Candidates ... give yourself a better shot at the shortlist
By Suzanne O'Leary
For most of us, the decision to move on from an existing role or company isn’t made lightly - but once made, we want to move forward quickly.
Naturally then, as our focus shifts towards exploring the job market, job-hunting becomes the all-important and all-consuming priority of our professional life - but we shouldn’t mistake activity for progress. Trawling through recruitment ads and sending out your resume may feel like a full-time job, but it’s not a full-proof plan for securing your ideal next role.
The key to a successful search is getting on the right shortlists - and to do that, you need a way to stand out from the crowd. Whether applying directly or through a recruitment agency, you also need to know how to work the application and pre-application process to your advantage.
Before you start job hunting, make sure your online and offline platforms are primed and ready to reinforce your credentials and make every first impression count:
1. Leverage your LinkedIn profile
If you’re in the job market, positioning and marketing yourself well on LinkedIn is important. Before roles are even advertised, recruiters, search agents and employers will use LinkedIn to identify potentially suitable candidates - and of course, it’s the first place they’ll look after receiving your resume.
At the top of your profile, the Summary section is the first thing recruiters will read about you. Like the cover letter to a resume, it needs to immediately engage the reader and position you well for the type of role you seek. Take your time to craft this and include keywords as these will help you show-up in recruitment searches.
Other must-haves for your LinkedIn profile include a professional headshot, a concise Headline (with keywords), accurate Job Titles and an outline of every role you’ve held over the last decade - ideally with keywords and details that highlight the scope and scale of your responsibility and achievements. Also include an abbreviated summary of your earlier career and provide details of your education, professional memberships, awards and endorsements in the appropriate sections.
PS: Before making any changes to your LinkedIn profile, check and adjust your Activity settings to ensure the updates you’re making are not being broadcast. When you’re ready, remember to turn on the Open to Opportunities indicator too.
2. Establish an early rapport with the recruiter
As your job hunt progresses, you’ll come across advertisements for roles that seem to have what you’re looking for - but the first step is not to send out your resume.
Before submitting your application, do your best to speak directly to the recruiter involved, request a job description (if available) and ask questions about the role. You’re looking here for insights that will help you understand if the role is right for you and also help you tailor an application.
Do this quickly, as time is usually of the essence, and keep your conversation with the recruiter short, sweet and focused on the role. This is not the time to sell yourself, but it is an opportunity to develop a personal rapport with the recruiter ahead of submitting your application.
3. Repurpose and optimise your resume
With every role you apply for, it’s important to remember that your recruiter will be receiving a large number of resumes. When shortlisting, it’s their job to try and find a needle in a haystack - which means it’s your job to stand out. Repurposing and optimising your resume to ensure it’s tweaked and tailored to each role you apply for is critical, and there are a number of ways you can do this:
4. Deliver a pitch-perfect cover letter
Your cover letter is not just important, it’s essential. This is your opportunity to speak directly to the person with the power to shortlist you for the role you seek.
To make the most of that opportunity, you need to capture their attention with an introductory paragraph that provides a snapshot of your key credentials for the role. Like a journalist, you need to deliver the key takeouts from your story upfront.
Follow this up with two or three short paragraphs showcasing how your skills and experience are ideally suited to the role - again taking your cue from the job ad and your conversation with the recruiter. Try to include in each paragraph a relevant achievement as this builds your track record and reinforces your credibility.
Conclude this one-page letter by expressing a personal connection to the work you do, your profession or industry - and link that to your enthusiasm for the role you’re seeking. Also recognise ambitions the employer has for their team and brand and reassert your ability to contribute positively to their culture and business goals.
5. Ensure you’re well represented
Whilst the mechanics of the recruitment process itself are largely beyond your control as a candidate, you still want the best people representing you - so don’t be afraid to qualify the recruiters you’ve been in contact with.
If you’ve followed our earlier steps, you’ll likely have spoken to them by phone before sending in your cover letter and resume - and if they’re interested in representing you, they’ll soon make contact to discuss your resume and request permission to pass it onto their client.
This is your opportunity to ask more questions about the role, the employer and the process - and to gauge from their responses how well they know their client’s organisation and the key people in it. Before you agree to progress, satisfy yourself that they’re a trusted advisor to the client and can represent you well at the right level.
6. Work with the process like a pro
Always be responsive, available and professional at every stage of the recruitment process. A candidate who responds promptly to requests for more information, prepares well for every interaction, has a positive approach to testing and makes themselves available is much more likely to succeed.
Likewise, you should expect the same standards from your recruiter. A professional recruiter will promptly acknowledge receipt of your resume, give you some idea of the recruitment process and manage your expectations in terms of when you can expect to hear back from them with an update on your status. Radio silence from your recruiter is never acceptable so if you don’t get a response within the time indicated, call and request an update. Remember, knowing where you stand on one role can help you move forward on another - so make the call, and move on.
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Suzanne O’Leary / Director - Recruitment Advisor
Connect with Suzanne here.
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