University Career Center

Individual who stands out

A slight change in how you approach your job or internship search can help you increase your odds of landing an interview.

Have you ever wondered how certain people seem to have job or internship interviews lined up all of the time? Or why someone you know, who on paper isn’t that much different from you, seemingly has dozens of offers to choose from? While their resume might be similar to yours it's usually their approach to the job search that really (and literally) separates them from all of the other people applying.

Understand Your Odds Of Getting An Interview

There are multiple reports on what the average number of applicants per job is and they vary from source to source. Some say 118 applicants per job opening and others say up to 250. Your mileage may vary according to which organization and which industry you’re interested in. The main point is that if you’re only applying to jobs by submitting your application then your resume and application materials are going to be facing a lot of competition.

Know What An Applicant Tracking System Does

Did you know that most organizations now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATS are designed to quickly push out non-qualified applicants by using a set of questions that immediately disqualify people if answered incorrectly. ATS also use keyword filters that grade by the context in which keywords are used, the number of times that they are used as well as where they appear in the resume and application materials. If a person’s keyword score doesn’t past the minimum cut-off score then they’re automatically disqualified as well.

It’s estimated that as much as 50% of applicants are disqualified before their resume even reaches an actual person. Immediately, we see why getting an interview by simply submitting an application is such a rarity.

Take Advantage Of The Employee Referral Option

There are 2 key reasons why it’s better to go through the employee referral route:

1. Most Employee Referrals Get Fast Tracked

2. It’s Usually In The Recruiter’s Best Interest To Hire A Referred Person

Most Employee Referrals Get Fast Tracked

Nelson Schwartz, from the New York Times, recently wrote an article that included great examples highlighting the benefits of being referred by an employee:

“Riju Parakh wasn’t even looking for a new job. But when a friend at Ernst & Young recommended her, Ms. Parakh’s résumé was quickly separated from the thousands the firm receives every week because she was referred by a current employee, and within three weeks she was hired. ‘You know how long this usually takes,’ she said. ‘It was miraculous.’”

“Although Ernst & Young looks at every résumé submitted, ‘a referral puts them in the express lane’ said Larry Nash, director of experienced and executive recruiting there.”

It’s Usually In The Recruiter’s Best Interest To Hire A Referred Person

Put yourself in the hiring manager’s position. Your job is to fill the position with the candidate that you think will be able to add value to your organization. You need to do this while minimizing costs both in the short term (e.g., costs associated with the hire) and in the long run (e.g., costs associated with having to hire someone else at a later point).

If your data shows that applicants hired from a referral have greater job satisfaction and stay longer, and that the recruiting process was shorter and less expensive, then isn’t it in your best interest to hire someone who was referred by someone already working there and who understands the demands and expectations of the job?

Be Strategic And Take The Road Less Traveled

Reports have shown that employee referrals only make up 7% of applicants but that they account for 40% of all hires. Be strategic and understand how going through an employee referral puts you in position to give yourself much better odds.

Not every organization employs an Employee Referral Program (ERP) so it’s important to do your research on organizations you’re interested in to see if they have one in place.

If they do, great. Go to LinkedIn and search for the organization you’re interested in — a list of people of who work there, along with how you’re connected to them, should appear. See who you know there, or who you could get to know, who could refer you. 1st and 2nd level connections are ideal. If you’re thinking about reaching out to a 2nd level connection be sure to reach out to them through one of your 1st level connections first.

If you don’t know anyone there that could potentially refer you then don’t fret. Do like Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, advises and “use social networks to boost your networking power… start following people in [your] industry on Twitter and connect with them on LinkedIn. Through these networks, research employers and reach out to them through trusted friends and colleagues who might be able to make introductions.”

Ryan also has great advice on expectations when reaching out on social media, saying that “It’s helpful not to expect a set outcome from these encounters, rather to be open-minded. Learn things; get to know people. The best part is that communication doesn’t have to be all that formal. Even just talking about common interests or sharing an interesting article can build trust and open doors.” In addition to social media, his advice on expectations works well for employee referrals too.

And finally if the organization you’re interested in doesn’t have an ERP in place don’t overlook the importance of referrals. Even for the organizations that don’t employ an ERP a referral is still a good way to help set yourself a part from your competition.

Photo Credit: i k o CC BY 2.0