Responding to a Job Listing

I’ve posted a lot of ads for job openings over the years. I used to describe the skills we were looking for along with a basic description of the role. I found that this type of job posting is boring and doesn’t attract the best candidates.

What Employers Want

After seeing a seminar by Barry Deutsch, author of You’re Not the Person I Hired, I changed our strategy to describe the first year “success factors” of the job. We would list all of the accomplishments the candidate would accomplish.  This attracted many more resumes because it gave the listings more life and excitement.  It showed each candidate exactly what they would do to be successful at the job.

The increased number of resumes made it more time consuming to sort through the candidates who were suitable for interviews. In the ads, we always ask for resumes and sample work.  Yet so few of the submissions we get contain samples let alone the types that we want to see.

So, we decided to make that request more clear in the job description. We created a section in bold that stood out:  How to Get This Job.  In that section, we put only two bullet points so it was crystal clear what we wanted to see: 1) your resume, 2) writing or design samples, depending on the type of job.

What Employers Get

We just posted an ad yesterday for an editorial position. Here’s what we received:

  • Job Title:  Part-time Editor (description included a clear request to send resume and writing samples of technical articles)
  • Number of responses received within 24 hours:  16
  • Number of responses containing a resume: 14
  • Number of responses containing a resume with any professional writing experience: 10
  • Number of responses containing writing samples: 5
  • Number of responses containing writing samples of technical articles (i.e., what we requested): 2

With the economy in such bad shape and millions of Americans looking for jobs, I was not surprised to see several resumes that did not have relevant experience. That was okay. What confused me was that most did not submit a writing sample for an editorial/writing position – even when the job posting made a big deal out of it. In several cases, there was no cover letter, just an email with attachments containing only a resume.

What You Can Do to Get Hired

Boost your chances by making tweaks to your resume to match the job description more closely. Sending your cookie-cutter template rarely works. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes: they are getting many resumes to sift through. If yours doesn’t match what they need, they’ll toss it quickly.

If you are given a questionnaire to rate yourself on various skills, be careful about rating yourself the best at everything.  Our questionnaire says “5 = you’re an expert in the field and could write a book on the topic”.  We ask candidates to score themselves on a variety of areas. Those who rate themselves 5 on everything are discarded pretty quickly.  Such ratings wreak of arrogance – nobody is an expert at everything.

And if you are asked to provide samples of your prior work, I can say without hesitation that the simple act of sending exactly what they requested will put your resume to the top of the pile – fast!

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