Most hiring decisions are made within the first 15 to 30 seconds. That's right. Regardless if you're applying for an hourly or salary job inside a company, or walking in the door at the local retailer, or submitting a resume for a higher level professional position. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Since so many people are applying for jobs, imagine the hiring manager or Human Resources (HR) person who has to do the screening. In one four-week period last summer I screened 500 applicants to hire three 3 people at one company. Only five people made it into the door for the interview and three were offered jobs. By the time they made it in the door they were already in the home stretch to be hired, except they didn't know it. Unless there was something unexpected, they already had the job because they had been through an extensive screening process, which also saved the company a lot of time. At that point we were looking to confirm it and see any final warning flags to NOT hire you. And these particular people had demonstrated themselves to be so superior as high-performers to make it to face-to-face interviews, that the company would have likely hired more than originally planned.
Employers are always looking for effective methods to find the best person for the job AND the company. What I described above saved the company tremendous amounts of time and got the absolute top best people for the job. Separate from the internal hiring processes or hiring styles of the employers, there are multiple triggers that automatically eliminate you from making it to the manager’s desk for hiring consideration. Each step or trigger is intentionally designed for an incredibly simple purpose, which a shocking number of people fail, yet a majority should easily pass. Technology today makes it easier for the applicant to apply, yet also makes it easier for the applicant to fall into the technology hole, never to demonstrate that you’re better than the other applicants.
So here are some tips:
#1) DON'T BE LAZY: Many applicants don't follow the submission instructions. Sometimes the requirement to have you put the job code in the SUBJECT line is only a test to see if you follow instructions, not because the receiving computer or email is going to route the submission, although many times it’s also for that purpose. If it was for that second purpose, then your application went into the unmonitored mailbox just as fast as you hit the SEND button;
#2) RESEARCH: Most applicants don't indicate that they know anything specific about the company or the job. They hit the SUBMIT button and hope for things to happen. Take a moment to look at the company’s web site;
#3) CUSTOMIZE: Ensure that your resume AND cover memo is tailored to the job you want. Most applicants don’t include a customized introduction email or memo that indicates you want THIS job and know something about this company. Otherwise, it says you don’t care, or that you’re taking the shotgun approach hoping that something will hit. The 1st sentence of your email AND your resume MUST get their attention and show that it’s customized and related to the purpose;
#4) PUBLIC INFO: Clean up your public profile. Dump or hide the awkward Facebook photos. Google yourself to see what shows up that needs to be cleaned up. Social media is still evolving. Laws are different from state to state. Even though hiring should be focused on skills, competencies and ability to fit into the company, don’t risk it;
#5) OUTCOME STATEMENTS: Write statements on your resume, and answer interview questions from the perspective of results you've achieved, not beliefs that you have. What accomplishments did you achieve at your last job, not just what your responsibilities included. Also, it doesn't ultimately matter what you BELIEVE, or theories you have, such as believing in team work and good communication. What have you done or actively do to DEMONSTRATE that you are a team player and communicate effectively? "My last performance review said...." "Customer feedback indicated...." "I received an award for...." “My leadership style is…. and I do that by..."
#6) OWNERSHIP/INITIATIVE: Attach something more to your submission than just the resume, such as a letter of recommendation or a testimonial. The additional page can make you stand out for the recipient to remember you;
#7) FOLLOW-THROUGH: Send a follow-up note to acknowledge the submission. Send a follow-up note to say 'thank you.' Don't nag, just simply say that you're following up to ensure they got your message, or "I just wanted to let you know that I'm still interested in the job."
In the application & hiring process most skilled hiring professionals are doing BEI (Behavioral Event Interviewing) and listening for behaviors that tell them what they need to know (reference #5 above OUTCOMES). #5, 6, and 7 above will be your best asset in the interview process AND ongoing such as when doing performance reviews. When you do the interview in person, bring your resume and additional paperwork that can be left with the company, such as copies of certificates, awards, or letters of recognition. If your first interview is via phone, then ask to send the additional information, or include it as an attachment when you send the follow-up "Thank You" note (see #7 above).
ALWAYS save positive emails, accolades, testimonials, awards, certificates, performance reviews, and letters of recognition throughout your career. If someone tells you that you did a good job, then ask them to please send an email to tell your boss or write a testimonial. Sound egotistic? Excessive? Ok, then ignore this suggestion. The person who follows this suggestion is the one who will show an edge over you both in being hired and promoted.
If you think any of the above suggestions are excessive or too much work, then you’ll reinforce why others will get the job instead of you, and you’ll make it easier for people like me. If you're too quick to hit the SEND button for submission, then it’s likely the recipient is just as fast to hit DELETE. If you got this far in reading, then you are likely already following the above suggestions and picked up one or two reminders, or you are someone committed to ongoing future success and this will help you accelerate the growth you deserve.