Before you apply for a job you’re interested in, it is important to give yourself the best chance of getting that job by maximizing the resources at your disposal. According to job market expert Workopolis, 98% of job seekers for a specific job opening fail to get through the initial resume screening stage. With stacks of resumes to choose from, recruiters are looking for any excuse to eliminate candidates. This is why it would be a mistake to submit an online job application in response to a job opening by simply sending off your cover letter and resume. Today, you need to take a much more strategic approach to job search.
Before you even begin your job search or apply for a job online, you need to define your search criteria so that you are completely clear about what it is you’re looking for. Every employer has a specific set of core competencies that they require in a job candidate. Before you submit your online job application, you need to analyze how well the job you are applying for matches your background, skills and experience so that you can tailor your skills to match what the company is looking for. If the job is a strong match for your strengths, you’ll be able to highlight the skills of most interest to the prospective employer based on your knowledge of their needs.
It is critically important to find out what the prospective employer wants in their ideal candidate and then demonstrate how you meet those qualifications. In other words, you need to align your skills and attributes with the needs of the employer, and sell what they are buying to them. You need to understand exactly what they are looking for so that you can tailor your background, skills and abilities to that role.
To assess whether a job is strong match for your skills and background, review the job description, person specification and your resume, and ask yourself the following questions:
Most job postings typically assign different weights on the competencies they are looking for in a job applicant based on how necessary those skills are to getting the job done. For example, you might see the following phrases in a typical job posting:
Once you have a good understanding of the job’s main requirements, the next step is to assess how well your background and experience are suited to the role, and how any lessons learned from prior experiences could factor into this role. Take a thorough inventory of your interests, skills, accomplishments, values, goals and experience. Make a detailed list. The key to getting the job you’ve applied for is to recognize what makes you a unique candidate for the role and to communicate this effectively to a prospective employer.
Answering the questions listed below will help you determine how well you measure up to the role you’re applying for. Be sure to write your answers down before applying.
What interests you the most about this role?
Whenever you apply for a job, you must have demonstrable examples to back up any qualities that you claim to possess. For example, if you claim to have “strong problem-solving skills”, you need to cite examples of instances in previous jobs where you solved a specific problem and the difference it made to the company. If you cannot think of real-life stories or practical examples to support your assertion, there’s no point making the claim because anybody can make the same claim, and it will not help you.
Outreach to a strong professional network is the best way to find new job opportunities. Rather than submitting a cold job application, try to network your way into the company. Unless you’re going through a recruitment consultant, the best way to ensure your application is seen by a hiring manager is by networking your way into the company. Networking is one of the most important job search activities. In fact, it’s been estimated that over 60% of all jobs have been found through networking.
If you don’t know anyone in the organization you’re interested in, you’ll need to leverage your LinkedIn network to establish a connection with a company employee prior to submitting your job application. Note that this strategy will require you to reach out to a complete stranger via a LinkedIn message or email, followed by a phone call from you.
Start with the organization’s LinkedIn Company Page. All of the company’s current employees will automatically show up on that Company Page’s landing page. See if you can identify any of the employees. Any 1st degree connections will show up first, which means you are directly connected to that person and can reach out to him or her directly for advice on applying for the position.
If the prospect is in your 2nd degree network, it means you are connected to that person through a 1st degree connection, and will have to send an introduction request to that connection to get connected to the company employee.
When you find a connection, it is important to handle this strategically. You’re not going to ask them for a job. Rather, you’re going to have a short, general discussion about what working at the company is like. If you approach these contacts in the right way, they are much more likely to agree to help you by offering useful information. If you get on really well, you can even persuade them to let you use their name in your cover letter. Keep in mind that if your application is successful and you turn out to be a great hire, your referral is likely in line for a bonus of several thousands of dollars, so there is every incentive for him to want to help you.
Follow these steps to request an introduction from a first-degree contact:
When asking for an introduction, avoid using generic introduction requests such as:
Can you introduce me to john smith?
This type of generic message is likely to be ignored. Rather, take the time to include a more detailed, personal message, providing some context so that the person you forward the introduction request to will have some way of describing you in a way they would be comfortable with. Provide specific details of why you would like to be introduced to the other person.
May I ask you for a big favor?
I noticed you’re connected with Patrick Koshoni, a graphic designer with Virgin Media. As you may know, I specialize in digital marketing and Virgin Media are currently looking for an experienced digital marketer. I would like to speak to Patrick to learn more about working with Virgin Media.
Would you be willing to introduce us?
I realize this is a huge favor. If you don’t feel comfortable introducing us, I understand. Regardless, I hope we stay in touch. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.
If you’re trying to reach out to 2nd degree connections you’ve never actually met, their first impression of you will be based on the message you send to them as well as your LinkedIn profile. This is why your profile needs to be stellar, and present you as a likeable, top-notch candidate that people would want to help, and is likely to get hired.