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How to Land a Job, Part 2: Getting the Interview

4 Feb

OK. So you’ve read part 1 of the series and you now have the perfect resume. Now what are you supposed to do with it? What steps can you take to maximize the chances that the right person will see it at the right time and will want to interview you?

While there is no fool-proof plan, there are a few tidbits that can help you decrease the likelihood that your brilliant resume will simply float aimlessly in cyberspace once you apply for the job.

Is the job right for you? Make sure that the job to which you’re applying is at least remotely related to what you do and that the qualifications don’t sound completely foreign to you. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to match every single word in the job description with your resume. Do you have 80% of what they’re looking for? Close enough. Are they asking for 5 years of experience and you have 4? Close enough. On the other hand, if the job description says that they want 5 years of experience and you’re a recent grad with two internships, the job isn’t for you. Contrary to what many believe it’s not just a numbers game, where the more jobs you apply for the better your chances. Believe it or not, a recruiter or HR professional will see your resume and will read it. If you get into the habit of applying for jobs you’re not remotely qualified for, those recruiters will learn your name – and not for the right reasons. Enough applications for wrong jobs, and you automatically start to go into the “no” pile, even if you finally apply for a job you’re actually right for.

Think of the application process as a test. If the instructions on the job posting say to email the resume, email it. If it says no phone calls, don’t call on the phone. I’m amazed daily by the number of people who can’t follow the very simple instructions on a job ad. If you fax when the instructions say email, you fail the test. If you call when the instructions say don’t, you fail the test. What happens if you actually get the job and the instructions get more complicated? Chances are that you won’t be able to follow those directions either. At least that’s the impression you’re giving the recruiter.

Check your contacts. Do you know anyone at the company who can put in a good word for you? Perhaps someone you worked with previously who knows your work and who you feel comfortable contacting? If so, don’t be shy – do it. Now don’t get confused on this. I’m not saying that you should start cold-emailing employees of the company or agency and asking them to forward your resume. You’re not making friends by doing this, and when you’re applying for a job friends are the most valuable resource you can have. Take a look at your LinkedIn contacts. If you’ve been networking effectively you might be surprised at who you’re connected to (but that’s another topic altogether).

Timing is important. Some job postings get 500 or more resume submissions on the first day they’re out. If you’re not one of these first 500, you may be out of luck. Remember that a recruiter’s job is to find the best candidates for the job. If we feel overloaded with resumes, our philosophy becomes one of looking for reasons to reject resumes so that we can get through the stack. Conversely, when we’re not finding qualified candidates as readily, our mission changes to one of looking for reasons to ACCEPT resumes. For this reason, if you see a job posted for a long time (over a month – which is when jobs on most job boards expire) you may want to re-apply even if you’ve sent in a resume before. If the job is still active this may mean that the recruiter is getting a bit desperate, checking resume submissions more often, and looking for excuses to bring candidates in to interview.

Well done – you’ve followed all of my instructions and, lo and behold, your phone is ringing.

When you get the call…
When you’re job hunting, don’t answer the phone if you can’t talk for at least a minute or two to set up a better time to speak. I’d rather leave you a voicemail than to have you pick up the phone and act like Super-spy because you’re sitting in your cubicle and can’t talk to me. It’s better for you to call back later than to answer the phone and not really be present.
When the recruiter wants to set up an interview time, try to be as flexible as you can, but also be honest. If you can only run out of the office for 30 minutes during lunchtime, don’t schedule an interview for lunch. You’ll be stressed about getting back to your job and won’t be able to put your full attention into the interview. Recruiters understand that if you’re working it may be tough to get out during the day. If you can only make it in before or after work, we’ll try to work with you as best we can. We want to meet you as much as you want to meet us.

A few words about phone screens…
A phone screen is a brief interview conducted over the phone, generally for the purpose of determining whether it’s worth it to bring you in for an in-person interview. Some recruiters use them religiously, some don’t. Remember that a phone screen is just like an interview only shorter. You still have to make the right first impression. The main difference with the phone is that there are no facial expressions to help you express yourself, so it’s going to be tougher to come across as you would in person. You’ll have to make up for this with your voice. Add a little bit more inflection than you normally do – not morning show DJ inflection, just a slightly enhanced version of you. Another phone screen tip that will get you far – smile. Seriously – we can hear it in your voice.

So now we’ve built your resume, applied for a job and scheduled an in-person interview. Part 3 in the series is coming soon, which focuses on getting you from here all the way to accepting your dream job. We’re almost there!

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