Last year I wrote an article called Silence of the Job Posting on my blog. In that piece I covered a topic that seemed to be on the forefront of every job seeker’s mind: lack of response after you’ve applied to a job. More times than not, that is the biggest issue that job seekers have with today’s online application process. In that article I spoke to the fact that the application process has fundamentally changed over the years and that everything is now automated. There are a lot of frustrations shared between job seekers and recruiters.
A year later I’ve found those frustrations are still being voiced from both sides of the spectrum. In fact, I’d say they are louder than ever. Job seekers are increasingly frustrated with the lack of feedback after they apply to a job. They feel undervalued and disrespected. Recruiters feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applicants applying to their jobs and are also frustrated with the amount of candidates who apply to their job but don’t meet the posted minimum requirements. I’ve been a recruiter and a job seeker, and I can feel the pain from both ends. When I was looking for work I applied for jobs I knew I could do, only to be met with silence and eventually the dreaded “not selected” automated email. As a recruiter I’ve had to deal with thousands of job applicants per week with the mass majority not meeting the basic qualifications I was tasked to hire for. For the purpose of this post I want to focus more from the job seeker’s perspective and how you can hopefully alleviate some of that pain. Below are a few tips.
Applying for a job these days can be a daunting task. The first thing I want to do is encourage you to stay positive. I read too many comments online from job seekers bad mouthing companies due to a lack of response. Remember that it’s hard to distance yourself from comments you’ve made online. I’m baffled by job seekers who took the time to apply to dozens of jobs at a company, only to bad mouth that company shortly after due to a lack of response. Companies aren’t going to hire people who bad mouth them online. That short-sighted and temperamental behavior is a sign that you don’t do well under pressure. It’s a sign that you look to take the easy route of outwardly assigning blame instead of rising above your challenges and finding a way to accomplish your goal. So even though you may get understandably frustrated, keep the gloves on and stay positive!
Stick to what you know
Sometimes when we don’t hear back on a job application we panic and break out the shotgun approach to applying to jobs. We apply to every single job that has a buzz word in it we’re familiar with. This may seem like we’re increasing our odds of landing a job with that company, because mathematically we have to eventually be selected, right? Wrong. A surefire way to show a recruiter that you lack focus and direction is by applying to dozens of jobs across several labor categories, in different geographic areas and with varying years of experience required. While you may think it’s a harmless way to increase your visibility, what it’s really doing is painting the picture that you don’t really know what you want and are lackadaisically applying to jobs.
Be sure that the jobs you apply for are jobs you are qualified for and interested in! If you live in Maryland and you apply to a job in California, you should have a real willingness or desire to relocate to California. Maybe you’re open to doing multiple things, and you feel like one job description sort of boxes you in and doesn’t highlight all that you’re capable of. Being open to change and taking on new roles and responsibilities is a great thing, and it should be verbalized during the interview process. But it shouldn’t be conveyed by applying to separate jobs as an engineer, a writer, a technician, a financial consultant, a manager and a business analyst. Instead, apply for the job you’re most qualified for, and tell them during the interview that you’re also capable of leading a team, putting together business and financial reports, writing up technical documents and helping to create and build new products. That’s icing on the cake for your future employer, as opposed to job board fodder.
Don’t take it personally
Applying to a job online seems, at its core, to be impersonal. It seems cold and distant. You log on, upload your resume, and send it off to “whom it may concern”. However, if you have ever applied to a job then you know that it’s actually very personal to you. You are putting all of your accomplishments and all of your talents on trial. You are putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable to disappointment and rejection. After all, there are only two final outcomes once you apply to a job: either you get the job or you don’t get the job. From your perspective, it’s extremely personal.
However, from a recruiter’s perspective it’s anything but personal. A recruiter’s job is to hire the absolute best candidate into their opening. Their job depends on them not just filling a position, but filing it with the right person. Any recruiter worth his or her salt will be able to tell you what their retention rate is- that is to say how many of their new hires actually stick around. Recruiters are looking for all-star hires each time around- someone who is going to last. You may have all of the skills listed on the job description, but you might be lacking the extra 3 years of specific experience that the candidate who got the job has. That doesn’t mean you weren’t a good candidate, and it’s not a personal attack against you. Perhaps you have all of the same skills and tenure as the person who was hired, but you applied two days after the company began the offer process on the other candidate. That’s not an indication that you aren’t a talented professional, it’s just bad timing. So remember that while it may be tempting to visualize some sinister plot behind you not being selected, more times than not it really has nothing to do with you and much more to do with who they hired.
This advice is nothing new, and you’ve probably heard it a lot. However, it’s very important and bears repeating- you must network. There is a lot of competition when you apply to a job- the average corporate job posting receives approximately 250 applicants. You have to find a way to separate yourself from those other 249 individuals. And while a fancy or targeted cover letter may be a nice addition, it’s not always going to do the trick. When I applied for a job with my current company, I reached out to everyone I knew in the company to inform them that I had applied. I asked for time with each of them to discuss the company culture and values and I learned about their mission. Before you know it I had networked my way into an interview. From the discussions I had with those current employees, I was able to position myself very well in the interview. I had very direct and educated questions prepared and it was obvious I put a lot of time and effort into applying to this position and preparing for the interview. I didn’t just upload my resume and wait to be contacted. Networking is still the king of landing a job.
Finally, above all else you have to have faith. Have faith in yourself and in your talents. Have faith that you’ll land in the spot you’re meant to be in. You know what you’re capable of, and you have to have faith that your hard work will pay off. It’s easy to give up and say that ABC Company or XYZ Company is no good because you didn’t get selected for the job you applied for. It’s harder, but much more rewarding, to keep leaning forward and have faith that things will work out. Be confident in your abilities and hard work and you’ll find that your confidence will shine through.