Looking for work is a full time job. Both employers and job-seekers can agree that it’s a pain in the ass. It might even seem like an endless series of obstacles is thrown in your way — from when you submit your resume, to the phone screen, to the interview itself.
Maybe they’re testing your resolve. Are you persistent enough to stick it out through the entire process? Or maybe you’ve been ghosted by an employer, and you keep staring at your inbox convinced you did something wrong. You might never know.
Well, what do employers actually want? Is there something you aren’t doing that might make them want to hire you?
One of our most active employers has some thoughts on this, and I recently spoke with them — in depth — on this very topic. Here are some collected thoughts and ideas on how to apply and interview successfully for an awesome new job, direct from from a conversation with one of our amazing hiring managers.
As it turns out, they really want to hire you!
I feel like this is something candidates generally forget in the grand scheme of things, and it bears reminding. The first goal in hiring is making a hire. Period. Nothing makes a hiring manager happier than to extend an offer. So why all the hurdles?
Hiring without thinking about who you’re hiring is a really, really, really bad idea for an employer. It’s incredibly expensive, and is made worse by a drop in employee morale and productivity. Then you have to waste even more time and money to replace that person. A well structured interview process is extremely important, but shouldn’t cause you to pull out your hair… or set off the apocalypse.
Here are some things to think about when applying for jobs and navigating the interview process.
A well formatted resume will get you far. While it doesn’t offer much insight into your actual job performance, it does help an employer form a picture of what you’ve been doing. So be detailed, and don’t leave anything out.
Be sure to include extracurricular activities, internships, and volunteer work — especially if you are an entry level candidate. Whether you’re a Girl Scout, a team captain, or an after-school tutor, you’ve probably done something relevant to your desired role at a company. Not only that, but listing these activities in your resume says a lot about your personality and commitment. But also try and keep it concise! A resume should not require a table of contents.
Be careful not to exaggerate your number of years of experience. Be honest. It really is okay if you don’t come with a wealth of experience, particularly for an entry level role.
Be sure the formatting makes sense, and that it’s simple, and readable. Look online for good examples of resumes. Be sure the formatting makes sense, and that the resume is simple, and easy to read. Additionally, don’t get too crazy with colors and graphics, as they can get in the way of an employer’s understanding.
If you have a gap in employment, or if you’ve been let go for any reason, don’t worry. It happens, but it is always good to be transparent, and be ready to explain what happened. Unexplained gaps on a resume are red flags, but only when they’re left unexplained.
This goes without saying, but the number of silly typos I see in resumes is alarming. Double-check. That means check it once, and then check it again. Send it to a friend for proofreading. Sometimes you might miss a typo twice, but someone else will catch it. Be aware of what you’re putting in front of your future employer!
There’s definitely less demand now for these relics, but if it’s required, you have to write one. Keep it short, and to the point. Employers can tell when you use a form and fill in the blanks, so draft an original one each time. It doesn’t have to be long, but remember that you’re applying for a job, so it’s a big deal. Take some time and really think about what you’re saying.
Employers are quickly moving into the 21st century, and using amazing tools like HireArt in lieu of a cover letter. Take it from one of our employers: It pays to take your time. Your “Experience” video is extremely important. It’s the first video they see when they open your profile, and their first impression of you as a future employee. Fifty percent of their decision to contact you is based on what they see and hear in that video.
If you’re nervous, it’s okay! Our employers are very understanding. Just be sure to do one thing: prepare. Write a script for yourself, and practice what you’re going to say. I’ve seen so many HireArt videos that go on a 60 second adventure of rambling thoughts and incomplete sentences resulting in a Beckett-like stream of consciousness. Just be honest, and don’t pander to the employer.
For more tips on recording videos for your HireArt profile, read “What Screening 20,000 Job Seekers Taught Me”.
It doesn’t matter how cool or chill a tech start-up may seem, it will never hurt to be presentable. You should treat it like a real interview. That being said, don’t be afraid to smile, or even tell an appropriate joke. Be yourself, but be the most professional version of yourself. Definitely be human. It’s a balance that might be hard to strike, but once you get it down, it’s pretty clear.
Your written responses should be clear and concise. As mentioned before, anything you write will benefit from proofreading, so send it to a friend to look over, catch any typos, etc.
It’s also a good idea to be both friendly and creative in your role-play responses, as it might help you stand out.
You’ve been contacted!
Here’s where it gets really exciting. So an employer has seen your HireArt profile, and they love your responses. You’ve successfully helped Julie with the party favors (one of our screening questions involves this scenario), and they’ve reached out via email or phone.
What now? Well they’ve likely asked to schedule a phone call, or for you to come in person (and in many cases, your HireArt profile takes the place of a phone screen!). Get back to them as soon as possible with your availability and answers to any questions they have for you. Flexibility when scheduling an interview is important, but if you aren’t able to make a suggested time, be transparent. Let the hiring manager know, and offer alternatives.
Know what you’ve applied for, and know about the company! It’s astounding how many candidates ask what the company does during their interviews, or simply forgot that they’d applied in the first place (when they get the call). This is a bad sign to the hiring manager. We understand that you may be submitting your resume and information to many places, but know who you’re talking to, and what the company is about.
What if you’re no longer interested, or you’ve taken another offer? Communicate! Talk about that up front. If there are multiple offers or interviews on the table, let them know.
The phone screen and in-person interview.
Do your research! Understand the business model before going in. Superstars know the company and are excited. Check out their Glassdoor or LinkedIn for current employees and what culture might be like.
Companies recognize that people are applying for many positions at a time, but if you’re contacted, dive in immediately and really get to know the company. Also, re-read the job description. They can generally all be found online.
Again, on professionalism: There are lots of swanky “casual” type startups and tech companies out there, and it’s really exciting to think about getting to go to work in your PJs. However, you should always wear professional attire for an interview.
You don’t need a tux or a ball gown, but you should definitely look presentable, and be on time (which really means fifteen minutes early). And don’t smoke a pack of cigarettes before walking in the door. Remember that professional does not mean stiff. Be comfortable, and don’t be afraid to smile and have a sense of humor.
Candidates might think that an employer’s interview process is designed to trick you, and that everything is a test. This is not the case, 99.9% of the time!
So be as straightforward as possible. Don’t answer the way you think they want you to answer, because you’re probably wrong. They want to see you. That’s the point of the interview. Honesty is always favored.
When answering, imagine you’re meeting with a client for the first time. Don’t swear (this should be obvious). Most interviewers will ask if you have questions, so always prepare some. Know what you’re going to ask, because you will always be given the opportunity at the end of an interview.
Here are some great questions to ask: What makes someone successful in this position? What are some benefits offered by the company? How do they like working for the company? This really lets them know how interested you are in working there.
After the interview.
Always follow up. If they don’t give you a contact email, ask. They’ll usually give it to you, and it’s common practice (and incredibly important) to reach out and say “thank you”.
The message should be short, thank them for their time, and ask them to reach out if they need anything else from you (and do a spelling and grammar check every time you write something — they’re still paying attention to this).
The most important thing to remember throughout the whole process is to be honest, transparent, and genuine. Don’t try to game your way through the interview process, because you won’t get you as far as you may think.
Good luck on your interview!