Job hunting is hard work.
Prepping a resume. Updating your online professional profiles and cleaning up or checking the privacy of your personal accounts. Then there’s the work of finding the companies and jobs that look like a fit for you. Finally, you apply. More work.
How can you make all of that work pay off?
My answer to that question always begins with this advice: make sure you stand out.
Presenting your skills, your attitude, your enthusiasm and your professionalism in a way that makes you stand out from the rest of the pack will set you up with the best chance to win the prize all of those applicants are seeking: an in-person interview.
How many times have you heard yourself say that you could excel at a job you see posted and you just know you could land the position – if only you could get an interview?
Here are five steps to get you there – and some hands-on tips and tests you can use to better plan your interview-winning approach.
Step 1 – Send a resume you can be proud of.
The first step to landing an interview begins with your resume. Your resume is the hiring manager’s first impression of you. To move ahead in the hiring process, present yourself well by ensuring that your skills and your fit for this position leap out at the reader. Make it easy for the hiring manager by avoiding odd and distracting fonts, colors or format, and by using well-chosen titles and white space to make your resume quickly scannable, skimmable and readable. If you list an objective on your resume, make sure it matches the job at hand, every time you hit “apply”. Otherwise, your resume will quickly make its way to the “No” pile.
Here’s a good test:
Pretend you are seeing your resume for the first time. Do you see how you are qualified and worth learning more about, in a 60-second glance?
Step 2 – Send a cover letter. Yes, a cover letter.
Want to get an interview? Stand out. How, you ask?
Send a concise and well-targeted cover letter.
No, cover letters are not relics of a long ago past. Your letter could be as simple as a brief, formatted note typed into the cover letter box on a job board, but it is an essential part of your application if you are to stand out from the crowd. A good cover letter sounds like you, carries your enthusiasm for the job onto the page and in a brief paragraph or two, conveys why you are applying for this particular job and and how you fit the description and requirements. Using the job ad to make your case, tell the hiring manager why you are the right person for the job,
Here’s a tip:
Use the ad to write the letter, pointing out how you meet the requirements listed. If you like apps, use Wordle or a similar tool to pull out the key words that are repeated in the ad, then use that word cloud to size yourself up as a match and make your case in the cover letter. Be honest, persuasive and concise.
Step 3 – Follow up with the hiring manager.
Three to five days after you submit your resume, call the hiring manager to follow up. In the real estate industry, people skills are essential, and so it is essential that you call, live and in person, to follow up, unless the ad specifically asked for “no phone calls”, a request that is rare in the real estate industry. Calling lets you demonstrate your personality, your phone skills, your genuine interest in the position, and your professionalism.
Who do you call?
Try to find the name of the hiring manager from the ad, the company website, LinkedIn, or someone you know in the industry. If you find yourself without a name in the end, call the main number of the company and ask to speak to the manager hiring for the job you saw listed.
When do you call?
You are much more likely to reach the hiring manager during the first hour or two of work in the morning.
What about voicemail?
Call at least twice before you leave a voicemail, to give yourself a fair shot at reaching the manager live. It’s much more difficult to demonstrate who you are in a voicemail.
Step 4 – Speak to the hiring employer as you’d speak to her clients.
In your cover letter, you told the hiring manager you were the right person for the job. Your follow-up call is your chance to show her (or him) you are the right person. Do you have the communication skills and professionalism to excel at this job? Show her.
Title, escrow, mortgage and other real estate-related companies look for employees with urgency, natural customer service skills, professionalism and the attention to detail to avoid mistakes. The follow-up call is your chance to demonstrate those industry-specific skills.
When you call, be sure that you know which job you applied for and that you have your cover letter elevator speech (why YOU?) top of mind. The manager likely receives dozens of resumes a day, so introduce yourself clearly and don’t expect her to recognize your name or remember your application right off the bat.
Do use the call to tell the manager how interested you are in the position, and how strong a match you see between your skills and motivations, and the job she described in the ad. Don’t waste your call asking only if your resume has been received.
Step 5 – Be flexible.
Remember, you’re making this call because you want an interview for a job you expect you’d enjoy. You’re asking for the manager’s time and thoughtful, thorough consideration of your application. You’re asking for a chance to sell and prove yourself.
Don’t act like this first phone call or a subsequent phone interview is a negotiation, where you lay out all of your demands. Employers want to interview candidates who are genuinely interested in the company and the job, They want to interview candidates who are excited about the work and motivated to succeed in the hiring process.
If you want to get the interview, and potentially the job, be flexible. Be flexible about your availability to interview by phone or in person, and about how quickly that interview is scheduled. Be flexible about the company’s hiring process and the steps the hiring manager is required to take to ensure you are the right person for the job, including recent employment references, background checks, even assessments and skill tests.
Do you want to be considered for this position? Show it, by demonstrating your commitment, your motivation, and your cooperation with the employer’s process.
Here’s a good test.
Imagine you were hiring someone to work with or for you, at a company you cared deeply about. What would you look for in the person you selected? How would you expect the interested candidates to act, during the process? Now take a good, honest look at yourself. Are your interactions with hiring managers, live and through job boards, sending the right message?
Do you stand out as the right candidate?