By Kelly Gurnett
There are plenty of articles out there on how to make yourself stand out as a job seeker. But the best way to learn anything is to go straight to the source — in this case, the recruiters and hiring managers who are fielding your calls, reviewing your resume and evaluating you in interviews.
We asked a number of these decision-makers what really makes candidates stand out, and what gets a job application sent straight to the rejection pile. And they had plenty to say on the subject. So we’ll step back and let them do most of the the talking.
Job hunters, get ready to take some notes. Here are seven must-dos when it comes to your next job application.
“It’s pretty obvious when a cover letter is canned,” says Laura Renner, founder of HiringCoach. “What gets my attention is a cover letter that I can tell was written specifically for the job.” She notices candidates who “Explain why the job is attractive to them, specifically. They’ll also explain any concerns on their resume, for instance: a gap in employment or that they’re moving to our location soon.”
Holly Bennett, HR and PR associate for Toronto Vaporizer, agrees. “Resumes submitted for a job posting without a cover letter really are just a piece of paper with qualifications, and they rarely give me insight into what an applicant is like, what they can do for our company and why they are applying to our job opening specifically,” she says.
“When I am reviewing resumes and cover letters, I am looking for applicants that are not just applying for the job stated, but are also applying to become part of our tight-knit team,” Bennett explains. “So reviewing personalized cover letters for cultural fit becomes a very key part of our HR process.”
“You’re much more likely to get to the top of the pile if someone else puts in a good word for you,” says Adrian Granzella Larssen, editor-in-chief of The Muse. “Scour your network to see if you have any first or second degree connections there, and if you do? Use them!”
Don’t forget to brief your references! This post explains how to go about it.
Beyond simply Googling a potential employer, business author and speaker Barry Maher advises getting an inside look at how the company works:
“One applicant I know went far beyond checking out the company’s website and online articles about the company, and actually called a number of employees who held the type of position she was applying for, as well as several of their managers. She was able to show her understanding of the specific issues these employees faced and the ways the company wanted to deal with those issues.”
Don’t let all that research go to waste; demonstrate your insider knowledge during the interview by asking thoughtful questions about company-specific issues and news.
Sean Milius, president and CEO of The Healthcare Initiative, recommends asking “specific questions like, ‘I see you had one of the most profitable quarters ever. What was behind that? How will it continue?’ versus standard interview questions everyone else will ask like, ‘Do you think I can do the job?’, ‘When will you have a decision?’ and ‘What is your leadership style?’”