Originally published in Inc. December 19, 2022
Researching companies and personalizing your application seem basic, but many don’t do it.
I recently pitched in to help my HR director and head of sales in the recruitment process and was astounded at what I witnessed. With applicants I saw best practices and ample examples of what not to do during the hiring process.
Here are the top five ways, from an employer’s perspective, for job candidates to shine:
1. Provide a well-crafted resume
Even though you can apply for some jobs online just using a form, the majority of employers require a resume. I can’t tell you how often we get poorly worded resumes that include multiple typos or lack clarity. Worse, they seem completely irrelevant to the position the candidate is hoping to fill. And in that case, you’ll immediately be disqualified.
Your resume is often the first impression you give a potential employer, so put some time into crafting one that positions you as the ideal candidate for the role you’re seeking. Even if that means customizing your standard resume for the application. And if resume writing isn’t your strong suit, invest in a professional to help you put your best foot forward.
2. Write a customized cover letter
Despite what you may have heard, the cover letter isn’t dead. On the contrary, it’s one of the potentially most powerful yet barely-used tools a job seeker has. When you take the time to write a customized cover letter addressing the hiring manager by name, explain why you’re a good fit for the role, and demonstrate your eagerness to join, you’ve already done more than 95 percent of your fellow candidates. And that extra effort helps you stand out in a positive way.
3. Research the company before you apply
If you’re pushing so many buttons to mass apply that you don’t even remember which companies you’ve reached out to, you’re doing yourself and your potential employer a disservice.
Instead, do a little background research on companies where you’d like to apply, and use the information you find to better inform you of their industry, work, and culture. The more research you can do, the better. This helps you determine if they’re a good fit for you. If they are, it provides fodder you can use to highlight in your resume, cover letter, and future interviews. And if not, it saves you the time of applying to a company where you know you’ll be a bad fit.
4. Ask questions
I think a lot of candidates forget a simple truth: Hiring is a two-way selection process. An employer is seeking the best candidate to fill a role, and candidates are looking for a position in the best company they can find and with a good fit. One way to know better either way is to ask questions.
Our company likes to conduct a brief screening call with candidates where we ask questions and encourage them to do the same, all in the name of finding a good match. We also feel honesty is the best policy for everyone. If we want to move forward with a candidate following this screener call, we’ll ask them if they’d mind taking an assessment. Just about everyone says yes, but we’d be fine if someone asked a question for further clarification, needed more information before agreeing, or even said they didn’t want to. Remember, asking and answering questions helps you and your potential employer better understand each other.
5. Communicate at every step of the process
There’s a lot of talk on social media about employers ghosting candidates, but believe it or not, we get ghosted, too–even at the offer stage!
We get it. Things happen, and plans change. But there’s never a time where ghosting an employer is okay. If you’ve scheduled an interview but can’t attend, let us know. If you’re midway through the hiring process and decide we’re not a good fit for you, please reach out to and communicate that to us. And if we extend you an offer, but you’ve accepted another, it’s common courtesy to inform us of your decision.
From a potential employer’s perspective, how you choose to conduct yourself speaks volumes about your character. And for the repeat offenders out there, don’t forget that ATS recruitment software tracks your behavior. So if you’ve ghosted a company a few times, the company will know and likely won’t consider you the next time you apply.
At the end of the day, employers and candidates want the same thing: to find the right fit for an open role. And by following these five best practices, candidates can give themselves a leg up in the process.