Pick 5 To Interview

Imagine for a moment that you’re the person responsible for looking at some job applications. You’ve got to pick some to invite into the interview process. If you’ve already applied the ATS software (Applicant Tracking System), the reduced pile in front of you already meet your stated qualifications. In other words, the key words you and Human Resources identified as must haves and preferences are already checked off. You’ve got a nice pile of winners here.

So having a pile of 10 before you on your right and 60 the ATS passed over on your left, you begin. Hang on a second, what are you looking for? If you’ve never had to actually go through this process of choosing people to interview, it’s not as easy as it sounds. If after all, each of these 10 applications have already surfaced as the cream of the crop, why not just interview the 4 or 5 on the top of the pile; random selection?

Well, I’m sure some employers do. I mean, it’s possible isn’t it? No one has to know what the person narrowing these candidates down actually did to select them. But for the majority of situations, what does that person do behind closed doors to pick their next potential employee?

Quick question before proceeding; how many readers don’t like the idea of some computer-generated software creating these two piles in the first place; the potential winners and the losers? I’ll bet a fair number of people would rather a human being look over their application rather than having their potential employment governed by a digital scan.

Here’s the thing about that software though; it’s programmed by humans to select the applications which on paper at least, most closely match the stated needs of the employer. That software selects and rejects solely based on what it was instructed to look for. If you didn’t know this technology existed before, you do now. Oh, and it’s not so expensive that only the big organizations can afford it. Like a lot of technology out there today, its come down in price, it’s affordable and it sure helps the employer when the alternative is having to set aside a huge amount of time going through more resumes and cover letters than they’ve ever received in the past.

Okay, so now the impartial and unbiased computer program has put these 10 applications before you. The next phase is choosing from the 10, the ones you’ll meet and make your interview list from. Most organizations set aside time for this process, and they might have to coordinate the schedules of the Supervisor, Human Resources staff, and a second person in Management. Just coordinating the schedules of these three people might take some doing, and they’ll need a couple of days perhaps to clear their schedules. Meanwhile applicants are waiting.

So whether it’s just you or you and one or two others, you’ve got these 10 from which to choose 5 to interview, as this is all time allows. So half of these will move on and half will join the larger pile of passed over/rejected applicants. By the way, no one in that pile will be contacted yet (if ever) to advise them they’ve been passed over. After all, you might end up going back to at least one of those who almost made it if none of these 5 you end up interviewing work out.

So now that human eyeballs are finally involved in the interview selection process, you and I need to understand one other thing. In addition to your eyes, you’re filtering these 10 resumes with some other things too. You’re applying your biases, preferences, assumptions, stereotypes, past experiences, gut feelings and knowledge. Still don’t like computer software? It doesn’t bring any of these to the selection process.

In the mind of the person selecting people to hire, they know the chemistry of the existing team this potential employee is going to join or lead. They have in their mind the personal characteristics they see as needed or desired. They might have a preference for someone who went to a particular school or who worked for a certain employer in the past. They might grimace at an incorrectly placed comma or run-on sentence. Then again, they may overlook grammatic errors and take that as a sign of authenticity, especially if the job doesn’t call for written communication skills as a top priority.

If the names are on the resumes before them, (some companies remove these from the applications so they eliminate human bias), these alone can potentially sway a person to choose or pass by an application. The presumption of gender too might be present. Is this a good thing or not? Perhaps an organization is intentionally hopeful they might hire someone from a specific segment of the population to better reflect the communities in which they operate. How could a gender, ethnic, age, or other characteristic dominated workforce become more balanced if such factors of applicants remain unknown?

You see it’s more complicated than just randomly picking a few or going through every single application received. This process takes time and expertise to do it well. While all this is going on, each applicant is wondering why they haven’t heard from the employer. What’s taking so long you might wonder?

After selecting those to interview and conducting those interviews, more narrowing done happens until one is remaining. May that person be you!


How Do I Start A Cover Letter?

Not every employer out there wants you send them a cover letter, and some make it clear in the job posting by asking you not to send one with your resume. However, 50% of employers do read the cover letters they receive, and the ones that do take your ability to communicate effectively into consideration when deciding whether to have you in for an interview.

The trouble for many people is how to begin the actual body of the thing. “What should I say?” many wonder. My advice is to start by thinking of things from the perspective of the person who is going to receive your letter at the other end.

Whether your cover letter is going to be sent by email, as part of an online application, hand delivered or in the post, it’s going to ether start by being received by only one of two people; the right person or someone who needs to pass it on to the right person.

In either case, unless they aren’t going to look at it at all go right to the resume, either of the two people are going to ponder, “What’s this letter all about?” at first glance. So if it lands in the Receptionists mail, he or she will have to open it and read enough in order to know who to forward it to in the company based on the contents. If it first lands in the inbox of the person making up the short list of people to interview, they’ll be wondering what it’s about on first glance too, as the job you are applying to isn’t the only thing they’ get mail about.

Make the assumption these are busy people with a lot to do in a day. Time is money; that kind of thing. The time they are now spending reading your cover letter is precious time to both you and them, so you should be thinking as you write your first few words, “Get to the point right away.”

I’m going to make two essential suggestions. Once you have the date of your letter at the top and some contact information just below that, put what the letter is regarding next in bold and underline it quoting any job competition number provided. It might look like this:

RE. Senior Bookkeeper/Account #16-537 

Remember how I said your cover letter might be read by someone who has to forward it to the right person? This information clearly and boldly stated just above the content of your letter gives the person enough information right there to get your cover letter and application moving to the right person. Let’s face it, after the time you invested in writing this cover letter, you don’t really want to put your chances of a potential interview in the hands of a Receptionist, expecting him or her to really read the entire letter without this and then figure out who to pass it along to. They are too busy and you’re not helping yourself.

