Finding a job just got a whole lot more difficult in the last couple of months. Unemployment and underemployment has sky rocketed and there are less new jobs being created. As a person who reads over a thousand resumes a year , let me give you my top 5 tips on how to make sure your application is put to the top of the pile and doesn’t go straight to the recycling bin.
Tip 1. Should I write a cover letter and attach my resume?
YES! YES! YES! Print and read the job application properly, then follow the instructions. Many companies now have a downloadable information pack to complete or ask you to do an online application on their website. If that’s what they ask for, do that. If they ask you to apply on Seek, do that. If they ask you to email a separate email address then applying on Seek may tick a Centrelink box but it will you won’t get an interview.
The advice I give employers is that somewhere in the sea of information they tell job seekers 3 non negotiable sets of criteria for the applicant to address. This weeds out people who are unsuitable for the role and also lazy job seekers who blindly send in their resume without checking or ask Seek to auto match their profile.
You must address the selection criteria in your cover letter. What is selection criteria? This is the skills, qualifications and experiences listed in the ad, the criteria the recruiters use to select the best candidates. For example if the ad lists “good communication skills” you need to include an example of how you demonstrate good communication skills in your cover letter.
If you are a mechanic applying for an office job it is ten times harder to convince a team of recruiters to give you a fair go in comparison to others with the right background and experience, however it’s not impossible. This is were clearly outlining your transferable skills in your resume and showing how they translate into the job in your cover letter can make it easy for the recruiter to see the link and seriously consider you. What are transferable skills? They are skills that you use in one area of life that also apply to this job. For example as a mechanic applying for an contact centre roll they may include customer service skills, punctuality, attention to detail, following procedures, solving problems, thinking outside the square, dealing with difficult customers.
Visit the companies’ website and social media sites to do some research about who they are and what they are about. This will help you to align your selection criteria answers to their vision and values. If you can find out the name of the owner or the recruiter this will make your cover letter stand out.
Hobbies should be genuine and not made up ones to “show you are well rounded”. You may just find that listing your passion for Survivor connects with another Survivor super fan who is on the selection panel and that gets you the interview! Remember to add in any volunteer work you do and list your relevant life skills that maybe you haven’t done in a paid job like online sales, school canteen, restoring motorbikes. You have skills, education and experience to offer so show the employer what you can bring.
When you think your application is done, do a spell check and get a friend to check your resume and cover letter for mistakes Word doesn’t pick up. An application full of spelling and grammar mistakes will get you to the bottom of the pile quicker than you think.
Tip 2. Should I ask my job network provider/recruiter to send you my resume
No. Unless that’s what the employer has asked for.
If the job is list online, e.g. Seek or Indeed, you should take the time to write your own cover letter and resume. Ask your job network provider, partner or friend to help you if you aren’t good with computers or writing documents. Then you need to forward the cover letter and resume to the employer yourself. You can mention you are listed with a job agency but when it is sent in by you it shows you are making an effort.
It is a good idea to sign up with a recruitment agency and/or job network as employers sometimes go directly to them to find new staff instead of advertising. However, this is not an outsourcing task. You can’t just sign up with them and expect them to get you a job, not in this current climate of high unemployment. You need to keep in contact with them so they don’t forget you among their 2,564 other clients and you need to keep applying for other jobs yourself.
Bonus tip – Recruitment agencies and job network consultants are experts in helping people get jobs. They can help you with your resume, practise job interviews, maybe help you get qualifications and tickets. They can be a big help in you getting a job. Just don’t leave it all to them.
Tip 3 – Should I take off education and past experience if the job I am applying for is more basic so the hiring staff don’t decide I am over qualified?
This is such a tough question, especially in this climate. The stakes are high but overselling or underselling yourself may lead to longer term issues should you get the job or have to lie during the interview process. My advice is to be as honest as you can and in your cover letter address the “why” for your application.
Right now smart bosses know they can literally hire a pilot to do grape picking (totally over qualified) so some of them are specifically seeking a smarter than they would usually get candidates. However, if you apply for a lower level job that you are over qualified for, you need to be willing to accept the lower pay level. Pay is based on the tasks in the role, not the person doing the role, so all grape pickers get paid the same, from pilots to backpackers.
