It’s difficult to right a blog post about finding jobs if you have never tried yourself. Lucky or not, I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life and therefore I never really experienced what finding a job means.
Now that we are building Anthropos and working on our first launch to help people looking for a job….I need to step into that shoes and really understand what people go through while looking for a job.
What I can offer though is probably quite useful: I’ve seen thousands of people applying for the companies I started and I interviewed hundreds of people in 15+ years. Today I will share what are the critical aspects of applying for a job, how to get noticed and increase your chances of getting the job.
What happens on the company side when you apply for a job?
It all starts with an application online. Sometimes easy, sometimes less easy, you need to fill out that application first and foremost. I love including a few open questions in each application (e.g. Why is Anthropos so interesting for you?): it tells me how you write (which is critical in many roles), it shows good will (based on the effort you put int), and usually I learn something about you that can be quite unique and that prepares me for the interview.
Now, as CEO, I am usually the last one in the process to take a look at your application and I will likely review your answers and all the comments my team has inserted in our ATS before we talk. If I was a VP or a Manager, being the last one in the process, it would be the same.
Before you get to this step you will need to pass the first review by the HR team. Depending on the size of the organization, you should assume that HR will review your application with the hiring manager, usually the person in charge of that hire for his department (e.g. Marketing Manager hiring a Digital Marketing specialist). When you review thousands of CVs and applications every day things can get pretty complex and boring. HR will check your experience, your LinkedIn profile and they will quickly screen your profile through automation in some cases (just looking for a match of skills in your resume for example).
When a job position gets thousands of applications (as it happens in times like this one where layoffs are abundant) it becomes difficult to be noticed, especially if you don’t have anything that really stands out on your profile/experience.
There are quite a few things – some more original than others – that you can do to increase your chances of being picked! Let’s look at those!
What you can do to improve the chances of being selected for an interview
First of all, don’t be discouraged. Finding a new job takes time (and hundreds of applications and calls) and while there is a lot of competition and obstacles to find one, there are also tens of things that less than 1% does when they apply for a job.
How do I know?
I was sitting on the other side of this process up until a few months ago and I’ve selected and interviewed thousands of people, sometimes alone, sometimes with the help of my recruiting team. Let me list of some of the things you can do as you apply for a job. Some of them might sound trivial but they are so easy to do that you should absolutely consider them.
Like many things in life this is about showing and doing 2x the effort of someone else wanting the same thing. It works almost always!
1. Connect with the recruiter/CEO/Manager on LinkedIn
Yes, it’s easy and still not many do this. Go look for the recruiter or manager that is hiring for that position, add her on LinkedIn and send something simple: “Hey Anna, my name is Steven Parker and I just applied for your POSITION – I am excited to meet you guys!“. As that person looks at the list of people that applied, she will positively remember you. Easy. You are now standing out in a crowded list.
2. Be proactive and tell your future employer what you would do and how
This requires more effort than point #1, but it also adds a ton of value and 99% of times it will get you an interview with the company. I am assuming you have done a ton of research on the company and the people that are hiring this position (more on the next point about this). If you did you should connect that to what they are looking for and write done a 1-pager of what you would like to try in that position, ideally solving a problem you think they might have.
Let me give you an example. If the company is looking for a Marketing Manager, I will likely review their current marketing approach, campaigns, SEO etc. I will also try to understand their revenues and their current goals (Google, LinkedIn, etc. you can find a lot of info simply starting from what these people are saying online) and then I will start writing how I would do that for their company. I will make tons of assumptions (and make it clear they are just assumptions) and write something that feels direct, useful and like something they might ask you one month into the job.
This is incredibly powerful. Trust me. I have received less than 10 docs like this in more than 10 years of interviewing people, completely unsolicited. Every single time I replied and interviewed that person. Why? Because it shows you care, you are driven and you want that job. It’s enough to emerge and appear as a great potential candidate.
