For me, one of the biggest stand outs of 2023 so far is how ultra-competitive the job market has become for candidates.
There are many factors for this, however this blog is intended to serve as valuable candidate insight to aid securing employment in a challenging environment.
It can become super frustrating applying for many jobs, not hearing back, maybe receiving an automated rejection message from others, and the one or two jobs that do go the distance, somebody else pips you to the post, or ‘Unfortunately, a more experienced candidate was successful.’ Sound familiar?
There are many pitfalls to the process, and with hiring companies being afforded the ability to be super picky about their ‘Ideal Candidate’ it takes a focused, strategic approach to reach the finish line.
In this short blog I have highlighted some pointers that can really improve your professional shop window and take your job application game to the next level.
It starts with that one skill that not everybody has, but if everybody did the world would probably be a better place – empathy.
To stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of landing your dream job, it’s essential to take a strategic approach that resonates with recruiters and employers. In short, put yourself in the recruiter/ employer’s shoes and ask yourself ‘what is it they want to see in an ideal application?’
We’ll also delve into the importance of tailoring your applications, share key insights from a recruiter’s perspective, and provide actionable tips to enhance your chances of success.
1. The Power of Tailoring
Before hitting the “Apply” button, take the time to thoroughly read and understand the job description. Identify the key skills, qualifications, and attributes the employer is seeking.
Make your application/ CV mirror the job description: Tailor your CV to highlight the experiences, skills, and accomplishments that align with the job requirements. Focus on quantifiable achievements that demonstrate your value.
Personalise Your Cover Letter: No, you haven’t stepped into a time machine and gone back 20 years! Using a good old Cover Letter to showcase your enthusiasm, effort levels and genuine interest for the role and company is an amazing tool. In a world where convenience often takes over from hard work, a Cover Letter shows a candidate has gone that extra mile to probe they are both right for the job and enthusiastic about getting it.
Discuss specific aspects of the job description and explain how your background makes you an ideal fit.
Don’t want to write a Cover Letter? It’s vital your CV includes an elevator pitch in the Summary section at the top. Something that quickly tells the reader why they should hire you.
2. Insights from a Recruiter
Relevance is Key: Recruiters receive a high volume of applications, so relevance is the gamechanger. Customise your application to address the company’s needs and show how you can contribute.
Showcase Soft Skills & Personal Touch: Beyond technical skills, emphasise soft skills like teamwork, adaptability, and communication.
Recruiters are tasked with finding a strong culture fit for an existing team – the more you can show your personality to a Recruiter, the more likely it is they will envisage your ideal fit.
Research the Company: Demonstrate your interest by researching the company’s culture, values, and recent news and achievements. Mentioning these in your application shows that you’re invested in their success.
3. Strategies for Success
Quantify Your Achievements: Data, Data, Data! Numbers and metrics catch the eye and jump off the page. Use quantifiable data to demonstrate your impact in previous roles, whether it’s increasing sales, reducing costs, or improving processes.
In my experience, candidates often push back initially and say they couldn’t possibly put sensitive customer information on their CV.
However, saying your top sale in 2022 was €150,000, you’re projected performance is 135% year to date and you’ve exceeded your annual target by 25% year on year for the past 4 years doesn’t breach anything confidential.
The same approach can be taken by Marketing campaign performance/ ROI, Customer Success retained accounts etc.
I have got to know plenty of business leaders over 10+ years as a Recruiter, and the burning questions they have about new people joining their business, regardless of profession, is ‘Can this person prove they can consistently deliver, and do they care about the bottom line?’.
Networking Matters: Leverage your professional network to gain insights and referrals. Employee referrals often carry significant weight in competitive job markets.
You are more likely to buy a product/ service if a friend highly recommends it to you. The same can be said about Hiring Managers and their trusted employees.
Regardless of if I have a dream opportunity or not for my candidate, I’ll often push them to utilise their own network. Good Recruiters are a bit like your Personal Trainer in the job search world. They will push you to do things that make you uncomfortable, such as asking peers for introductions or contact details, but ultimately to benefit you in the long run.
