I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Your resume is probably not going to get you a job. Neither is your cover letter, LinkedIn profile, or the network of people you know. Unless your Uncle Brian is hiring at his big fancy firm and doesn’t care about that thing called “nepotism”. These things are not the reason recruiters will hire you. They are all just tools that get you an interview. The rest is up to you.
I have been recruiting for businesses for over fifteen years. I have recruited for retail, food processing manufacturing facilities, shipping receiving warehouses, and traditional offices. It is by far my favourite part of Human Resources, and probably the most mentally exhausting. On the day that I am writing this, I just completed six back-to-back interviews and my face hurts from smiling for four hours straight.
I have endless amounts of energy to meet new people but I’d be lying if I said every interview that I conducted was engaging, energetic and stimulating.
Any seasoned recruiter would probably agree; you know about five sentences into a cover letter, five lines down on a resume, or five minutes into an interview if the person applying has any chance of landing their dream job. You as a candidate need to give them something worth their while in that “first five”.
Here’s my advice on how to do that in every step of the process.
A good cover letter should be no more than three paragraphs. Otherwise you’ll be giving a TLDR situation (Too Long; Didn’t Read). Start off by making a statement how you would be perfect for the job. Then point to something in the job ad that you can relate to in order to prove this. Do it with a respectful and complimentary tone, not a cocky sarcastic one. An example of how to do this appropriately:
“I was thrilled to read in your job ad that you offer team collaboration in your workplace. I value this tremendously and have been looking for a job just like this to help me develop my leadership skills in a team environment.”
Here’s what I think: This shows me that you read the job ad and picked out something very specific that was of value to you. Not a skill. A VALUE!
A breakdown of the first 45 seconds into looking at someone’s resume.
1-5 seconds: Formatting! Lines, spacing, fonts, font sizes, headings, margins. There are templates on this all over the internet. Unless you’re a graphic design artist, simple is better.
5-20 seconds: Keywords! Things that make you qualified for the job you’re applying for. This should be easy to find either at the top of the resume or highlighted off to the side.
20-45 seconds: Work Experience. How many jobs you can cram on a resume doesn’t matter. The ones on your resume that are relevant to the job you’re applying for does. 3 or 4 jobs max is all that’s needed with a point form summary of tasks and deliverables of those jobs, your role title and the time you held that job.
The first five minutes leading up to your interview is just as important as the first five minutes into your interview. In other words, show up on time. Five to ten minutes early is the sweet spot.
In that five to ten minutes you might meet someone in the organization that will later have an influence on you getting hired based on how you interacted with them.
They are potentially your future co-worker, so be friendly and personable. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings. This is an opportunity for you to get to know the environment of a potential workplace. It’s also helpful to take note of anything that’s particularly “noteworthy” and mention it in the interview somehow.
Assuming you’ve prepared for your interview (studied company’s missions and values, researched what their customers are saying about them, and if you’re bold enough, connecting with relevant employees in the organization on LinkedIn) then the first five minutes of your interview are going to be a breeze.
“Tell me about yourself”. Often the very first question you’ll receive in an interview and so often candidates miss the intention of this question and I end up hearing a three-minute long verbal regurgitation of their resume. This is your elevator pitch; you’ve got one to two minutes to convince the recruiter that you are a fit for the company and not the job you’re applying for. The intention of this question is to hear about your passions, values and drive.
“Why did you apply?”. Another great opportunity to show them you’ve done your research and bought into the company’s values. Not only did you read the job ad, you were smart enough to study their website and social media and really pick out two or three things that made you say “I’d love to work here because…”.
After the first five minutes, talk from a place of passion. Keep the company’s values and mission in the back of your mind so your answers reflect how your own values are aligned with theirs. Doing this, your interview will feel less like an interrogation and more like a conversation.
During those last five minutes, you’ll likely be given a chance to ask questions. This is a great opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. A good suggestion is to write down about ten questions ahead of time and bring that with you to the interview. You don’t need to ask all ten, in fact, you should only ask those few questions that you felt weren’t answered during the interview. Here’s a fantastic list of ones that I would recommend.
Finally, in the five hours after the interview, don’t forget to say thank you. When you get home you’ll want to write a quick email thanking your interviewer. Mention one thing from the interview that stood out to you and let them know that you are definitely interested in landing your dream job.