HR pro reveals the biggest mistakes job-seekers make in the application process.
In today’s competitive job market, finding a position for which you’re both qualified and excited about can be a daunting task — let alone actually getting the job.
Understanding the “hiring funnel” used by recruiters and HR managers is the first step in a successful job search, according to Talent Function Group LLC.
In the case of an average online job posting, the “funnel” reveals an applicant's chance of success at each step of the hiring process:
- 1,000 individuals will see a job post
- 100 will complete the application
- 25 resumes will make it to the hiring manager after a screening process
- 4 – 6 applicants will be invited for an interview
- 1 – 3 of them will be invited back for a final interview
- 1 will be offered that job
But don’t let the numbers discourage you. While standing out from the crowd is no easy task, with the right qualifications, effort and enthusiasm, it’s certainly possible.
1. Ask yourself if it’s really a fit
Do extensive research on the position and company before the interview, and ask yourself the hard questions first, like if you're really qualified. According to the Wall Street Journal, over 50 per cent of applicants for a typical job fail to meet the basic qualifications and spend less than two minutes actually reviewing the requirements in detail.
“You need to remember that it’s really important that you’re qualified for the roles you’re applying for, no matter how eager you are to work with a specific company,” said Kotowicz-Kimball. “Honesty and graciousness are also key qualities. Being able to talk openly and productively about areas you need to develop, and why you left a previous company shows a level of maturity.”
“Cultural fit is important too, so be yourself and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine," she adds. "I want to know that you’re dedicated and have the skills we’re looking for, but also that you’ll be fun to hang out with at the company barbecue.”
Do you want the job because you’re excited about the position and the company? Can you see yourself living and breathing the brand day in and day out? If the answer to these questions is yes, chances are your intentions are in the right place — now all you have to do is go into your interview with confidence, self-assurance and show them why you’re the ideal candidate. Your intuition will speak to you — listen to it.
2. Make a connection before applying
We’ve heard time and time again it’s about who you know — and for good reason. Having a connection in the company gives you an advantage over candidates applying out of the dark. It could be someone you met at a networking event, a friend of a friend or someone you went to school with.
Regardless of your relationship to that person, it’s a smart move to let them know you’re interested in the position (within reason, keeping potential conflict of interest in mind). More often than not, this opens the door to learn more about the application process, the company culture and other insider tips you wouldn’t have known if you didn’t take the time to reach out.
While often times your connection won’t be the determining factor in whether you get hired, it certainly puts your name closer to the top of the pile — especially if that person is in management. Remember that companies aim to hire talented, enthusiastic individuals, and their people talk to each other.
“Utilize your network to build connections at organizations you want to work for,” Kotowicz-Kimball states. “Do they have a charity you can volunteer for? Networking or industry events they host that you can attend? Participate. The door will open easier when they know who is on the other side.”
Related: "4 volunteer ideas to beef up your resume"
3. Don’t treat the company like a number
Tailoring your cover letter and resume is crucial, including addressing the application to the right person — even if you don't know who that is.
“Utilizing a generic resume or cover letter, or including spelling or grammatical errors on your application tells me that you don’t care enough to put forth your very best application,” said Kotowicz-Kimball. “I also can’t stress enough the need to follow instructions when applying for a position. If the posting requires you to submit an online application, you may think showing up in person will make you stand out, but what it says is that you can’t follow directions.”
Take some time to figure out who will be combing through the resumes. A quick search on LinkedIn can give you a good indication of the current hiring manager(s) at the company. If you’re not confident in this method, try giving the receptionist a phone call to ask. If you’re still unsure, go with whoever you find that makes the most sense. You might end up addressing your application to the wrong person, but the fact that you tried beyond “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern” will be noticed.
4. Be prepared
“I’m always impressed when a candidate has done their research and can speak specifically about the role they’re applying for, the company, the industry, etc. You don’t have to know the complete history of the organization, but if you can speak intelligently about recent developments in the industry, or a new product release, it shows that you’ve put in the time and effort to understand our business,” said Kotowicz-Kimball.
5. Leave a lasting impression
“When you do come in for an interview, don’t just tell me what you think I want to hear. I want you to be real; tell me your story. I want to know how your unique skills and experiences will benefit the organization,” said Kotowicz-Kimball.
“After your interview, follow up with the interviewer to thank them for their time and consideration," she adds. "This can be a quick phone call or email, but personally, I’m a fan of the handwritten note. It only takes a few minutes of your time, but leaves a lasting impression.”
Up next: Learn more valuable job-seeking advice in "How to score your dream job at a forward-thinking company"