Making the Leap: How to best position yourself in the application process

I was at a get together recently and a friend asked me the best way to apply for a job. This person has been in a role for some time now, with little career growth opportunity and he had seen a position come available that would be a step up for him career wise, but the requirements of the job description were very well matched to what he had been doing for several years now. He was cautious about how he would even be considered if he didn’t have that specific title yet in his career, and how he could position himself to be considered for this role with a company he had long admired from a distance. How could he get them to see he was a great fit even though he hadn’t played at that level yet?

I first asked him what about his experience made him a fit in his mind. He went on to describe some great achievements in his current role, with expanded management opportunities over the past few years. He had gone from leading a team of 2 to 10 in just three years, and now held P&L responsibility as well. The role was officially a “Director” level title, but he had only been a “Manager” in his current position. I then asked him to describe his skills against the skills listed in the job description he read. In short, he had almost all of the required skills, but for one or two technologies listed that were written as “preferred but not required”. What was obvious to me was starting to become obvious to him – he was potentially a GREAT fit for the role – he just needed help in getting his credentials across in the best way to prove it to this new company.

We discussed a few tips that I think can be beneficial to anyone in a similar situation:

1. Write your resume to read to the company’s requirements. Candidates often make the mistake of writing one resume, and then sending that same resume off to every role they seek. The reality is that companies often write job descriptions using their own company specific terms, titles and jargon. What you may call business development in your org, they might simply call “sales” for example. Speak in their language within the truth of your experiences. Customize your resume to read to what they are looking for and what you have done in your experience that speaks to their needs.
2. Emphasize accomplishments, not job responsibilities. Recruiters and hiring managers need to know what you accomplished, not just what your day to day responsibilities are. Call out the great things you have done, again relating them to the needs of the job you are seeking. As in the case with my friend, he had been managing a group as big as the one in the role he was applying for, just with a different title. He had also achieved in his position a lot of what the objectives were for the new role, but he needed to call them out so that they could see he has the talent they needed.
3. Don’t assume Recruiters and Hiring Managers are savvy resume readers. I hate to besmirch my own peeps, but most recruiters aren’t the best at reading resumes – rather just really good at Boolean searches and looking for “buzzwords”. Tailor your resume to make it very clear what you have done is what they are looking for, and as in point #1 – use their terminology to do it. This will get you past the “gatekeepers”.
4. Network your way in. With tools like LinkedIn and others out there, information has never been more accessible. Use these tools to find out who the hiring manager/decision maker is and go to that person directly to express your interest and how you can address their needs. If you have a connection to that person, ask them to write you an introduction. Even if the company insists you apply through the normal channels, the ability to network and show initiative is always a good thing.
5. Have a great LinkedIn profile. Let’s be honest – after a hiring manager or recruiter sees your resume and has some interest, the next place they are going is to your LinkedIn profile. Having a well put together profile can only help your candidacy, especially if you have good recommendations and it is consistent with your resume.
6. Do your research. Candidates often make the mistake of not researching a company before applying or interviewing. Not only should this be candidate 101 – but learning their industry, key players, competitors , etc. shows you are really interested in their company and that you did your homework.

Obviously these are but a few pointers in what can often be a confusing and sometimes scary process to people looking to make a career move. The key is to best position yourself for success!

Posted on September 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

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