Earlier this month I began hiring new staff to join my company, providing resume writing services to US and Canadian job seekers. My HR manager presented me with a ton of applicants and gave me the job of selecting anyone that interested me, so that she could conduct an initial screening. From the remaining candidates we would begin interviewing.
I noticed a very clear divide between the candidates that interested me, and the ones that didn’t make the cut. You may be surprised to hear that the deciding factor wasn’t the level of experience they had, nor what qualifications they held. In fact, many highly experienced and well-qualified applicants were rejected in favor of relative “newbies”. But why?
It wasn’t until the whole process was complete, that I stopped and reflected on my decision making process, and considered why these applicants made the cut. In retrospect, it all boiled down to their ability to separate themselves from the crowd, and to make themselves likeable. I was subconsciously inspired by each of these applicants to give them a chance, in spite of more obvious applicants holding higher qualifications and better experience. Today, I’m going to explain the four things these successful applicants all did, that inspired me to give them a job.
1. Research The Company And Form An Opinion
After reading a number of cover letters and resumes I came across one applicant that really engaged me. Their cover letter cited some interesting facts about my company’s success, and provided some very positive feedback, along with her vision of my company’s future. I was obviously flattered, while at the same time impressed by her understanding of my business goals. She mentioned how she wanted to be part of that future, and how her skills could help us achieve this together.
As a job seeker, the take away lesson is to utilize online resources in order to learn about the company you’re applying for. Research their business history, company culture, and find out what their short & long term goals are. Not only can you use this information to write a captivating cover letter, it can also be incorporated into your resume, helping you select the most relevant experience from your career background. Finally, it can be cited again and again throughout the recruitment process, even helping you to engage and impress hiring managers during interview.
2. Make Your Cover Letter Personal
As I briefly explained above, one particularly successful applicant’s cover letter did more than provide the usual formal drivel: I want to apply because of x; I have these 3 key skills/experience making me good for job y; please read my resume and I’d give me an interview…boring!). This applicant managed to engage me and inspire me to learn more about their background and experience, starting with a full read of their resume. With the advent of email and blogging, professional writing styles have become less formal – you should use this to your advantage. As a rule, a resume should present your career information, a cover letter should tell your story; it’s your chance to pitch yourself, your personality, and explain the reason behind your application. This should be done in a subtle way however, avoid going into too much personal detail or rambling on like a gossiping teenager.
Focus on writing in a positive, friendly, personable way, explaining why you’re applying for the job and what interests you about the position. A manager is not only looking for a new worker, but also a new colleague. Friendly, positive employees are far more enjoyable to manage than someone who comes across stiff and boring. Separate yourself from the crowd by personalizing your cover letter, showing your strengths and proving your interest in the company.
3. Quantify Your Resume And Give Scope To Your Responsibilities
Last month, after reading through a ton of resumes recruiting for a sales manger job, I soon found the same sort of skills and experience cropped up time and time again. This is why it’s important your resume separates yourself from the crowd. To boost your resume you can do two things – firstly, you should quantify your achievements. This means using numbers and data to highlight achievements, for example the value of sales you generated, or sales increases during your employment. This advice applies to any industry, not just sales. Using data to highlight your achievements helps catch the reader’s eye while significantly boosting the resume’s readability. Most importantly, it helps frame your achievements and impress the hiring manager.
Secondly, when listing a job under your professional experience section, you should always use the first bullet point to give a brief introduction of the position you held along with the scope of your responsibilities. You may have been the floor manager for a 40 table high-end French restaurant in downtown Manhattan, but unless you specify so, there’s no way a hiring manager can separate your experience from someone working for a modest 5 table café.
4. Follow Up Effectively
If you manage to land an interview, be sure to follow up afterwards in a way that leaves a good taste. Sending the hiring manager a thank you letter is quickly becoming common practice. Being the person on the receiving end, I can tell you it can really make a difference – especially if your interview didn’t go that well. I recently received a follow up letter from an applicant named Helen who was applying for a sales and customer support role; she really impressed me. Her letter dissected the specific requirements of the job we were hiring for, and provided a brief but detailed examination of how she would excel when performing each function of the job. Here’s an excerpt from her letter:
“Anticipating customer expectations and then articulating the services we provide (Example, RWD certified resume writers, quick turnaround, cover letters, etc.), is an important part of communicating. Sometimes customers don’t really know what they need – It would be my job to identify it for them and sell them the idea, with satisfaction guaranteed. This also pertains to upselling opportunities.”
Although there is nothing revolutionary about what she’s saying, her letter caused me to envisage her performing this role, perfectly captivating my interest in her as an applicant. She presented herself as someone adequately experienced, who understands the demands of the job, and who will be a perfect fit. You’ll notice her subtle use of the word “we” when describing the services provided by my company – this is part of what made her letter so effective. By effectively following up and reaching out to the hiring manager in personal way, you’ll leave a great lasting impression, seriously boosting your chances of landing the job.
I hope my experience has provided insight into the recruitment process. Just remember, behind each job opening there’s an actual hiring manager looking for his next recruit – reach out and make sure you’re speaking their language. Good luck!
About the Author: Howard Davies is a certified professional resume writer and the director of Resume Writer Direct based in Wilmington, DE, which provides resume writing services and career advice to thousands of job seekers across the US and Canada.