One of the most common
questions that career coaches get asked by students and recent graduates is why
they can’t get hired by an employer despite being willing to do any work asked
by that employer. The response is almost always a variation of, “Well, that’s
the reason.” Employers don’t want to hire people who are willing to do
anything, because few have the time or patience to coach candidates. They want
candidates to fill a specific role and be qualified to do so.
But, I Just Want to Get My Foot in the Door!
Hey, we get it. You’re willing to do any task just to get your foot in the door and then work your way into your dream job. You probably have skills that are transferable to a wide variety of roles, and that’s great. You may be happy to work for any organization, as long as it’s a dynamic and growing company. You might even be willing to start in the mailroom (assuming the company still has a mailroom) if that’s what it takes. The bottom line: you just want a chance to prove yourself.
Unfortunately, most employers aren’t impressed by all that “willingness” and flexibility. They want you to make their job easy. You see, corporate recruiters, those who work in-house for a specific employer, are typically evaluated on how many people they hire. If they take extra time to help you or work with you to figure out which of their job openings you’re best suited for, chances are they could have helped their employer hire multiple people in that same amount of time. Additionally, third-party recruiters (aka headhunters or executive recruiters) are under even more time pressure because they’re usually paid a straight commission only when a candidate they refer to an employer is hired by that employer. For them, time truly is money.
Make their Job Easy
While it may seem counterintuitive, it’s much more effective to be very specific in your job search. Commit to the type of organization you want to work for and a shortlist of roles that you want to fill, and then pursue those diligently. It may also be helpful to narrow your search to a few metro areas, instead of “anywhere in the world.” To do this effectively, you must do your homework on the industry and the company before applying. (For tips on researching companies, read “Things You Should Know About a Company Before Applying.”
Then, when you apply,
customize your cover letter and resume to highlight the skills and accomplishments
that fit the job description. This includes using the exact job title the employer uses. For instance, if
you’re applying for a sales position and the job title the employer uses in the
description is “account manager,” then be sure your cover letter and resume
also uses “account manager” when describing what work you’ve done and what work
you want to do. Even if your school calls your major “information technology,”
if the employer states that they are looking for a computer science major, then
be sure your resume and cover letter refer to your major as “computer science.”
This lets the employer know that you understand what they’re looking for and
have both the interest and skills to fill the role.
It’s also important to keep in mind that applicant tracking software (ATS) looks for matches by searching for keywords in your resume. This is yet another reason to use exact words from the job description. While it may be more work to customize each resume you send out, it’s better than being rejected by a robot!
Say the Right Things
When you start to engage
with the recruiter or land that interview, be sure that everything you talk
about is geared toward the benefit of the employer. You may be proud of your involvement
in several clubs at school, which shows a wide range of interests. However,
unless you can turn this experience into an asset that the company is looking
for, such as “effective time management” it’s better to focus on the skills the
employer has clearly stated in the job description. You may be dreaming of
relocating to the company’s European offices one day, but if the recruiter is
trying to fill a position in Minneapolis, don’t tell her you’d love to work in
Paris, unless she asks you if you’d be open to relocating at some point.
In other words, just as you
customize your cover letter and resume, be sure to tailor your responses to the
specific position for which you are interviewing. By doing some upfront
research and being intentional in your job search, your chance of getting your
foot in the door (and getting the job you really want) will increase
- How do I Decide What Kind of Job to Look For?
- Preparation is Key to a Successful Job Search