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What to do BEFORE applying for a job.

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Creating success for applying for a job

You see a job that is perfect for you. You know you can do it. You apply online, attach your resume, cover letter, and expect a call in the next week or so. Silence. You wait. Silence. And then, a few hours, weeks or months later, you get the dreaded rejection email.

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 happened? What happened is your resume probably wasn’t even looked at. That’s right.


So how do you get a recruiter to know you exist? There are ways to not only make sure a recruiter sees your resume but entice recruiters to call you. Here are five things you need to do before applying for a job.

1. Make Transferable skills noticeable. The number one thing you need to do is make sure you have all the keywords from job descriptions in your resume to connect how your previous work experience will bring value to the current role. People ask me, “Does that mean I need to create a new resume for each job?” That depends. If you are applying for only one kind of job, you should be able to print a number of job descriptions for that type of job and highlight all the keywords and identified value to use in your resume for all applications. Keywords are words that describe hard and soft skills and competencies needed to be capable to do the job. Here’s an example from a current job description (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, identifying the skills, competencies and value you can bring to the job.

2. Create progressive responsibility on resume and LinkedIn. If you did the same work I each job, show how you had more responsibility or gained additional skills or competencies in each successive role. Did you manage a small team and then a larger team? Did you do tasks in one job, but oversee in another job? Did you work on more complex work as you moved up in your career? The goal is not to repeat your accomplishments in each job because once you’ve done it, the assumption is that you are competent in that particular skill.

3. Develop five stories of your accomplishments in STAR(T) or CARL method in writing. STAR(T) = Situation, Task, Action, Result, and I always add Takeaways. CARL is the same: Context, Action, Result, Learning. Use one of these methods to describe five accomplishments including what you did (actual work) and how you did it (soft skills). At least one of these five stories can be used for most interview questions. 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. Answer the “hard” questions in writing. Tell me about yourself? Why do you have a gap in your resume? What made you leave each role? Tell me about a time when you failed? What are your expectations in compensation? Expect these questions!

The same way you put together stories in the STAR(T) and CARL methods, answer the “hard” questions on paper. “Tell me about yourself” is what is important to you. What are your values and how do those relate to the role? Example for any global role:

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.

“Why did you leave each role?” When walking a recruiter through your resume, you should describe how you moved from one role to the next. Were you poached? (You are that good!) Did you see a bigger opportunity? Were you fired? 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, “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. Ask someone who works at the company for a referral.

Many companies offer referral bonuses. If you apply online, then you 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 a cover letter in your 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 you make it 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 applying for jobs.

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