Maybe it’s my recent re-introduction into singledom, or maybe it’s because today is Valentine’s Day, but I can’t help but notice the similarities between dating and looking for a job. I’ve introduced my best friends to their now spouses and I spend my work-day matching the right people with the right positions. Recruiters are born match makers, and for this reason, I find myself in the perfect role. While I am not claiming to be a relationship expert by any means, I do have some advice on how to find “the one” when it comes to your next job.
You had me at hello
First impressions are key, and they begin a lot sooner in the application process than you may think. While many application processes are becoming more and more automated, it is best to assume that there is always a real live person on the other end of each Applicant Tracking System. For this reason, it is important that you are showcasing the best version of yourself and this usually begins with your résumé.
Submitting a job application is like going on a blind date and a strong résumé serves as the perfect ice breaker. A solid résumé will bypass the painful small talk about traffic on Fridays and go straight to where you discover you both studied abroad in Japan and have Metallica tattoos. There’s a huge advantage to résumé writing that doesn’t exist when prepping for a first date, and this saving grace takes the form of a job description. Job descriptions take the guess-work out of whether a position is a good match, and if it appears to you that the stars have aligned, its imperative your résumé reflects it. If I had a dollar for how often I receive résumés that don’t have even one basic qualification, let’s just say I wouldn’t need to be a Technical Recruiter anymore and I’d have six vacation houses across Europe. This isn’t to say that these people are pie-in-the-sky wishful thinkers, many may actually be qualified, it’s just that their résumé did not exhibit compatibility.
To increase your chances when shooting your shot, make sure your résumé aligns to the position to which you are applying. Be sure to include the key phrases and specific skill sets that are called out in the job description. To quote one of my latest relationships, “I am not a damn mind reader”, don’t let your résumé appear as though you are hard to get. Take into consideration that the average recruiter only spends about 6 seconds per resume. Honestly, it takes me less time to decide if a candidate is a good match for one of my jobs than it does for me to decide whether to “swipe left” on Tinder.
Luckily, Microsoft has made this step a little easier with its new LinkedIn integration into Microsoft Word called, Resume Assistant. As you work on your resume in Word, you’ll see position descriptions based on previous roles, industries, and skill sets mentioned in your resume and you can go directly to those jobs in real time without having to search online. This tool is amazing, we are living in the future.
There are plenty of fish in the sea
You have made it through to the next round and have been invited in for an interview, yay! But, so did ten other fish, what are you going to do separate yourself from the competition? There are few things in the world that annoy me more than interviewing an unprepared candidate, although these interviews do serve as weekly, “Kristin, you really need to work on your poker face”, practice. Put in some effort and appear interested.
Do your research and come with questions. Living in the future also means that everything there is to know about a company is on the internet. Your internet is on your phone and you don’t even need to use your hands if you don’t want to. It’s as easy as saying, “Hey Siri, what industry does Sealing Technologies, Inc. predominately work with?” Your phone will then say, “Great question, friend! Sealing Technologies is a Veteran Owned Small Business that provides cybersecurity services and predominately works with the Department of Defense”. You’ll then say, “Thanks phone!” and use this information to further prepare for your interview and come equipped with questions.
No one likes being on a date where the other party is just talking about themselves the whole time. Have four or five questions ready to go and try to think of more throughout the interview. I know I am pretty great at my job, but I refuse to believe that the five minutes I spent talking about the company’s culture warrants a “No, I don’t have any questions, you covered everything”. I certainly I did not. Use the interview to make sure that the company/job is as good a fit for you as you are for it.
Be ready to talk about your weaknesses and how you would go about solving difficult problems. I know it’s not fun to talk about your failures when you are trying to portray your best self. But, trust me when I say, the example of the time you spent 5 months planning an enormous event to which no one attended thus wasting an enormous amount of time and money is way better than hearing, “I don’t know, I can’t think of a time I failed at anything”. Interviewers don’t ask this question to be masochists, they want to know about how you solved a difficult situation, learned from a mistake, and how you plan on not making the same mistake in the future.
Have some energy! You’re in an interview, not a medieval torture device. Make the interviewers feel as though this position is important to you in both your attitude and in your appearance. When it comes to interviews, love is not blind. If I had a dollar for every time someone came in for an interview in blue jeans or a pencil skirt bought from the clearance section of Rue 21, let’s just say I’d be able to put an indoor pool in all my European vacation homes.
Another great way to separate yourself from the rest is by sending a thank-you letter. A lot of time and effort goes into the behind-the-scenes of setting up and conducting interviews. It’s important to be respectful of everyone’s time and thank them for it. This is also an opportunity to reinforce why you are the best fit for the role and how excited you are about the opportunity to be a part of the team. Whether it is a quick email or a hand-written letter, thank-you notes are a classy way to keep your name in the forefront of the Recruiter’s and/or Hiring Manager’s mind.
Don’t hate the player, hate the game
Looking for jobs is incredibly time-consuming and can be frustrating. It makes sense that at various points in the process your patience can run short. However, it is important to make sure you keep a level head and not try to interfere with a process over which you have no control. For instance, don’t ask about salary too early on in the process, at least buy me dinner first (not really, but you know what I mean).
A pet-peeve of mine is getting asked the “salary question” before an interview has even been set up. No, this is not going to “save us both time”, this is going to make you look like money is your sole motivator and that you have no real interest in the company. You’ll get that question answered, just play the game a little bit. Make us love you first, then we’ll discuss what it will take to make this thing Facebook official.
Remember that there are many moving parts behind the scenes of every open job opportunity all of which contribute to how long the overall process may take. Maybe the company is considering you for more than one position. Maybe the Hiring Manager who makes the final decision has been out with the flu for a week. While a good recruiter would be keeping you up-to-date on your application status, it does not do any good to bombard the recruiter with questions about your status. In this case, let them come to you.
I’m just a girl, standing in front of a guy, asking him to hire her
Obviously, looking for a potential mate and looking for a job don’t go hand-in-hand . You wouldn’t put your résumé on your Match.com profile the same way you wouldn’t ask someone on a date via LinkedIn (please, don’t do those things). However, I do think that there is some overlap in the skills we use and the lessons we could potentially learn. Good luck out there, “the one” is out there waiting for all of us and its up to us to find it.