I wanted to share with you cold hard truths that HR usually doesn’t tell you about the hiring process. My hope is that you’ll use this information to separate yourself from the competition.
Truth #1: Your Resume May Never Get Seen By A Person
Today, applicant databases are used to enter resumes. These systems aren’t perfect. If you format your resume in a nonstandard way, you submit a PDF instead of a word document, or use the wrong key words, your resume may never pop up in the search results.
Fix? Be sure to match your resume to the specific key words in the job description. Format in a standard way (e,g. dates of employment listed after the company name) and be sure to submit in .doc format (not PDF)—this way the recruiter can make last-minute adjustments and it’s more likely to be compatible with resume databases.
Truth #2: Many HR recruiters May Not Read Your Cover Letter
For each job, employers receive over 250 applications on average. That’s a lot of resumes and cover letters. Recruiters will admit they don’t always read the cover letter.
Fix? Just because everyone won’t read it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carefully craft a cover letter. If the recruiter or HR rep does take the time to read it, make it worthwhile. Make your letter stand out from completion. Don’t let it sound like every other banana in the bunch! Keep in mind that although the cover letter may be input into the resume database, most likely it will also be read by a person. So, in addition to strategic use of key words, be sure to use powerful stories to highlight your most compelling skills, experiences, or attributes that you believe are critical to the success of the job. Stories for human eyes and hearts, and key words for searchability.
Truth #3: Your Online Presence Can Be a Deal Breaker
The first impression may be your resume (and possibly your cover letter), but your reputation often decides if you’ll get invited to the first interview.
Fix? Be sure your online presence is professional. Be sure to remove any drinking pics, remove strong political opinions, never post disparishing remarks about your previous employer, unlike any off-color joke you may have liked previously, etc … If you don’t clean up your online presence not only won’t get an invitation to interview, but it’s very likely you will know the real reason your aren’t getting as many interviews as you’d like. Yes, HR managers are often cautioned against online research, which may lead them to unlawful discrimination, however, that doesn’t mean that curious hiring managers don’t use technology to prescreen candidates before inviting them for a first interview. In fact, two in five managers use an online search to find reason to not hire a candidate.
Truth #4: You May Be Considered Unemployable
If you’ve been out of work for more than six months or more, there’s a chance that your unemployment will be looked upon negatively (yes, even though it normally takes at least this long to land a job). HR and hiring managers may make the false assumption that you’ve been passed over by other companies, so you won’t be a good candidate for them.
Fix? Do something else while you are searching—volunteer, take a class, listen to podcasts, create a blog, practice and develop your craft, etc. Be sure to that your self-confidence doesn’t take a hit by taking extra care for yourself mentally and physically during this time. Stop applying for jobs via job boards, or at least reduce the amount of time you spend on the job boards, and start connecting with relevant people in your field. The more time you spend meeting people in your field (notice I didn’t say networking) and practicing your professional skills, the more likely you are to discover a job in the hidden (unadvertised jobs) job market. When you finally do get a chance at an interview, be sure you’ve got a solid answer for what you’ve been doing with your time.
Truth #5: Don’t Bother If You Are Desperate
If you are too desperate for “a job” and aren’t really aiming to add value to an organization, a recruiter can sense that a mile away. Nobody wants to work with someone who is simply desperate for a job.
Fix? Don’t look for “a job”—you should be looking look at for a company culture and a position that is matches your skill sets. That is, you should be able to explain to a company how your specific skills would help to solve a problem or create revenue for their organization. Know your value and worth to a company—write it down—and recognize that you get hired for your value and not because you need a job. Operate from a confident and fearless mindset. Again, it’s important to take action to take care of yourself through the process so that you can remain confident and compelling for as long as it takes to land your dream job.
Truth #6: No Update? Sorry, You’re the Second Choice!
During the interviewing process, if you haven’t been given a status update for more than a week or two, it means it’s very likely that you are a second place choice. They are probably interviewing or negotiating with the first choice candidate, but don’t want to lose you—in case the first choice doesn’t work out.
Fix? Typically, the best thing to do in this case is to move on. Don’t pester HR or your recruiter with requests for an update. However, If you have another solid offer that is your second choice (and the currently unresponsive organization is your first place choice), then it may be a good idea to contact them to let them know you received another offer, but that you consider them your first place option. Let them know the date you need to make your final decision. Bottom line? Don’t delay other interviews or offers because you are still waiting to hear back.
The phone rings—you see that’s it’s from your ideal company. You’ve been waiting for this call. In fact, you’ve already decided if they make you an offer, you are going to accept it. But here’s the thing: it’s important to never immediately accept a job offer. It makes it look like you are desperate and as if don’t understand the art of negotiation.
Fix? When you receive an offer it is important to express your appreciation, excitement, and interest in the job offer. However, don’t immediately accept. Instead, ask if you can think about it overnight. Most organizations can wait at least a day. Also you’ll want to ask if there is any room for negotiation. If they say yes, then ask how they typically prefer to handle the negotiation process (by phone, in-person, with HR, with the hiring manager, etc.) You’ll want to be armed with the right information and also give yourself time to think so that you can properly prepare for the negotiation.
Follow the fixes to land your dream job!