are likely to be asked specific situational questions like, “How would you develop a social media campaign for our company?” If you have the right skills and did a bit of research before your interview you should have no problem with this one.
Interview questions are often based on the STAR interview response technique. The STAR interview response technique is a method for answering behavioral interview questions. Answering all four steps typically demonstrates whether or not you can do the job. STAR means: Situation, Task, Action, Result
Will You Fit In?
Hiring managers also want to know if you will fit into the company culture, that you will work well with others, particularly your manager. This is particularly true in a virtual job—you may not be sitting in the office, but you still have to get along with people and communicate. And, communication from a distance is harder than it is in person.
Hiring managers may consider the strength of your emotional intelligence (EQ) as extremely important. Anything can be put in writing in a resume, but how you handle yourself and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others, may account for as much as 75 percent of job success. Interviewers will look for certain soft skills. These soft skills are often found in the job posting—if you read the posting completely. In a virtual job, these EQ strengths are even more critical and include written and oral communication, a pro-active approach to projects, problem solving without constant management, professionalism, responsiveness, and integrity.
Questions you may get asked.
In most of my job posts I ask for your “talk-show bio”. What I am looking for is a 2 minute work history. I only want a few highlights that tell me who you are. Some people have called this the “elevator pitch”. Tell me why I should hire you in the time it takes to ride an elevator up 15 floors (without stopping). Tell me your benefits (not your features). I don’t want your grocery list of skills.
Practice this for use anytime. Met someone at the gym? New friend? Dinner party? Create an interesting story—your story. Be concise—not longer than 2 minutes, so hit the highlights and leave out information about your dog, partner, and weather chit-chat. Think about your successes and why you want this particular job or why you are leaving the old. What motivates you?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Tell me about a time you’ve had to work with a difficult person, or difficult people.
- Tell me about a time you failed.
- Tell me about a time when you had success.
When they ask if you have any questions, have one. Or two. How about a couple of these?
- What is your favorite part about working here?
- What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
- Ask about something you read on a very recent social media post… I see you just merged with XYZ Company. How is that affecting the business?
- Never ask personal questions that you may have seen on their Facebook page. Don’t ask how their family vacation to Montana went, or how sorry you are that their dog died.
Really, really want a specific job?
Okay, a few more steps for those that want a very specific job that probably isn’t posted anywhere. Go find it.
Research everything you can about the company and the job. Read articles about them (current ones less than a year old). You may have to dig deep into the internet. Discover any problems, mergers, VP level exits, and/or new VP hires. Make a few discrete calls (don’t be stalky) to other companies with such a position and ask a few questions (don’t be obnoxious). Can you discover any potential problems the company may be having? If you can discover something, then send a letter (and resume) that carefully offers a solution with a brief proposal for how you would solve it. Be careful and don’t offend. Your suggestion should depend on the job type, level of skills or experience or education the job may require.
Don’t think this works? I got 3 major jobs this way. One was related to an article in the local paper about a reorganization going on at a certain company. I sent a letter and resume directly to the CEO with a 2 paragraph proposal and two weeks later, had the job.
The second was from a resume I sent while living 3000 miles away on the opposite coast. I did extensive research on the company and job position. I was hired via a Skype meeting.
Timing is everything.
A few other things.
Never burn bridges. Always exit politely, calmly and professionally.
No blanket resume submissions. Don’t waste your time or the time of others by blanketing every job opening with a generic resume and cover letter that has no substance.
Did you know?
- 40% of hires come from referrals, the next largest channel is via career sites at 21% (almost half as many!)
- Referrals get hired in an average of 3 weeks while other applicants take up to 7 weeks
- Referrals get paid more on average than a cold applicant