Last week I discussed the foundational aspects of interviewing and the importance of creating a systems approach for interviewing. Today we will delve more into the details of that system.
When I work with clients on interviewing projects, I break the process down into a pipeline with stages; pre-phone screening, phone screening, interview, and post-interview.
I use this pipeline, and systematic approach to both manage the job search process and make improvements to increase your probability of securing the position you desire.
Taking a systems approach and phasing the interview process takes much pressure off the process and allows you to focus your energies on the right aspects of job searches. I tell my clients that, “your mission is to get to the next phase, that’s it.”
We then start by looking from their perspective what is working well and not working well. As previously discussed often clients don't have a realistic sense of how long the job search process will take, and once we cover that, typically we start the analysis with two questions
- What’s working well?
- What’s not working well?
Usually, clients have a pretty good sense of both, but not always, and because they haven’t adopted a systems approach, they don’t know how to make the needed changes.
So I start the process by asking what they think is working and not working, often but not always they tend to know where the issues may lie but usually they haven't’ any idea.
Ask yourself what’s not working well? You likely have a pretty good hunch of where the problems might be. What verbal feedback, if any, are you getting? What is it specifically? Write it down. These are the first places to start your system improvement.
How are things going in each of these sections?
- Pre-Phone Screening
- Phone screening
- Post Interview
Let’s start with the first stage; the pre-phone screening-I define this part of the interview pipeline as all activities that occur between submitting a job application up to the point of being phone screened.
If any of the below you are experiencing the phone screening stage is an excellent place to start reviewing and looking for opportunities to improve.
- Not getting the phone screening opportunities in the time frame you want
- Not getting the volume of the phone screenings you want
- Not getting the “right” phone screening opportunities
- Not getting any communications or form rejection letters
The pre-screening is an essential stage as it is the start of the interview process and directly correlates to the number of interviews, and finding the ultimate fulfilling job opportunity. Remember we take a systems approach to remove the emotion out of what can be a very emotional situation, your value as a human being does not in any way correlate to the number of interviews you get. Seek your validation elsewhere, maybe facebook likes.
So how does this lack of perceived movement at this stage happen?
Common pitfalls areas include any of the following:
1. Have you accurately accessed the amount of competition you have for a job?
Unless your job involves risking almost certain death or touching anything that most human beings don’t want to touch physically, I can assure you the competition for the job you are seeking greater than you think.
In fact, according to Glassdoor, the average corporate job opening gets over 250 resume submissions. Of these submissions, roughly 4 to 6 people will get calls for an interview, and one person gets hired If you accept this statistic, it means that you have a 0.4% chance of being hired on a resume submission.
I present statistics like this not to be discouraging but to bring reality into your job search, and this alone can be a good reason you aren’t getting to the point of phone screening.
- Take some solace in the reality that you have a higher chance of being accepted into Harvard than getting the typical corporate job. Yes, I am taking some statistical license, but you get my point. Give yourself a break.
- Review the resume and submission recommendations below
2. Have you appropriately sized your job market?
Do you know how many of people in the United States that do what you do? How about globally? What about the number of open positions?
Supply versus demand also impacts the job market. More or less, the better the job perks offered, the fewer the open positions available to pursue. If you are in a job category that has limited openings or not a lot of demand you could be waiting a while for a call.
- If you can’t be in a job market where the demand is higher than the supply, consider looking adjacent industries that you could easily transfer into with your current skill set. Looking at adjacent sectors will increase the pool of possibilities open to you while remaining relevant.
3. Have you underestimated the intensity of your competition?
If you think you aren’t competing for that job, you are making a significant strategic error. The higher the ladder you climb, the better the job, the better the company, the fiercer the competition. Any of these will directly impact the number of phone screenings you get.
Niche yourself as much as possible
- Be a lifelong learner and do the work that puts some distance between you and your competitors
- Never underestimate the value of education or training to be a differentiator.
4. Are you realist with the time it will take to find a job?
Chances are you aren’t in hot pursuit of a position in the sign spinning industry or selling mind-altering substances from a street corner so it will take you longer than you realize to find the right job. In fact, one industry rule of thumb is that for every $10,000 a position pays it will take one month to find a position. That means a $100,000 job will take you about ten months to get.
Other sources give a range between 45 and 90 days to find a job, but I think that is the both atypical and overly ambitious. I advise my clients to be prepared for six months, a year, or even longer depending on their jobs and age. An unrealistic job search timeline will also impact the phone screenings as most companies still hire on their schedule, not yours. Either way, the search will take longer than you anticipate, that I promise.
Prepare yourself for a long game here. Desperate will get in your head and negatively impact your interview process, not to mention negotiations.
5. Is your resume problem focused and designed for the needs of the hiring manager?
A recruiter or hiring manager on average looks at a resume for six seconds. SIX! Think about that the next time you are reformatting your resume for the 157th time because you think it is the reason you aren’t getting a phone call.