It’s ok if you this document to the CEO. If she doesn’t reply, she might forward that to her VPs or to the recruiting manager. And you won anyway.
3. Learn as much as you can about the company you apply for and its people
Easy, right? And still you can’t imagine how many people apply randomly for companies and don’t even prepare before their first interview. This is another easy trick: go and learn as much as you can about your future employer. Start with their story, their founders (who are they, why they started this, when, where), their business and products (try them if you can, it makes a difference). When you can explain to your mom what they do, how they got there and why, then it’s time for you to understand a bit more about their culture and their people.
You can look at LinkedIn, look at what they like/dislike, their comments and of course, their posts. If I want to get a sense of what someone likes to do and think, I will start reading whatever he writes. If some of the people at the company have a blog, read that.
This exercise gives you two advantages:
- You can go back to point #2 and write things with a strong context that they will understand, making it much more interesting for them.
- If you get a call with the company, you can use your understanding of the space to say and ask for very specific things about their business. It will not go unnoticed, especially if you ask questions that are smart and that are specific to their business.
Let me add a final point to this. I never understood people that go and work for companies without a proper understanding of what those companies do and how it feels like to work there. With this exercise, in some cases, you might find out that you actually don’t want to work for them! Better sooner than later!
4. Ask your network for an introduction – it’s ok
This is something that very few people do, but it’s smart and actually absolutely fine to do. If you have tried everything we talked about until now, there is another easy thing to do: look who in your network knows people at the company and ask them if they would help with an intro.
Send a message to your contact that says “Hey John, I am very interested in a position at COMPANY and I saw you are connected to Stuart who works there. Any chance you could intro us? I think I could really help them and I am doing my best to reach out“.
John has nothing to lose and you are telling him why this is important (you think you can really help them, you are not just looking for a job). If he connects you with Stuart, the playbook will be similar: you can ask Stuart if he has any suggestion to get an interview and if he wants/can help you with that.
Many people feel bad about something like this because they look at this as a recommendation. The reality is that it isn’t: you will still go through a strong interview process and be selected if you are really good. I’ve always took people that came to us with this type of approach because it showed they were willing to do something more to talk to us and also because, in any case, we put them through a process.
5. Tell your network what you are looking for and ask for help
This is not always possible if you are looking for a new job and your current employer shouldn’t know that. But there are ways to leverage your network even in that case. Let’s see how.
First of all, if you use LinkedIn and you can publicly look for a job, just write a message explaining what you are looking for and what are your skills. Even better: add links and content that you produced or that show what you have done before. End your message with an open question: “Do you know someone that might be interested? Can you tag her here if so?” – most people want to help you and will tag friends and companies that might be looking for your profile.
If you cannot publicly look for a job, do something slightly similar. Create a private whatsapp/telegram group with a few friends and contacts you know in the industry and explain what you are doing and what you need. For example: “Hey guys! hope you are well. I am thinking about my next career step and I wanted to see if you might know someone interested in….“. This works well, you now have a network of people (small or big, it depends) that is working for you and that might bring you in front of a great opportunity.
6. Talk to people working in the space (not at that company)
This is useful in any case, but if you tried everything else and you are still by the phone waiting, maybe give this a try.
Reach out to random people working on the same space of the company you want to work for. When you do, these things happen: 1) you learn a ton more about that space and what companies are really the important ones 2) You will pick up the specific language they use in that industry, there might be things that look strange to you or that you don’t recognize, this is a great moment to ask that person. 3) People talk and meet other people, it’s easy for them to mention you or think of you if they hear that someone is opening a position.
Last but not least, tell these people you are reaching out to what’s your goal. It’s always the same simple rule: people will help you if you ask for that!
That’s it. Now try to think about doing all these things for 10-20 positions and I can guarantee you will get an interview with them. I can’t tell you that you will get the job, but I can guarantee you that someone will want to talk to you and listen to your story!