In the past four months, I’ve been on both sides of the job application and interview process. First, I was the job seeker, sweating my way through the interview to secure a position as a (first time) manager. Then, with no time to even settle into the corner cubicle, I began the task of hiring an employee.
Being on both sides of the interview table in such a short time gave me a new perspective on (and understanding of) the whole “recruitment” process. Since then, I’ve been overwhelmed with the urge to share this new understanding with other job seekers. So in this two-part series, I’m going to give my take on how to help yourself, and your potential recruiter, through the appl ication and interview process.*
Nailing Your Job Application
The Internet is full of great articles on constructing resumes, standing out from the other applicants, etc., so I’m not going to rehash that (I don’t think). Instead, I’m going to share some of the things I learned while reading through a stack of applications as a first-time recruiting manager.
Below, I’ve got my take on everything from reading the job announcements to what to include in your work history.
Let’s get started! First and foremost –
Read & Re-Read the Job Announcement. Then, Read it Again.
This one actually goes without saying, I’m sure. But I’m going to say it anyway. It’s probably the most important advice I can give you and is the driving force behind the rest of the advice in this post.
Let’s say you’re looking for a job as a “Widget Description Writer (WDW)” and you’ve got a list of jobs you want to apply for. Read those job announcements carefully to make sure you’ve got the main skills they’re looking for.
If the announcement lists WAN/LAN and TCP/IP experience first, with something about “writing” thrown in at the end, and you don’t know a USB port from a phone jack, don’t apply for it. You’re only wasting your time as well as that of the manager reading the application. And your time, sweat and tears are just as valuable as the manager’s! (Remember that.)
So, read the announcement carefully and make sure your skill set is compatible with the skill set they’re looking for.
Knowledge, Skills & Abilities – Use, But Don’t Abuse, This Field.
For me, in my role as “Recruiting Manager,” the “Knowledge, Skills & Abilities (KSA)” field is akin to the blurb on the back of a book. It gives me an idea of what I might find once I start reading through the job history of the applicants.
For my own part, I grabbed my stack of applications and my trusty highlighter and went through each one, highlighting everything relevant in my hunt for my new WDW. Those highlighted items were the things I hoped to find expanded on in the job history/work experience section of the application.
While marking up those applications with various shades of Neon, I noticed that some applicants listed everything they know, whether it was relevant to the job announcement or not (I’m talking throwing the neighbor’s kitchen sink into the thing), and others ignored the section all together.
The KSA field is your friend. And the recruiter’s friend. Use it, but don’t abuse it.
If you’re not applying for a position as a receptionist for a busy finance firm, there may not be a need to include the fact that you can operate a multi-line phone system while simultaneously operating one of those calculators that spits the paper out the back.
If you want to include every skill you have, just in case, at least put those most relevant to the position at the top of your list. (For the record, I fell into the “just in case” category in my own application.)
If You’ve Got it, Flaunt it!
If the KSAs are the blurb on the back of the book, then the job history section is the “can’t put it down until I finish this chapter” meat inside. And just like with a novel, the inside needs to live up to that blurb.
Back to my stack of apps. I’ve made it through the KSAs and both highlighter and fine-toothed comb are poised over the work history and experience section. What I’m looking for now is the experience to back up those KSAs.
If you’ve stated in your KSAs that you know various forms of widget description writing, you need to make sure that knowledge is backed up in the job history portion of your application. Recruiters like myself use that to prove to their managers that “Hey, this person has 10 years of experience writing about widgets!”
If you don’t write it down, recruiters don’t know that you’ve actually done it.
But what happens if you’ve spent the past 15 years getting paid to build rockets and your WDW experience is all “on the side?”
Use one of those “Previous Job Experience” slots and stick that in there! Just because you may not have gotten paid for it, doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard to do it. So don’t be afraid to say that you’ve freelanced as a WDW for the past ten years.
Show Your Stuff!
Do you have an online portfolio showcasing your Widget Description talent? Don’t hesitate to include that link in your application. Trust me, it’ll get viewed.
But don’t worry if you don’t have anything online. You can always to offer to email samples when you’re called to set up an interview. Or, at the very least, bring them with you. Work samples are invaluable!
On the flip side, don’t sweat it if you don’t have work samples. The interview will allow you plenty of opportunities to prove you’re the (wo)man for the job.
I’ve read a lot of articles about recruiters spending only 5 to 10 seconds scanning a resume before making a decision on whether to interview or not, and that’s true for some recruiters. That’s what works best for them and there’s nothing wrong with that process at all.
But there are also plenty of recruiters out there who will go through each resume or application with a fine-toothed comb. Help yourself and the recruiters by:
- Only applying for the jobs that match your skills (or at the very least, come really close)
- Tailoring your application for that job
- Including all of your relevant KSAs
- Backing up those KSAs in the work history section (even if that work history/experience was volunteer work or “on the side”)
- If applicable, providing a way for recruiters to see your hard work
Most of all, don’t give up. The selection process is really subjective and it all depends on some ambiguous, magic combination of skills and experience. That perfect combination is out there for you, too.
Come back next week for part 2 of this series where I offer insight from both sides of the interview. And as always, please feel free to share your own thoughts and insights in the comments below!
*Disclaimer: The opinions in this blog post are mine and mine alone. They are not the opinions of my current employer or my managers (past and present). I just felt like sharing some ideas on the job seeking process from my perspective on both sides of it.