It’s a jungle out there – and never more so than when you’re applying for a new job. If only it was the other applicants alone that you had to worry about. But no. First, your resume has to make it through the applicant tracking system, which essentially means you have to write your career history in a format that is easily intelligible for a computer (and still fascinating for a human reader). Then you have to navigate the tricky waters of phone or coffee interviews to make it through the “gatekeepers” at the business, often long before getting a face-to-face meeting with a recruiting manager.
By now, the actual interview feels like the culmination of a number of small successes, rather than the beginning of the selection process. Then, of course, to narrow the field further, there might be psychometric, personality, and reasoning tests, follow-up interviews, and a referencing process. It’s a marathon-length Tough Mudder, not a short and sharp sprint, to get a job these days.
Each stage is designed to weed out the least suited to the role at hand and to ensure that only the fittest survive in this race for a new job. Make sure you’re in with a chance with these ideas about how to apply effectively.
1. Get a Bit Guerrilla
From the world of guerrilla marketing comes the idea of guerrilla job hunting. The basic idea is that you cannot simply rely on the traditional approach to finding a job, in which a solid role is advertised and application processes are clearly set out, with selection and recruitment based on a typical set of competences and experience requirements. The truth is that this is not how the job market works (and maybe, it always was an idealized version of reality).
Guerrilla job hunting proposes that you choose the companies you would like to work with in the first instance, before finding contacts within these businesses to nurture and help you secure a role if it arises – or even persuade the business that they need to create one for you from scratch. To make this work for you, look at the network you already have within businesses you aspire to join. Use networking events and social media to help you arrange informational interviews and identify if there are (or are likely to be in future) job openings that might suit you.
If there are, then hold off applying through the traditional methods, and instead find ways of getting a referral through contacts to help you effectively sidestep some of the first stages of the recruitment process. Be prepared to show your insight into the business and the challenges faced, and even to try some unconventional methods like mailing a white paper addressing these issues directly to the hiring manager if you think it might help your chances.
2. Follow Up
If you had an initial silence or even a lukewarm response from a recruiter, then don’t be afraid to follow up with them. If you simply never heard from a recruiter, then check out the advert to make sure it didn’t specifically say that only successful candidates would be contacted. If this is the case, then calling up is probably futile and could actually damage your future chances if the same business or agency is recruiting for roles you like at a later stage.
If it doesn’t specify, or if you have already made it through the initial stages, then feel free to follow up with a gentle tickle to make sure you’re front of mind if you have not had feedback after a few days (or the agreed timeframe if there was one).
If you had an interview already, then a nice way to do this can be with a brief thank you email or even a handwritten note. Thank the interviewer in a genuine way, and reconnect over something that you discovered you both had in common. If you found out you shared a love of a sports team or hobby, for example, lighten the tone and make yourself memorable with a quick and humorous reference to this.
3. Be Persistent
One of the major issues with finding a job is that it takes time and energy. These are not things that anyone tends to have in abundance, and if you are looking for a role at the same time as being in fulltime employment, it can be especially tempting to give up after one or two false starts. Don’t.
In the survival of the fittest that is the modern job search, it is the persistent that get what they want. The more times you apply, the better you get at crafting applications and tailoring cover letters, at presenting yourself in interviews, and following up with hiring managers. It is an iterative process, and for all but the most charmed of us, it is only by being persistent can you get good enough to land the right job.
4. Manage Your Own Emotions (You Are Your Own Worst Enemy)
While being persistent, you must also watch your own energy and emotions to make sure that you’re not becoming jaded and robotic (and thereby making it far more likely that your job search will take a negative spiral). There is no way of avoiding the emotional roller coaster that comes with finding a new job, so have a plan in place to best manage it instead.
Set yourself targets and milestones, whether that is a certain number of applications made per week or a set time limit every day to carry on with refining your application documents. Factor in time to rest and recharge – working all week and then spending the weekends buried in the process of job applications is not sustainable in the long-term.
You might already have a coping mechanism to manage short-term periods of stress – if you don’t, then this might be a good time to find one – be that visiting the gym, blasting out loud music, or getting away from it all with an evening of escapist comedy. Plan something that feels like a reward for your efforts. If you want to survive, you are going to need it.
Much advice about finding a job is based on the practical steps that you must take to land yourself a role. But don’t underestimate the emotional effort it takes to keep going on, even when things are tough. It can be a drain, you will experience frustration and anxiety, and in this fraught and tense atmosphere, it is no wonder that only the fittest survive.
Have a solid plan, and be prepared to go a bit guerrilla on the job hunt. Be persistent enough to follow up, and use your common sense to review and check in with how you’re feeling about your progress as you go. Schedule yourself in some rewards that will keep you motivated through thick and thin, and you just might make it through the other side of the job hunt jungle.
Do you have any other job application tips you’d like to share with the rest of? Let us know in the comments section below!