My company, CareerFuel, recently placed two ads on Craigslist —one for a PR professional and another for a Film professional. My ads were very specific regarding requirements such as camera and editing equipment, accuracy, etc. Both advertised positions were freelance and we responded to every email received.Let me preface my review of the hiring process by stating that yes we have a jobs crisis with four times more job seekers than available jobs (seven if you include those working part time when they prefer full time and those who have given up), based on data from the Department of Labor. However, judging by our review of the 100+ resumes received, I also believe we have a “candidates crisis”.
Here is what you can and should do to separate yourself from the crowd and get the interview.
Move Fast. Our ad for a filmmaker received 25 responses in the first 45 minutes alone, many from very impressive candidates. We were so overwhelmed that we pulled the ad before the day was over.
Make Your Email Response Specific to the Ad. Underline key words in the ad that indicate what the employer is seeking. Use these to create a customized response. Consider using bullet points with the key words and then detailing how you fit the need.
Clean Up Your Act. That means no typos, misspellings, grammatical errors or formatting mistakes. Over 80% of the candidates who responded did not pass this initial test. Some of these issues can be avoided by saving your resume as a PDF. This ensures that your efforts won’t be foiled by unforeseen formatting changes in your resume, should the hiring manager have a different version of Microsoft Word.
Make it clear that you want the job. This may seem obvious, but based on my recent experience it is not. Employers want people who want to work for their company. They need to know you share their passion and have drive, creativity and follow through. Go beyond the resume to demonstrate your interest. I responded to all candidates with my name and/or company, both of which are easily found on Google. Suggestion: do a little homework—come up with some original thinking or suggestions and communicate them quickly.
Follow through on what you promise. Just as it seems to be the rare candidate whose writing doesn’t have typos, it is equally unusual for people to do what they say they will do. After initially contacting the potential employer, follow up immediately with a writing sample, reference, availability for further interviewing, etc. By seeing something through you demonstrate your attention to detail as well as your interest in the job. Suggestion: in your next communication say “Agreed upon next steps” and then clearly outline them.
End Things on a Good Note. We let the PR professional go in less than a week because she was not on top of her game. As an employer, you can’t tell everything from the interview process. Candidates who said “thank you” to my email informing them we had hired someone else were sent to my save folder while those who didn’t went to the trash. As an applicant, keep in mind that things happen—a company’s needs can change, sometimes things don’t work out as the employer had hoped, people get a better offer, or someone gets sick. Keep yourself in the game by finishing on a high note. Because you never know…
Getting the interview after responding to a job ad is easier than you think. You have a lot of control, if you just choose to use it.