How might you word the “why” in your cover letter? Maybe something like this,
“You may have noticed that I have been a pilot with Qantas for the last ten years but Covid has clipped my wings so I am looking to fly into a new industry so I can provide for my family. I know I will have a steep learning curve coming into your company as a grape picker and with ten years of skyward ascents I know I am a fast to take off into new horizons.”
Tip 4 – Should I call the employer and ask what the pay rate is and what benefits I get?
NO. In small business a walk in request may get you a job, if they are looking, but mostly it’s a waste of your time, unless you’re planning to do some volunteer work experience first.
Your future employer is busy reading hundreds of applications and if they get a call from you before you have even applied with a list of demands it is likely they will be turned off and put your resume at the bottom of the pile.
Read the job application, again, and note down any questions you have for when you have secured an interview.
If you do wish to contact your future employer or HR, some tips are let them know how keen you are to get an interview, check if your skills are a good match for the role or who you should address your cover letter to. A contact call or email should be an exception, not the rule.
And never, ever, ever, ever, ever let your Mum or your Dad approach a company on your behalf. If you are not grown up enough to apply for a job yourself, you’re not old enough to work.
Tip 5 – What do I wear to the Interview? And other interview tips.
Wear the best version of what you would wear to that job every day. If it’s an office job then men need to at least wear a tie, if not a suit and ladies a visit to the hairdresser may just be what you need to make you look and feel your best. If it’s a hi-vis workplace then wear clean, unstained hi-vis and boots.
Iron your clothes! Many people chose not to iron these day and that’s ok just not for job interviews. If you don’t own an iron, spend $12 at Coles or Kmart and buy one. If you can’t iron borrow a friends or use a dry cleaner. After all your effort in working on a brilliant application you don’t want to lose the job due to a rumpled shirt.
Answer the unknown phone numbers! You’d be surprised how many people miss out on interviews simply because they don’t answer when I call them to arrange an interview or don’t return voicemail messages.
As part of your pre interview preparation, find the job ad again and reread it. By now it will just be one of the many applications you have out there so you may have forgotten the details. Visit the companies’ website and social media sites again. Research typical interview questions and have a practice.
The purpose of your application (resume AND cover letter with selection criteria) is to get you an interview. The purpose of the interview is to get you the job. And help you decide if you the job is a fit you. If you decide this job isn’t for you during the process it’s ok to politely bow out and let someone else have this opportunity. That’s much better than quitting or getting fired after a few weeks.
Two questions you will almost always be asked:
- Do you have any questions for us? – so write some questions to take in with you. They can simply be about the wage, Christmas closures or detailed questions about the role or company’s vision. Just be prepared. It shows initiative and organisation.
- Tell me about yourself. – Recruiters are not just looking for qualifications and skills. They are also looking to see if will you fit in with the people they already have in their team. So be ready with your personal sales pitch – not about you as a worker, but you as a person. This is where you get to say you are a Dad of 3 beautiful daughters and a wonderful wife, you love surfing, volunteering to coach your daughter’s soccer team, watching the Newcastle Knights and your Strengths / MBPI / DISC personality type is….
If you haven’t interviewed in a while, find some interview questions on Google and get a friend to ask you them so you can get some practice in.
Remember your application may sit with over 300, 500 or 1,000 others, especially in this CoVid season, so put the effort in to get it right. Applying for a job is a full time job.
Recruiters know that Centrelink requires job seekers to apply for jobs. If you send a poor application or non-application (resume only) the recruiter will assume that you are just submitting your resume to tick Centrelink’s box and aren’t seriously applying so they won’t even read your resume.
Take the hours and effort needed in to tailor your application to this job and this company that you are applying for. The recruiter’s spend a lot of time writing the ads and position descriptions to tell you about the job, you need to do your side in telling them about you and why you are the best person for the job.
As any good sales person will tell you, making a sale is a numbers game. The more people you contact the more sales you will make. Getting a job is a numbers game. You are selling you. The more applications you submit, the more likely you are to get a job. If what you are doing right now isn’t getting you interviews or you get interviews but not the job, change what you are doing, change your sales pitch. Do research, get help, make some changes and keep on trying. There is a job for you out there!
From K&K – Good luck with your job hunt!