Job applications — Pointers from an experienced-applicant-turned-novice-recruiter
Applying for any job is not easy work, and definitely not fun — unless you get some kind of twisted kick out of shooting away applications every day. Especially during trying times like these, I wish none of you would have to go through the physical, mental, and emotional ordeal of having to look for a new job. But if you ever find yourself in such a position, I hope this blog post will help you set off in the right direction.
Disclaimer: These are things that I followed while applying for jobs myself for the better part of 2019. And these are also things I looked for when I was looking to expand my current team. I’m no hiring expert — in fact, I have a lot more experience sitting on the nerve-wracking side of the interview table. I’ve spent more time trying to impress the man or woman with the awesome job, that I’m the person they’re looking for.
But when the tables turned, literally, I was rather clueless — these were uncharted waters! When I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself down a bit, I dipped into all those applications I’d sent and interviews I’d attended. These are the things I decided I’d look for; things I would’ve done myself if I were applying for this position. Some of these pointers may be specific to certain creative roles (like writing) but I hope you’ll still have some useful takeaways.
Ensure you have the relevant experience
This may seem obvious, but I saw so many applications that were nowhere near the requirements for the role. I invited a couple of such candidates for an interview hoping to learn more about why they would apply to this role — I was genuinely curious. And the answers I got were quite surprising. One candidate even told me that they saw the word “writer” on the job title and just applied!
This could mean that the candidate is quite desperate to land a job, desperation that recruiters can take advantage of. Secondly, this could come across as disrespectful of the time and energy of the person looking to hire new talent.
This also applies if you’re overqualified for a job. I mean, there’s a reason a company is looking for a junior talent with two or three years of experience. “Why aren’t you looking for somebody with more experience?” is not a very helpful question. Applying to this position when you have 10 years of experience is not healthy either — you come across as desperate and diffident. So be sure your experience matches the requirements for the role closely, before you apply.
Include a cover letter
Resumes are great, but they can only convey so much. A cover letter is my way to connect with the person at the other end of my application. They help you explain your journey in deeper detail, the challenges you faced, the lessons you learnt, everything that made you the talent you are today. So make use of that opportunity and talk about your work in that cover letter.
Also, an application without a cover letter shows a certain level of haste and disinterest towards the position, at least to me. It gives an impression that you don’t care enough about the job, or are not too eager or convinced — both of which are red flags for any recruiter. So spend some time, write that cover letter, personalize it for the role you’re applying for, and dazzle your potential recruiters!
Do your research
Nothing’s more embarrassing and counter-productive than showing up to an interview unprepared. Always do your research about the company, their products, their global presence, top competitors, and so on before you apply, or at least before the interview.
More importantly, pay closer attention to their company culture, and the values they hold most dear. If they’re involved in any philanthropic work, take interest in that. It’s not just about landing a pay check, it’s about finding a place that you could call your home for the foreseeable future. And if you don’t feel a connection beyond the numbers, you’ll probably not last long.
Have some questions handy
It’s great to be curious. In most interviews, the recruiter or the hiring manager, whoever you’re talking to, will give you a few minutes to ask any questions you may have. Be prepared for this — it’s no help staring like a deer caught in headlights when you’re presented with the opportunity to ask some questions.
This is also a great time for you to showcase the research you’ve done on the company, their culture and presence. This will also ensure that the interview is more of an interactive dialogue and not just a formal Q&A.
Keep it chill
Attitude is everything. The interview is the first opportunity to create a good impression on the other person for both parties. So by all means, put your best foot forward and do your best to impress, based on facts and experience.
That said, it is just a conversation and not a power debate. There’s no need to throw around any unnecessary attitude. Great talent combined with profound humility is a very attractive combination that’s bound to open doors for you, than misplaced pride.
Everybody has had their own journeys to get to where they are in their lives. Be respectful of that fact, although you may not know anything about it and show the recruiter the same courtesy you’d like to receive. A smart mouth is probably the easiest way to get the door shut in your face.
This is obviously not a comprehensive list, and as I’d mentioned in the disclaimer, I’m not an experienced recruiter either. I’m sure there are so many more details to consider. These are all learning and observations from my experience being on the other side of the table. I hope these broad strokes I’ve painted here were a useful read and would help you land that perfect job you’ve been eyeing. Good luck!