Analysis of user behaviour on Workopolis shows that most candidates view an online job posting for 50 seconds before hitting the ‘Apply’ button.
Of course, you want to know who the job is for, what you will be doing, and what is required of you before applying. That’s what most people scan for in those few seconds. But there is much more information that you can potentially find in a job posting – if you spend more than a minute reading it.
Here are some key pieces of information to look for in a job ad that can help you tweak your application and greatly increase your chances of at least getting an interview.
Obvious (and subtle) clues to watch for:
The job title
The job title isn’t a subtle clue, it’s generally right there in bold font at the top of the job ad. Use it. Many candidates don’t. Whatever the job title is, make it the title of your resume, and include it in the filename of your resume. If you’re applying by email, also use the job title in the subject line.
Recruiters could be hiring for many jobs at once. They want to save and sort the most relevant applications for the roles. If your resume has a different title from a specific opening, it can look like you applied for the wrong job, you’re just mass mailing your resume, or you don’t care enough to customize. There’s also a greater chance that your application may simply get lost in the shuffle.
The recruiter’s name
This is more subtle, but you can sometimes obtain the specific name of the person you should address your application to right from the job posting. A personalized application will fare much better than a generic one. This is particularly true if the hiring manager knows that their information is available to candidates who put the effort into finding it. Those applicants who do will stand out right off the bat from those who didn’t.
If the instructions say to apply via email, can you learn anything from the address? For example, if you were looking for a job at Workopolis and you were told to submit your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org, it would be a safe bet that the hiring manager’s last name is Forde and their first name begins with M. A quick Google search of “Forde Workopolis” should help you find the name, job title, and bio of the person you’re addressing your resume and cover letter to.
Job postings also include the title of the person you’ll be working for. It might say something like, “Reporting to the Director of Communications, you will be responsible for…” Again a Google search for “Director of Communications” with the company name is more than likely to reveal the identity and often a LinkedIn and Twitter profile for your potential boss.
The exact instructions for applying
Job postings usually contain details of how to apply for a job. These are not suggestions, so ignoring them will likely sink your chances. If the job ad says to include a code number in your subject line or refer to it in your cover letter, be sure to do so.
If the job posting requests a Word document resume, don’t send a PDF or a link to an online profile. If the employer asks for samples of your work or specific pieces of information from you, provide them.
Not following the instructions can get you screened out before the hiring manager ever sees your application. It could also make it appear as though you don’t pay attention to detail or that you can’t follow instructions.
Keywords to use in your resume
Read the job description carefully for the exact wording they use to describe the credentials, skill, and software required for the job. Mirror these phrasings in your application if you can. Recruiters use software to filter applications by relevance, and often these are ranked according to their use of specific keywords the employer is hoping to see.
Matching your language use to the employers – and mentioning the credentials they are specifically looking for – can help ensure you score higher on the relevancy scale. See here for more on how to beat automated resume screening.
Actual qualifications required vs. credential creep
Reading the job description carefully should help you to separate out the actual requirements to do the job from the cut and paste requirements that the employer likely includes in every job posting by rote.
Companies are often clear about what they are looking for, and what skills you will need to have in order to do the job. If you don’t actually have the ability to succeed in the role, then applying is a waste of time for you and the employer.
But there is such a thing as ‘credential creep’ where employers ask for more qualifications than any one applicant is likely to have, so don’t worry of you fall short in a few areas. For example, employers now request university degrees for many roles that will not actually require them on the job. So this may be a screening tool, but it is one that you can get past if you clearly demonstrate that you have the skills and experience to contribute and excel at the job itself.
The same goes with ‘years of experience.’ If the job description asks for five years in a role or using a particular skill, and you only have three, demonstrate your expert knowledge and accomplishments from those three years. It’s the ability to deliver results that really matters.
Careful reading and customization allow you to demonstrate this in your resume. A red flag for employers is when candidates highlight and focus on skills and accomplishments they have that are irrelevant to the job they’re applying for.
This makes it appear as though they either don’t understand the nature of the role (and would therefore bring little value to it) or that they have simply (once again) applied to the wrong job.
Spend more than a minute reading a job posting before sending in your resume. Make sure your application follows the specific instructions and highlights how you’re a great candidate for the job at hand. The clues you need to stand out are often available right in the job description. Sometimes you just have to put a little extra time and effort into finding them. Of course, that’s what employers are looking for: candidates who are willing to put in more time and effort to go the extra mile.
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