The recruiter or hiring manager is short on time, pulled in several directions, and sifting through hundreds of resumes. You need to design your resume for the eyes of the hiring manager with a problem to solve it increase the chance of your phone ringing.
- Adopt the perspective of the user when it comes to drafting your resume, and not the view of an author.
- Create a problem-solution focused resume that shows you have the skills to solve the hiring managers problem
- Your resume absolutely matters, but there is a rapidly diminishing rate of return on the time you spend on it. Your time is best spent networking
6. Have you customized your resume to the specific employer?
If you are using the same generic resume for every job you are applying for, that is a problem. If the company or recruiter feeds your resume into any software system the lack of company keywords, buzzwords, or job requirements will negatively impact your appearing in the results. Even worse is having your resume make it to HR or the hiring manager and they recognizing that your resume is a generic document not tailored to their position.
- If it is a job or company you care about your best bet is making a tailored resume for them, every time
- Match their top requirements to your top skills or abilities
- Use a word cloud to identify themes or keywords relevant to the company and infuse them in your resume
7. Are you an internal candidate or working your network to become a referral candidate?
Internal hires or referrals fill 70% of posted jobs; some quote this as high as 85%. Therefore, your chances of getting a job by carpet bombing your resume across the internet are pretty low, and therefore so is a call to set up a phone screening.
It is always best to seek a job from the inside, use your company for your career growth and development first
- Consider finding contracting or temporary positions in companies you want to work for as a way in
- Grow your network intentionally by adding people who work in the companies you want to work in
- Use your network to find and ask for a referral before you apply for a position. Many companies offer financial incentives to employees for candidates they refer who become successful hires.
8. Are you applying for a position that you honestly aren’t qualified?
Hope isn’t a job strategy. Yes, many of the job descriptions out there are confusing, others list so many requirements no one human being can fill it. However, we both know what I am talking about here. We aren’t talking about jobs that you are qualified for, or have almost all of the qualifications for; we are talking about jobs you outright have no business applying for, the job search equivalent to moonshots with no science background to build it.
Companies, at least the smart ones, list realistic job requirements and stick to them as a way to thin the job herd. It’s business, not personal, so you are better off spending your time and energy focused on jobs you can land. If they require five years of experience and you have none, move on, don’t waste their time or yours.
- Apply for jobs that you are genuinely qualified for and meet the requirements.
- Applying for jobs you have no real qualifications for can get you blacklisted by the company or the recruiter
- Don’t take it personally
9. Are you oversharing too much or not having a presence at all on social media?
Digital is forever. Thank God I grew up in a time when my version of SnapChat was a Polaroid OneStep Camera. However, today potential employers are looking at your social media to reduce the pool of job candidates. In fact, 93% of hiring managers go online to research candidates, and of those that do they end up with a negative impression 55% of the time and eliminate the candidate.
On the other hand, you do want to make the most of LinkedIn. Surprisingly many people don’t use it, or at best have a significant footprint in it. LinkedIn is where you do want to have a professional presence with as much valuable content as you can. Potential employers will use it to research you, see your work samples, read your reviews, and even find back channels to talk to someone who may know you.
- You may want to go back and clean up your social accounts before it is too late. Also, maybe take a break from your Twitter rants while you are in job search mode.
- Make the most of LinkedIn
10. Did you follow instructions to the letter?
Yes, following the instructions may seem of questionable value. They may ask for a cover letter, and we both know that there are varying opinions on their value. Companies may want you to extract data from your resume and insert it into individual fields in their software platform. I agree it’s all a pain. However, with 250 candidates for one position employers need an easy way to thin the herd and one of the easiest is to weed out someone who either can’t or won’t follow instructions. Don't be that person.
- Follow the instructions and look for another opportunity to demonstrate your critical thinking skills
11. Are you late to the job application party?
There is no such thing as fashionably late to this party; you are just late. So the later you are the higher the chance your resume won’t ever have a chance of a review. Be hyper-aware of the age of a job posting, if the position is one you are genuinely interested in submitting your problem focused, employer-specific resume asap is your best bet.
- Apply as early as possible to the jobs you are interested in, don't waste time
- If a job posting is new, get on it, the earlier, the better
12. Is the job posting a formality or already filled?
Not much you can do here other than being aware of the fact that many positions you see posted are there as a formality despite having a pre-determined internal hire. Others are job postings long ago that have been filled but won't die on the internet. Either way, these are from potential employers that won't be calling you and can add to the job search frustrations.
Factor this into your response rate if you are measuring your resume submissions to callbacks
Pay special attention to how long a job add has been posted. If it is more than 30 days it probably isn't because they haven't found the right candidate, it is more likely an old ad
There's a lot of noise on the channel, try and focus your efforts as much as possible on jobs or companies that really matter to you
Acknowledging one or more of these common pitfalls is the first step to putting in a strategy to fix them and the best way to increase the potential for getting a phone screening
Next, we review the phone screening itself.