Make Your Application Stand Out
I know what you’re thinking. Unemployment is at an all-time low, there are tonnes of positions on offer at the moment and competition is thin on the ground, is taking the extra steps really necessary when the “crowd” isn't really much of a crowd? The short answer? Yes. The long answer? Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssss.
Generally speaking, there will always be more applicants than positions available, so you will always be competing against someone. More and more clients are coming to us now saying, “skills can be taught, attitude is most important”, so being the most experienced is no longer what is going to get your foot in the door, it is all about how you present yourself and that starts with your application.
Here is my fool-proof guide to acing the application process:
Read the advert in its entirety
Before we go any further, you need to make sure the job you are applying for is actually the role that you are looking for. At a base level, before applying for a role you should be able to answer the following questions:
Is it in a location I am willing to work in?
Does it suit the number of hours I need/want to work a week?
Is it the type of work I am seeking (permanent, contract, or casual)?
Are my salary expectations in line with what the advert has listed?*
Once you have that crossed off, the next step is to look at the following:
Can I do the job and do I want to do the job?
Do I want to work in this industry or for this business?
Do I meet the requirements for this role?**
Is the culture described in the advert what I am seeking?
All of these questions are ones only you can answer and you must save your and your recruiter’s time by knowing the answers ahead of applying. If there is something you can’t find the answer to, pick up the phone and contact the Hiring Manager or Recruiter.
*Hint – if a job is advertised on SEEK, it has to be placed in a certain salary band. Filter the salary search parameters with the job title and business listed under keyword search, and after a few targeted searches, you should be able to figure out what salary bracket the role has been advertised under.
**Here is something I wish I knew sooner, having experience whilst favourable is not necessarily the most important thing we look for in an application. If you think your experience might be a bit of a stretch to what the advertisement is asking, pick up the phone, and speak to the recruiter.
Do your research on the business
If you are applying direct to a business rather than going through a recruiter, have a read through their website, their social media and Glassdoor. SEEK also have a company review platform that is worth checking out too. No one is expecting you to be an expert and spend hours doing your research, but even a 5 minute browse online will place you in a better position for the next step…
Prepare a specific cover letter
If someone says they don’t bother reading cover letters, as far as I’m concerned, they’re not doing their candidates, their clients (or employer) or the role justice. A cover letter is your chance to show off your personality and the soft skills that your resume can’t. In some cases, a cover letter can also make or break your application.
We have a great blog post on cover letters that's worth a read. In short, by specific, I mean, addressing it to the correct business, the correct person, if it’s not written on the advert, address it to the Hiring Manager (not Sirs, EVER, it's 2022 c'mon now). Ensure you use the correct job title, and pinpoint how your experience and skills match up with what they are looking for (It's. In. The. Ad.). Oh, and if you add a sentence or two on why you specifically want to work for the business, it can't hurt.
Have an up-to-date resume on hand to go with your cover letter
We are not mindreaders.
Follow the instructions listed in the advertisement. If it lists an email address for you to send your application through to, do that. If you’re on SEEK and it says to apply through SEEK, do that. SEEK also now offers personalised screening questions for each advert. If there is a specific question like, “why are you interested in this position?” actually answer the question, don’t leave it blank.
Congrats! You’ve made it to the interview, now what? Firstly, this is where your research skills come into play. Now is when you invest the time to look at the company website, annual report, reviews and social media. You want to be across as much as you can so you can whip out a fun fact in the middle of the interview. Also, (and more importantly) it will provide you with more context when you are being told about the company.
On the day, dress to impress. Sneakers, ripped jeans, and cropped tops are not acceptable in any job interview. Hats, sunglasses and thongs are also a no-go. By now you should have an idea of what the company dress requirements are (that research came in handy didn’t it?), so try to emulate this style on the day.
Have a copy of your resume, any relevant qualifications, or working visas ready to go in a folder and neatly printed. Pulling a scrunched-up piece of paper from your back pocket is not a good look. Also, if you are desperate for a coffee hit, before your interview, finish it BEFORE you walk in and put the cup in the bin. Smoothies, snacks and lunch are also not OK.
I hate being late, so these are the rules I would follow for a job interview (call me extreme if you want). Arrive 15 minutes ahead of the interview so you can walk in the door 5 minutes before the interview. Don’t walk in too early. On the other hand, if something happens and you are running late, call ahead as soon as you can. Do not call at the time that your interview is meant to start, saying you’ll be 10 minutes late or worse... wait for the interviewer to call you asking where you are.
For the actual interview itself, well, that’s another story. Remember to just be yourself, have some questions prepared ahead of time and remember that you are interviewing them ABOUT the role as much as they are interviewing you FOR the role.
Send a follow-up email after your interview to the person you met with, ideally as soon as you get home. Thank them for their time and reiterate that you are interested in working for them (or not, if that's the case). You’ll then be at front-of-mind and also show off your great follow-up skills.
If the interviewer says feedback will be provided by, for example, the end of the week, don’t follow up asking for feedback ahead of time. It is, however, appropriate for you to reach out before this time if your circumstances have changed since you last spoke, such as receiving another offer. Bit of a minefield, isn’t it? If you’re not sure, just use your common sense.
If at this point you are unsuccessful in the recruitment process, firstly, be polite. There is no need for rudeness or nasty name-calling. Ask for feedback and if you are still interested in working for the business, let them know you would still be interested in any other opportunities that they may have.
If you list your references on your resume then be prepared that they may well be contacted at any time. Itch will always let you know ahead of time if we are calling them, but someone else may not do you the same courtesy. If you would prefer to wait, “references can be supplied upon request”, is also completely fine.
When choosing references, try to have two to three people ready to go so they can be prepared when the call comes in. Ask them ahead of time if you can list them, and make sure you know that they are going to say great things about you (You’d be surprised how many people pop down referees that don’t vouch for them).
Be Relevant. Aim for two people you have directly reported to, ideally one from your current employer if possible. Friends or someone you worked with for 4 months, 20 years ago are not appropriate.
Whether it is your first time applying for a job, or your thirty-first time, no one is expecting you to be an expert. Applying for jobs is exhausting, but you’ll find that once you find your groove, all of this will become second nature to you. Mistakes are inevitable but learn from them, dust yourself off and hop back on the horse.