There’s a sad truth in the job market: It’s not the best candidates that get the interviews, it’s the candidates with the best applications. Some of the best candidates only make it as far as rejection. Why? Because they weren’t smart enough to craft their application as a response to the job ad.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Deconstruct the job advert
Look at the job advertisement text very carefully. There will be three main sections to the text. They may be mixed up, but they will be there:
- Description of company/organisation
- Description of role
- Description of requirements for the job
That last section is called the ‘filters’ in recruitment circles. It is used to filter candidates out of the application process.
2. Make a list and stick to it
Each part of the ad will give very useful pointers on how to structure your application with the best chance of success. The company description will give an idea of the values, culture and behaviours they value. List them. The role description will give the key responsibilities, functions and (if you are lucky) aims of the job. List them. The last section will give you the ‘must haves’ and ‘preferably haves’ for the role. List them too.
3. Before you start writing - do you meet the basic requirements?
First, you need to be sure that you meet (or nearly meet) the requirements for the job. If the advertisement is very clear that you must have a Master's degree and five years experience in a similar field and you have not, it probably is not worth applying. There will be other job ads out there with requirements that you do meet.
4. Focus on the filters
Structure your resume and cover letter to meet the filters. Illustrate the skills, attributes, behaviours and values that the advertisement calls for.
Then come up with evidence that you meet those filters. Just saying that you have the right skill or experience won’t do it, you have to show that you do. The best way to do this is by using career achievements that illustrate those skills.
5. Use achievements to blow the filters away
Resumes based on job descriptions and role responsibilities are very, very boring and also say nothing about you - just your past jobs. You need to make your application come alive by highlighting what you have achieved in each filter category. Use numbers to illustrate success whenever you can. That will imply what you could do for the hiring organisation. The position’s aims from the job ad (if stated) can help you here.
It makes perfect sense. If your application is shaped to meet the requirements of the job ad, you will show that you fit the requirements. So you will massively increase your chances of getting to interview.
Follow these steps and you increase your chances of beating better, but less well prepared, candidates to the interview table.