The second suggestion I have is to start the first sentence stating what it is you want. What do you want? An interview of course! Why so many people are uncomfortable actually asking for an interview when that is precisely what they are applying for in the first place is beyond me. It’s not aggressive, it’s not rude, it’s actually exactly what the interviewer appreciates because you save them time.

“I am requesting an interview for the Senior Bookkeeper/Account  position. Having reviewed your desired qualifications, I am confident in stating my qualifications, experience and skills are an excellent match making me an ideal candidate.”

“But I can’t say that!” at least some of you reading this are gasping! Well, other readers will be happy to hear that because they are already revising their cover letters and just improved their chances because you’re reducing yours. You want an interview right|? The point of your cover letter and motivation for writing at all is immediately clear right? The time of the person reading it is respected right? It’s all good.

You see when your letter gets into the hands of the right person, the job you are applying to may not in fact be the only job they are interviewing people for. Not to mention of course they get a lot of other correspondence; bills, invoices, requests for charitable donations, business letters etc. Again, as they open your letter they first ask themselves, “What does this person want?” You are doing them a favour.

Scared of the direct language that says essentially you’re the right person; the best person for the job? Afraid that’s boasting? It’s not and in the forthcoming interview you are asking for, aren’t you going to be making the best case you can as being the best person for the job? The one they should hire? So where’s the conflict?

Here’s the clincher; at least for me. If the cover letters you’re writing were effective, you’d be getting calls for interviews on a regular basis; assuming you are qualified in the first place. If you’re not getting those calls, don’t be timid and afraid of changing your approach in order to see if you get a different result.

You are undoubtedly good at what you do; maybe even very good at whatever it is you do. This is in my area of expertise; take it or leave it but think on it.

1 Way To Strengthen Your Resume Or CV

While there are many do’s and don’ts to making your resume or CV, the suggestion I have today for you is one that will strengthen almost any application and hopefully get you into the interview chair. I hope you personally agree with me, whether you are making a document for the very first time, or you are a seasoned pro when it comes to making them.

My suggestion has to do with the content of the bullets under each job you have either performed in the past or are currently involved with. However before I discuss this further, you’ll only get what I’m talking about if you first have in front of you a job posting you are actually interested in applying for. Sitting down to make your CV or resume without a job you want to apply to is a very poor way to begin, and my suggestion for strengthening your resume won’t work whatsoever if you don’t already have the posting to guide you along.

Okay, so here we go. Many people will look at the job posting and read over the requirements. When making their resume, the same folks will more often than not, make sure that the section called, “Qualifications” includes some of the more important ones from the posting. This is a good thing. After all, the employer reviewing all those resumes they receive in answer to a job posting wants to quickly know if you match up well on paper or not before reading the entire thing.

So the same logic should be easy to understand further on down beneath that section as you start listing your current and past experiences. Ironically however, my time spent watching people construct their own resumes or reviewing them once they have done it completely shows a lack of understanding in this vital area. What seems to occur is a person writes down their job title, employer and date, and then they gaze upward, look thoughtful and start putting down whatever they can think of that they did or accomplished in that job.

If you are one of these people, you are likely agreeing with the above paragraph and wondering therefore how this could possibly be the wrong thing to be doing. Asking yourself, “What did I actually do or accomplish in that job?” is the wrong question to be asking yourself as you list some bullet points. The right question is close but different. The question you should be asking and answering is, “What did I actually do or accomplish in that job THAT IS RELATED DIRECTLY TO THE JOB I AM APPLYING FOR RIGHT NOW?”

You will find with this question that a review of the job posting you are applying to will tell you specifically the skills required for the job. While you may have done some impressive things in a certain job in the past, those accomplishments might not be relevant to the job you are applying for. It may be far wiser to use the same words from the posting in demonstrating and proving you have done similar work and developed similar skills rather than something spectacular but not really relevant.

Okay an example. Suppose the job posting is for a Personal Support Worker and says the successful applicant will practice confidentiality and exhibit compassion and sensitivity. You may be well served then to say:

– Respectful of people’s rights to privacy and confidentiality at all times while delivering compassionate, considerate personal care in a sensitive, dignified manner

The above might be far better than a bullet that says you are good at multi-tasking and take on extra work without complaint. While multi-tasking and a good attitude when it comes to additional work are excellent qualities themselves, they aren’t the qualities identified by the employer as the ones they are specifically seeking. If you can imagine a resume or CV where the applicant has carefully constructed each and every bullet to specifically align with the job posting, you can I hope also imagine how much stronger the overall document will be.

So is this worth the extra time it will require to personalize the entire resume? After all, I acknowledge this will make construction of a resume longer. Well, obviously in my opinion the answer is yes it is. Why? Well, simply put it’s less work not more. You see, a resume that is as strong as it can be and specifically done this way has to be among the strongest the employer will receive. If the qualifications section and all the details of what you have done in the past all point back directly to the job posting, it has to rank up there with the strongest.

The result of this method is that your resume now gets you an interview more often than not. That in turn means you are doing less resumes in the first place in total, even though you are spending more time on a single resume. And given a choice between doing 1-3 resumes to land an interview with 2-3 hours spent on each, or 20-25 resumes to land an interview that you spent 15 minutes on each, which would you want?

Hopefully as I said earlier, you are either already doing this yourself or the light bulb just went on and you’re having an ‘a-ha’ moment right now. The longer the job posting, the easier it is to make a stellar resume using this simple but oft overlooked process.