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Both Sides of the Fence

By guest blogger Renee Calvert

Like many recent graduates, I’ve spent the last six months or so looking for work in my chosen field.

At the same time, I’ve been asked to find and train my own replacement in my current job. It’s turning out to be an enlightening endeavor.

Because I’m experiencing both sides of the hiring process, my perspective has changed. I understand, to a degree, what’s going on employer-side, and I’m sympathetic to what’s happening on the employee side. Here are five tips for getting a job I’ve learned about getting a job by acting as the hiring manager.

1.       Always include a personalized message in the email if you’re applying online.

Within minutes of our job post going live, my inbox was flooded with emails. We attracted hundreds of applicants. It was certainly a lot to wade through. But the ones that got my attention were the ones who included a cover email.

This is different from an attached cover letter because, while those were nice, I had to scroll down to get to the attachments. By then, my attention was already waning. However, the ones who wrote even just a “Hello, I’m ___ and I want to apply” got more attention.  Studies have shown that you only have a few seconds to make that first impression, and the impression I got from blank emails was that the applicant was just firing out resumes en masse, with little regard for me or my company.

2. Proofread everything.

I can’t emphasize this enough. The position clearly stated we needed someone with strong grammar and spelling skills. A lot of candidates got rejected outright because they made errors such as “I hope to here from you later.”  We’re picky when it comes to grammar and spelling, but we’re not alone in believing that these elementary writing skills reflect on a candidate’s attention to detail, professionalism and level of interest in the position. Even a mere typographical error can give an entirely wrong impression.  For example, one candidate tried to convey “I saw your ads” but  accidentally replaced the d in “ads” with an s. While we had a good laugh about it, we couldn’t feel confident that this candidate would be meticulous in her work, so we passed.

Such errors can be avoided with a simple read-through. Remember, a spell check in Microsoft Word doesn’t flag errors when the wrong word is used but spelled correctly. Plus, when you read your work over a few times, you are able to also check the tone of your writing. Checking for tone in writing can be challenging (there aren’t facial or vocal cues to convey meaning), but I find that if I read what I’ve written aloud, I catch my own typos and hear how my “voice” sounds to the person reading those words. Having good grammar, spelling, word usage and tone in your written documents makes you seem more professional and intelligent.

3.       Personalize your content.

It’s a rough job market out there (believe me, I know).  Because there are so many people competing for positions, it’s necessary to send applications to a lot of companies. The more lines out, the more bites, right? By that same token, it doesn’t make a good impression on the screener if it’s obvious that no time has been spent considering THIS specific job. It’s time consuming enough to wade through applications that do not demonstrate the qualities we’re looking for or show a complete lack of awareness as to what our company does. We received several applications that expressed enthusiasm for a full-time job, even though the ad clearly stated part time. Additionally, many applicants assumed that our offices were in the city… but a quick look at our website would have revealed that we’re based in a suburb that is likely not in commuting range.

When a company lists their website in the application – and they almost always do – it is prudent for job seekers to research that company. And if a website isn’t listed, finding out information is a quick Google search away. Yet the high number of applicants who obviously knew nothing about my company was unbelievable.

Most potential employers are not going to care about you getting a job more than you do. They can’t, not when there are other applicants who DO care more than you. If you want them to be interested in you, you must first demonstrate interest in them. You can start off on the right foot by personalizing your resume, cover letter and introductory email to show you know at least a little bit about the company and the person you’re submitting your application to.

4.       Read the posting closely for your applicable skills.

Most job postings will clearly delineate desired skills and experience. But even when they’re not super specific, if the job posting mentions an emphasis on a particular role, it will not do to claim you’re “perfect for the job” when there is an obvious hole in your claim.

When a position specifically asks for a skill like social media use, the candidates who aren’t familiar with Facebook or are not on LinkedIn don’t even get a second look from us. I can tell by their resumes that they’ve got extensive experience in admin roles. They may be excellent with people and fantastic team players who have exhibited organizational skills beyond compare at past jobs. But because the important skill emphasized as “necessary” on the job description isn’t apparent (or, as some expressed, a skill they have no interest in acquiring), I can’t entertain the idea of hiring them because their lack of familiarity would mean taking a risk that they can and will pick up these skills.

A requirement is a requirement. Sure, there might be a little bit of room to stretch, especially if you have a skill that is related and translates easily (running a blog on Wordpress vs. actually using Wordpress to build websites, for example). But if you want to stand out, make sure that you don’t over reach – you’ll only end up looking bad.

5.       If you don’t get a call back, it’s not because the hiring manager personally dislikes you.

This is a lesson I’ve had to learn myself. Rejection is no fun, especially if you made it past the initial screening and got a call or interview. But rejection doesn’t happen because the hiring manager is sitting at their desk, twirling their mustache and stamping NO in big red letters. It happens for business reasons, because another candidate did something better.

It isn’t unfair and it isn’t malicious. The person doing the hiring is a human being and not the face of evil, unfair corporations. For someone right out of school (or re-entering the work force, or trying to get another job after the last one was dissolved), a rejection can be incredibly disappointing. But it’s not a wholesale dismissal of your skills, abilities and work ethic.  Not being selected just means you didn’t get that particular job.

Getting a job is hard and getting your dream job even harder. But persistence, hard work and optimism are qualities everyone wants to hire. If you present yourself professionally and don’t let “no” get you down, you will eventually land the right job.

five tips for getting a jobRenee Calvert is the Art and Communications Director at People First Productivity Solutions. Keep connecting with the people and priorities that matter most to you! As a leader, it’s imperative to understand why and how to show ever person that you care about them. Learn more about how you can CONNECT2Lead. And be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

Topics: CONNECT2LEAD Blog, Developing Your Personal Strengths, Featured on Home Page, personal growth

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