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What to do BEFORE applying for a job


You see a job that align seamlessly with  your skills and experience. You submit your application online, complete with your meticulously crafted resume and cover letter, eagerly anticipating a follow-up call. Yet, as days turn into weeks, silence pervades.


Then, the inevitable arrives—a rejection email, delivering the disappointing news that your candidacy for the opening at Company will not be pursued further.



"Unfortunately, we have decided not to proceed with your candidacy for the opening at Company. Hiring for this position is extremely competitive, and the candidate pool was very impressive. However, at this time, we have found a candidate who fulfills more requirements for the position."


Not even a call or a personal email. What went wrong? The bitter truth may be that your resume likely never saw the light of day. It wasn't even looked at.

 

Let me repeat that:

 

IT. WASN’T. EVEN. LOOKED. AT.


So, how do you ensure that recruiters take notice of your existence? There are strategies not only to ensure that your resume catches a recruiter's eye but also to entice them to reach out to you. Here are five essential steps to take before applying for a job:

 

1. Highlight transferable skills. Ensure that your resume mirrors the keywords from job descriptions, emphasizing how your past experiences relate to the current role's requirements. Keywords are words that describe the hard and soft skills and competencies needed to be capable to do the job By aligning your accomplishments with the job's expectations, you can showcase your suitability for the position effectively.

 

Here’s an example of keywords that should be included in your resume to show your value (bold for keywords, underline for value):


Responsibilities Help drive our global B2B business goals with effective and innovative marketing campaigns ranging from go-to-market plans to engagement and retention strategies.

  • Lead the global Strategic + Brand Partnerships Marketing team, working closely with both cross-functional partners (i.e., Product Management, Communications, Legal, Operations, etc.) and regional marketing teams in APAC and EMEA to ensure global consistency in our partner programs and advertiser offerings.

  • Lead market research that offers insights into the attributes and needs of business partners of varying sizes, industries, and regions. Help identify product gaps where company could better satisfy our business partners. Author business requirements based on these user insights that help inform and influence the long-term product roadmap.

  • Establish detailed process for white paper and creative pitch development that help our Business Development teams engage with our B2B customers.

  • Be responsible to build, guide and manage the global B2B marketing budget. Conduct return on investment analyses on all campaigns and apply takeaways to future programs.

 

Review dozens of job descriptions for jobs you are interested in pursuing from around the country, even if you don’t plan to relocate. Some of the best language to use on a resume is already drafted for you in job descriptions!

 

If you have done exactly what the job is asking for, use similar language on your resume with keywords to describe how your accomplishments relate to the position you are seeking. If you are seeking a new career, look at your accomplishments through the lens of the new career, only including accomplishments that are relevant to the new career.

 

2. Demonstrate progressive responsibility. Showcase your career progression by emphasizing increasing responsibilities and acquired skills in each successive role. Highlight how you've grown and evolved professionally over time to demonstrate your readiness for new challenges. That means you do not have to reiterate the same work in each job. For example, if you tracked invoices in your first job and that was part of your second job, you don’t have to repeat it. Show that you analyzed invoices in the next job to show a higher level of responsibility.


3. Craft compelling accomplishment stories. Develop five accomplishment stories using methods like STAR(T) (Situation, Task, Action, Result + Takeaways) or CARL (Context, Action, Result, Learning) to showcase your achievements and problem-solving abilities. These stories should relate to the new job – so if you have always worked in marketing but you want to move into business development, create stories that have to do with business development within marketing.  You must connect the dots between a former career and your capabilities to be successful in the new career. For example:


Situation/Context: We had a product that wasn’t selling at the rate of other products and we weren’t sure why.

 

Task/Context: Our goal was to not only figure out why it wasn’t selling but then implement a strategy to result in our product selling 10% more than other similar competitor products. Once we understood root case, we could help business leaders revise their marketing/positioning strategies and/or help the engineering team enhance the product with better features.

 

Action: I worked closely with our research and insights team to conduct new research on our competitor’s product and our product and learned our current marketing strategy was not resonating with our customers. I used those insights to conceive the vision and strategy for an innovative marketing campaign we had never tried before. Since it hadn’t been done before, I worked hard to influence senior leadership that this was worth trying and used data to show how this campaign could drive an increase in sales of at least 10%. The campaign went live in just two months and included new creative for video, web assets, and social media.


Results: We sold 20% more during the campaign than the year before and 40% more than each month during the previous year. While we were gathering new intel on our competitors, we learned that if we had added one more feature, sales could have been even higher; previous research hadn’t discovered that. Based on our success and this new data, I was able to then influence the R&D teams to change the roadmap and start building out that new feature.

 

Takeaways/Learnings: The campaign was clearly successful, but had I stopped and taken the time to dual-track that other feature while working on the marketing campaign, we could have achieved even more success. I thought it would take months or years to build that feature and I learned it could have been added relatively quickly and moved the needle further. The takeaway for me is to make sure look at all aspects of the data and explore it without assumptions, because that new feature could have an even greater impact on the overall campaign.


When you write down your five stories, practice to keep your answer under two minutes. Eliminate extra details that don’t enhance the accomplishment. If the interviewer wants more detail, they will ask for it.


4. Prepare responses to tough questions. By addressing these questions thoughtfully in advance and in writing, you'll be better equipped to navigate them during interviews. Some of the obvious questions include, “Can you tell me a little about yourself?” and “Can you walk me through your resume?” Also craft answers for, “Can you tell me about a time when you failed?” and “What are your values and how do those relate to the role?”

 

Here's an example of “Tell me about yourself?”:


“I love to travel and I use every opportunity I can to travel to a new location and immerse myself in the culture. That’s why I can speak four languages fluently. I think travel has worked well for me in my career because I can bring the most value to global companies which are interested in not just taking what we do here in America and replicating it outside the US but figuring out how to keep corporate culture while also respecting how traditions and cultures elsewhere may shape interpretation.”

  

When walking a recruiter through your resume, describe how you moved from one role to the next. Were you poached? (That says you are that great because someone wanted to work with you again!) Did you see a bigger opportunity? Did you want to gain certain skills to round out your competencies? Were you fired?

 

If you were laid off in a mass layoff with others, you can say that. If you were fired, figure out what your perspective was on leaving the role. You will never want to say, “I hated my boss,” but you can say, for example: “I had different expectations of the role when I entered it so now, I am incredibly careful to make sure the role is as it’s described” and then move to the next role and how you have been successful.

 

If you are currently unemployed or have a gap in your resume, the same applies: “I deliberately took time off to figure out exactly what I wanted to do since I wouldn’t have had time to think about it while working 80-hour weeks. Now, I am ready to re-enter the workforce and this role is exactly what I am looking for.”

 

Today, it is much less of a stigma to take time to understand what you want in your next move.

 

5. Request a referral from a current employee. Many companies offer referral bonuses. If you apply online, then seek out your colleague, friend, or acquaintance, they may lose out on a referral bonus if you are hired. Therefore, if you already know someone at the company, ask them to refer you to the role before applying online (then apply after they have referred you). Make it easy for your contact!

 

Write your cover letter in the email and include a link to your LinkedIn profile along with the title of the role and a link to the job posting. Also attach your resume. The easier it is for your contact to merely forward your email, the better chance it will be forwarded.

...

 

Recruiters want to find you. Follow these five steps and you will make being found easier than just applying for jobs and waiting for a response that may never come.

 

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