Last week I wrote an article telling recruiters why they should think like a candidate. If you didn’t read that one because it didn’t seem to apply to you, just consider the premise I introduced there before moving on:
The goal to making communications become more effective is for the conversation to evolve into an Adult to Adult dialog with neither party taking a superior role. On that basis it is safe to say that the most effective form of communication is when each party understands the other’s perspective. To plagiarize from an adage attributed to an old Native American saying, you can better understand others if you walk a mile in their moccasins.
The responsibility to achieve this state of equality belongs to both parties. It is called a dialog. In other words, the job seeker must assume 50% of the responsibility for effective communication. Also recognize that the role of “information transmitter” and “information receiver” will switch back and forth several times as the parties decode the messages being sent to them. It is equally as important to listen as to speak. While this ongoing dialog progresses, the concept that a job search is just like reverse-recruiting may be totally foreign as a job seeker slips into the sneakers of the recruiter for the long run. It is unfamiliar turf. The significance of the visualization of this role reversal is to gain an in-depth understanding of the recruiting process put in place by companies which are second nature to recruiters. You must use that information to tailor your approach to a successful job search campaign.
To begin the process of thinking like a recruiter, start with this simple overview.
- Self Analysis and Presentation Preparation – A key task of a recruiter is to insure that the job specifications are clearly communicated to a candidate. So what does a candidate look for in a job description? Do you want foggy bullet points which are so generic that you remain clueless as to the job specifics? The same thing works in reverse. If you have a vanilla presentation of yourself, don’t expect the recruiter to add the flavoring. One of the most frustrating parts of the recruiter job is when something really seems to click with a candidate and there is a gut feeling that there is a possible match, but something is missing…they can’t articulate that elusive, intangible missing item. Perhaps they don’t seem to want it badly enough. If it all boils down to a matter of relativity between you and someone who shows more relevant skills that match the job, then they will get the offer and you will not. The passion to do the job may be the deciding factor on a level playing field, but companies don’t hire for passion alone. Engage the recruiter any way you can and build that relationship, but make sure that each at each point of contact you present the qualifications you bring to the table. If you don’t know what you want to do or have an understanding of how your skills apply to the job, nobody is going to look too deeply for it. If you are right for the job, prove it with your actions and words. Demonstrate your skills with measurable accomplishments and make a “yes” answer the only option.
- Research and sourcing – Searching for a target company or open position uses the same techniques used by talent sourcers and recruiters to search for candidates. There is a true reverse process for each of the tricks in the recruiter toolbox. A few examples are:
- Employee referrals – Sometimes the best candidates are already known to the company. Do you know someone employed at a company which has an opening? If not can you find someone who works there? It is OK to cold-call a recruiter, but an introduction can warm up the atmosphere and make that task easier. When a networking contact can introduce you to their manager you already have provided your first reference. When that contact is the hiring manager, you already have the best internal reference.
- Online applications – Do you know how an Applicant Tracking System works? In its simplest forms an ATS it is a database of applicants and a search mechanism to sort them out. You have access to how this works because the search process acts in reverse when it provides a mechanism for you to search for a position in their jobs database. Is it clumsy to drill down to your dream job? (Light bulb moment follows →) That is the same search engine that recruiters have at their disposal to search for the dream candidate. It is not much of a stretch to extend this logic to job boards which operate in the same manner but with some branding differences. It is worth the time invested in researching the company processes and their ATS. Learn where your resume goes when you submit it online. You have no control once you push that button to upload your resume or apply online, so use your best creativity to swim with it down the whirlpool and make it visible. That usually means going through another door to point out that you are interested and have applied.
- Internet sourcing – The power of a Google or Bing search on the internet can have startling results in finding jobs or people. Do you understand Boolean searches? There are only a few simple operators used to build a successful search string. If the search is too broad or too narrow, it is an easy task to change some of the parameters to fine tune the results. If you don’t use this technique is it because you have never done it or you are afraid to try? The only thing scary about a Boolean search is that it starts with “Boo.” If this is still too daunting then look for an “advanced search” template available with most search engines which lets you do the same thing in clearer language. Practice makes perfect, so go wild: Find companies, open positions, people, groups and networking opportunities to name a few.
- Administration and Record Keeping – Unlike recruiters and sourcers, the candidate does not have to prepare reports for anyone other than themselves. You are the manager of your job search and should be just as demanding as any boss.
- Metrics – Some of the metrics you should track are the ratio of applications to callbacks, the number of callbacks that move to the next level and the mother of all metrics: how many interviews does it take to generate an offer. If it is worth doing it is worth measuring. Metrics for metrics sake are a waste of time, but there are two key things that studying the data will do for you. First and most importantly, it forces your focus towards the positive side of the ledger. For example, since there will always be more applications than callbacks, emphasizing the fact that there actually are returned calls is proof that the process is working. Which brings us to the second reason and that is to improve the process. If the results are not positive or are trending toward the negative side, you will need to determine where you should focus your energy to change the process. Continuing to do the same think in the same way will result in the same results.
- Tracking – In addition to measurable metrics, it is important for your record keeping to accurately “remember” for you the dates you applied to each job. Dates of both incoming and outgoing telephone calls are a key method of keeping the search moving forward. If you sent a tailored resume to someone, which one went where? There is no worse first impression than to finally get that callback and you don’t remember when you applied or what you sent to them.
- Lists – In the record keeping department, I’ve saved the best for last: You absolutely must keep a written list of your contacts, no matter how minor, to make it easy to follow up and move forward. It is amazing to see the networking tree grow branch by branch, twig by twig, leaf by leaf. Some people may be able to keep this in their head, but most cannot do this. Follow-up and feedback is important. Don’t forget to go back and say “Thank You!” to someone who made a difference.
Future follow-up to “Think Like a Recruiter” will go into much more detail on each of these topics and more. Forgive the sports analogy, but it is always easier to mount an offense if you have a copy of the opposing team’s playbook. The recruiting community often uses the term “War for Talent” to describe the challenges of finding the best candidate for key openings. In a tight job market, the job seeker is faced with a “War for Jobs.” These terms probably overstate the severity of the problem. Lives are not lost in these battles, but the survivor’s lives are altered permanently by the outcome.
Stay tuned for more. Your continued feedback will help steer this topic toward your specific needs.