What Employers Wish You Knew When Applying for Jobs

  • We notice the little things
  • We notice every little interaction, even the ‘non-official’ ones – how you wrote the email that accompanied your CV, how you made small talk as you walked into the room, whether you said thank you at the end, what you said on the phone when we invited you to come to an interview, how quickly you respond to requests for more information or return a written test, even how you were sitting. With such limited interactions to determine if we’re going to have a fruitful long term relationship, every little detail counts, so think carefully about everything you do! Once again, we’ll also compare notes with our assistant and the recruiter to see if all our experiences much up.

    • Arriving too early is almost as bad as arriving too late

    Another little known fact, is that while it’s obvious you shouldn’t be late, and arriving 5 minutes early to an interview leaves a great impression, being too early is actually a thing. It is frustrating feeling the pressure to go greet someone when we were counting on doing 10 more minutes of work, and we do actually feel bad leaving you waiting. It might not consciously get you put in the ‘no’ pile, but that frustrated feeling will subconsciously linger, and sabotage the good impression you’re trying to make. Sad but true.

    • We want you to be genuinely interested

    Being genuinely interested in the role is the opposite of seeming entitled and demanding. the best way to get your interest across is to ask questions. And not just any questions, smart and genuine questions. Prepare questions in advance, and memorise them. Don’t ask things you should know from researching the company and the role – you’ll come across unprepared. Instead, things like “Tell me about the team I’ll be working in,” “What do you love about working here?”, “What’s the long term strategy and how will I be able to contribute to it?” or even “What do you think I need to do to be really successful in this role?” are fantastic questions that apply to almost any role and show you really care.

    • It’s fine if you don’t meet all the criteria, but not none

    We’ve all seen those job applications we’re we think “Jesus, are they looking for a unicorn?!” And the answer is yes. Often employers will list 10 skills they want, knowing that they might only find someone with 6 or 8, but it is more important to look at the combination of skills and the fit. It can be offputting, but don’t let it. Studies have shown that women tend to apply for jobs when they meet 9 to 10 of the criteria, but men 5-6. If you think you can do the core things and can quickly pick up the rest (or most of the rest), throw your hat in the ring! As we’ve said, there are other things that are more important, and we’re happy to teach people some of the essentials if they have the right attitude. Just be sure to address what you don’t know and offer up some constructive solutions to ensure you pick it up quickly.

    On the flip side, it is frustrating to get 100s of applications that are clearly people blanket applying to any job available. We can tell straight away. Save us both the time and make sure you apply to roles you think you’d suit, and spend the time tailoring your application so it really stands out. Whatever you do, don’t send the same cover letter with the company name replaced. Trust me, once you’re in copy and paste mode you WILL slip up and send a cover letter with the wrong name in it.

    • If you can show, it is better than telling

    Anyone can write on their CV that they are hard working, or innovative, but we want to see tangible examples to prove it. Look at every attribute listed in the job description, and think of an example of how you did or embodied that thing. If the description is asking for someone who can come up with creative ideas, have a story of a successful creative idea at the ready. Better yet, on your CV instead of writing that you were successful in job X, try to find some metrics to prove it. I.e. rather than “I was a top performing salesperson” list that you increased sales by 170% or received an award for top sales performer of the quarter.

    Bonus tip: If you have a nicely designed/styled CV or portfolio, or even just use a non-conventional font, save it as a PDF so that the formatting remains in tact when opening on another computer. Some submission forms won’t accept a PDF, so be prepared to have a plainly formatted word document too.

    • Keywords are important but try to resist the jargon

    Yes, it is important to use similar keywords on your CV and cover letter to what the employer is asking for in the job description – it’s a quick way to tailor your application and show you match the criteria. However, we see a lot of the same buzzwords over and over and they become pretty meaningless. Instead, try to build in assertive, action oriented words, or better yet proof and metrics of what you’ve achieved. Make sure the words you choose are compelling, not just buzzwords and jargon. Sounding like everyone else makes it pretty hard to get in the ‘yes’ pile.

    • Everyone has weaknesses, make sure yours is a good one

    You will often be asked in interviews what your weaknesses are, and you need to have a good answer prepared. Everyone has weaknesses, so the worst thing to do is try to say you have none. Instead, what we want to hear is that you can take feedback, critically analyse your own performance, and pick out areas to improve on. So find something honest (preferably not the skill that the job relies on you mastering) and make sure you tell us what you are doing or have done to improve on it. It doesn’t really matter what that weakness is, what we really want to know is how you’re addressing it.

    • Anticipate your shortcomings and address them

    Finally, anticipate what parts of the job you are less qualified for, or what concerns an employer might have. Don’t quite meet the 3-5 years experience they are looking for? Lacking experience in certain software programmes? Switching from one industry to another? Know in what areas you don’t quite match the criteria and prepare an answer for them. Let them know you have almost 3 years experience but you have learned incredibly fast, worked hard to upskill in your spare time. If you are switching industries, analyse your work experience and pick out the relevant parts of that. Don’t wait for the interviewer to ask – ensure you bring these things up. If you’ve got to the end of the interview and haven’t had a chance, take the opportunity to have a final say when thanking the employer. If you’re not sure what they are concerned about, ask! It will give you the perfect opportunity to address their lingering concerns head on.

    Keep calm and stay motivated

    At the end of the process, be patient and respectful. Don’t count yourself out, but don’t assume you’re going to get the job either as you’ll come across conceited. If you don’t get the job, don’t be dismayed and don’t assume you aren’t good enough. As you now know, employers will look at a whole range of factors that are pretty damn hard to anticipate. The most common reason you don’t make the cut is that you’re just not the right fit for the company. Or maybe you were close but someone else just edged you out that had a bit more experience, has worked in the industry or would be a good compliment to the personalities on the team. The toughest position we find ourselves in is when we’re faced with 3 top candidates who could all do a great job but we can only pick one. That’s when we pick the person we think will fit best. Keep sending out job applications, you’ll eventually find the role and the workplace that suits you best and you’ll be far happier for it.

    So now you know what we go through, what our priorities are and what we look for, I hope you feel a lot more confident to get out there and find the job of your dreams, and to make sure you show yourself off in the best light possible to let your future employer know that you’re their diamond in the rough. Always remind yourself of what the employer is going through and what they are looking for so that you’re in the best position to show them you are the one.

    If you’ve got any questions or comments about the employer perspective, feel free to leave them below and I’ll be happy to answer!

    2 thoughts on “What Employers Wish You Knew When Applying for Jobs

    1. Gisela G.

      As someone still doing their degree, but anxious about the work market just like every other 20-something year old, there is some great advice here. I like your organization and how you collected all the information in a tidy, factual and calm manner that was easy to read and understand!

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