By Chandra Turner
I usually avoid writing posts about what folks are doing wrong. But as a recruiter and a career coach I see both sides of the job application process. I see candidates puzzled over why they aren’t getting a response to their applications and at the same time I am puzzled why candidates miss so many opportunities to land in their perfect-fit roles. If you break these bad application habits, trust me: You’ll be so much more successful in your job search.
1. You’re applying too late. Many content teams — perhaps you’re on one yourself — have been working without a fully fleshed out team since the great resignation started earlier this year. Now that the economy is moving again and jobs are finally being approved, hiring managers are hungry to make hires and make them fast. As a recruiter, I don’t wait for people to apply. That wastes way too much time (not to mention that 95% of the applications aren’t uniquely qualified; see #5). So I reach out to candidates (often via LinkedIn) as soon as the job is posted. Then I try to crank through interviews that next week. If a job is super competitive, I can have a short list to the hiring manager in two weeks. Which means if you wait to apply, you could miss out. How do you stay on top of the jobs? Instead of waiting for them to come to you via your email alerts, be proactive! Go to the careers pages of your favorite companies; they often go up first before they hit the job boards.
2. You’re applying via LinkedIn’s Easy Apply. Applying through the Easy button is exactly what you suspect, but don’t want to admit to yourself: It’s too easy to be effective. Even if your resume is super-duper optimized and the algorithm has correctly assessed your awesomeness, you are still reduced to a bunch of skills and keyword matches and not as a human who is connecting with another human on that level that says I’m uniquely qualified for this job. Plus, as a recruiter, MEGO (remember that one? My Eyes Glaze Over) after scanning 200+ easy apply resumes.
3. You’re not leveraging your network. Now this is what LinkedIn is good for: Finding connections to people who work at the companies you are tempted to easy-apply to work for. Before you apply, visit the company’s profile page on LinkedIn. Click on People. Is there anyone on the team who is a connection? Or a connection to someone you know? DM them — even if it’s been years. Just a simple, Hey Chandra! I see you are working at Talent Fairy. That’s awesome. Love the work you all are doing there. In fact, I saw an opening for a Head of Content and am going to apply. Do you know who the hiring manager is? Thanks so much. They can do one of three things: 1. Ignore you. 2. Tell you who the hiring manager is, or 3. Offer to put in a good word and/or pass along your resume. Regardless, still apply for the job through the company’s career site (rather than Easy Apply) and address your cover letter to the appropriate hiring manager (also DM that person to say you applied and how excited you are about the role). In your cover letter, mention your connection in the first line. A simple: Chandra Turner recommended I reach out is all you need.
4. Your cover letters are too looooong. You can get your application in faster if you get smarter about how you approach your cover letter. Create a formula that works for you and KISS (you remember what that stands for right?). Simple and straightforward is best; paragraphs of gray text: MEGO. Start with your fan graph but then break out into 3-4 quick-hit bullets about how you fulfill the top job requirements. If you know the hiring manager or recruiter, all you need to do is have a paragraph about how much you love the brand you are applying to — one quick anecdote about why you are a fan, and ideally, a subscriber or consumer of that brand. Then say you’d be honored to work there, the end.
5. You are applying to too many roles. If you read my advice a lot, you know this is my thing. Specialize. Specialize. Specialize. You are wasting your time applying for roles that you are merely qualified for and not seeking out roles that you are uniquely qualified for. Brands — whether they are media or consumer products or services — want experts, enthusiasts, specialists. Show that off with your divine editorial skills and the job is yours.
6. You are too hard to reach. OK; so this is less of a mistake you are making while you’re applying (let’s hope you include your email address and phone number on your resume!) and more of a general one in the job-search process. Recruiters are on the hunt right now. They are looking for YOU. But so many candidates make themselves hard to find. Make sure that you have the correct email address attached to your LinkedIn account — and check it. Check your other social feeds, too. We recruiters are stalkers; we’ll reach out to you on Instagram and Twitter, too if we think you’re a unique fit. Make sure that portfolio link still works (the vast majority I click on are broken), and generally make yourself easy to reach. (Check out this story I wrote last year about making it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to find you; it all still holds.)
The job market is HOT. Now is the time to move up, get more money, and stretch your boundaries. Don’t miss out on the opportunity while it’s here. Like any bubble, it will likely burst soon. So carpe diem, my editor friends! We don’t get many of these chances. Good luck out there.
Chandra Turner is founder and CEO of Ed2010 and Talent Fairy. She is a talent recruiter specializing in the content and media space. She also offers personalized career coaching for media professionals at all stages of their career.