Further Development: Stay up to date with industry trends and continuously develop your skills. There are countless certifications, online courses, and workshops that are available out there. In some cases, they are free (I like Google Digital Garage and HubSpot in particular), and they can set you apart from other candidates who perhaps haven’t shown an appetite for professional development in recent years.
4. Do not take it Personally
One of the many benefits a good recruiter will offer the companies they hire for is brand image intelligence.
I speak to many candidates who grow sour with certain companies as they didn’t hear any feedback after a process, and they take it personally. It’s a huge problem that a lot of companies don’t realise. They then wonder why candidates don’t come running when they post a job.
I have helped transform several companies and their employer reputation, resulting in huge improvements in candidate attraction, by tweaking their brand awareness at the start of a hiring process and their candidate care messaging at the end.
Looking at the process from a candidate’s perspective, the truth is, most Recruiters/ Internal Recruiters/ Talent Acquisition teams/ HR teams/ Hiring Managers are inundated with applicants, queries, emails, phone calls and messages.
It can become overwhelming, meaning there is a very small window of time for a decision to be made on an application, and if there isn’t a clear and obvious reason as to why a candidate should be shortlisted, chances are they will go into a ‘not sure’ pile, or a ‘generic rejection email’ pile.
My first tip is do no take this personally, as it happens to all of us at some point in our career.
Take a step back and assess your approach. As frustrating as it is to be told ‘No,’ is there something small you could have done better and can do better for the next opportunity?
Some of the below mistakes happen on a daily basis, despite seeming like common sense. I can guarantee from experience that they have a dramatic impact on whether or not a candidate is invited to interview.
• Have you addressed your Cover Letter/ email to the correct contact? Have you spelt their name correctly?
• Have you read through your application thoroughly and used a spell check?
• Does the location and working model of the job match your expectations? Are you realistically going to commute to the office if it’s an on-site job, or a hybrid job?
• Have you followed the employer’s LinkedIn page?
• Have you referred/ shown alignment to the employer’s visions and values throughout your Cover Letter/ CV?
• Does my application resemble/ align with employees at the employer’s company?
• Have you referred to recent news/ updates to show you’re genuinely interested in the company?
• Does your Cover Letter/ CV explain you’re seeking the same job title for which you are applying?
• Are your LinkedIn/ other Social Media profiles up to date? Do they back up what your application says about you?
• When applying for an individual contributor vacancy, does your application focus on your relevant individual contributor experience, or does it focus on your management/ leadership experience?
My second tip to try would be to apply for 5 jobs you clearly match the criteria for, rather than apply to 20 jobs you like the sound of and aren’t a close match. This can be a common mistake when there’s a lot of jobs advertised and it’s easy to take a scatter gun approach.
Before you smash the ‘Submit’ button with excitement and optimism, ask yourself ‘Have I followed the above steps to make this company want to interview/ hire me?’
If the answer is no, you have lost before you even start.
If the answer is yes, then take confidence that you have done your best and applied the best approach possible to getting the company’s attention. Whether shortlisted or not, have faith that you given it your best shot. Continuing with this approach will increase your success rate dramatically.
Final Thoughts/ The Secret Weapon
In a competitive job market, there are no cheat codes. You, and how you position yourself is your secret weapon to securing interviews and landing your desired role.
Remember, it’s not just about showcasing your skills, but about demonstrating how you can add value to the company.
By understanding the importance of customisation, gaining insights from a recruiter’s perspective, and implementing effective strategies, you can maximise your chances of success and embark on a rewarding career journey.
The job search process can take time, and rejection is a normal part of it. Stay persistent, be adaptable, keep refining your approach, and don’t get discouraged.
Remember, if you receive criticism or a reason why you weren’t successful, this is the golden ticket to gaining success the next time.
If you would like a confidential conversation about your career, or about career opportunities within your specialism feel free to reach out to myself or one of the many experienced Recruiters at Abrivia.
We’ll help you make sense of a tricky, challenging, and competitive job market.