You might not want to hear this, but research is the key to success before and after you apply online. It would be great if you could send an application to the company of your dreams; get a call from HR to invite you to an interview, the only one you’ll have; and be offered the job. But that’s not how it works these days.
Most people, about 60% based on multiple surveys I’ve conducted during my webinars, only apply online. And probably many of them sit and wait for the phone to ring. These are the people who are in for a lengthy job search.
But it doesn’t have to be this way if you are applying online. There is work you’ll need to do in order to be successful. Six steps to be exact.
Before applying online
1. Understand the most important skills for the position
Consider this scenario: you see a job on LinkedIn.com for a Senior Marketing Manager, Website, Amazon Advertising. It’s right down your ally. You’ve been a marketing manager for more than five years and before that a marketing specialist. However, there are certain qualifications you must meet to be considered for an interview.
The job of which I speak was advertised two weeks from this writing. First things first, to get an interview for this position, a job candidate must satisfy 6 Basic Qualifications. This means if you can’t meet these requirements, you don’t get an interview, no matter what.
Aside from the 6 Basic Qualifications you also have to show you meet Amazon’s 7 Responsibilities/Requirements. It doesn’t end there. Amazon has Preferred Qualifications which are the least important but, nonetheless relevant. These are the three list of requirements you need to meet.
2. Research the position
Most of the questions asked during the interview will be about the position at hand. Therefore it’s important to research it extensively; at least two hours is advised. Going back to understanding the basic, specific, and preferred requirements, highlight what you consider to be the most important requirements.
Sarah Johnston, an executive career coach, writes:
“If you have the job description- you have a cheat sheet to prepare for your interview. Always read through the entire job description as it provides the pain points of the role and specific qualifications that the hiring company is looking for.
Understanding the companies pain points or problems, like Sarah says, is essential to getting a leg up on the competition. Many job candidates don’t consider how they’ll be the solution to a company’s problems, but you’ll be the difference maker.
3. Write a targeted resume
I tell my clients that in order to pass the applicant tracking system (ATS) process, they must write resumes that contain the required skills for the job at hand. The ATS has recently been referred to as a file cabinet that stores resumes until hiring authorities need to call them up by using a Boolean search.
Other important characteristics of your resume must, at the very least, include:
- Brand a candidate with a value proposition or headline. This is a two-line statement that includes the title from a job add and below that some areas of expertise.
- Contain accomplishment statements with quantified results. Agreed, not always possible to quantify results with #s, $s, and %s but they have more bite to them.
- Work history within 15 years. If you have all accomplishments, your resume can be as long as three pages. Acceptation to the 15-year rule would be executive-level job seekers.
- Be readable with paragraphs no longer than 3 or 4 lines. No one likes to read 10-line paragraphs. Shorter ones are more digestible.
It’s also important that your resume passes the person/people reading it. Hiring authorities are people, after all, so you must satisfy them with a well-written resume that speaks to their needs.
Note: It’s not all about writing a resume that passes the ATS process. Virginia Franco, Executive Storyteller, Résumé & LinkedIn Writer, writes:
Because applicant tracking systems (ATSs) are so inundated with résumés, increasingly more people are recognizing the wisdom of throwing their hat in the ring via alternative channels that include a focus on networking and getting in the door through referrals.
After applying online
4. Research the company
The simplest way to research the company is to visit its website and peruse it for many hours. But as a marketing manager, you realize the the information on the company’s website is marketing material. In other words, it’s smoke and mirrors.
So dig deeper. Scour the company’s site for press releases and annual reports. Be prepared in an interview to talk about the good and the bad and the ugly. I tell my clients a question you should be able to answer is, “What are some of our company’s problems?” Really.
To know more about the company’s pain points talk with someone who works for the company. In the case of Amazon, you’re in luck. One of your neighbors works there, and he is willing to reveal some problems under anonymity.
The neighbor reveals two things you weren’t able to ascertain about the company’s pain points. Even though you read press releases and annual reports, motivation among the staff is low and there’s a need for more snappy material. This is great intel, as you will use it to modify some of your answers to the questions if need be.
5. Use LinkedIn to research interviewers
If your reaction to this step is, “But I’m not on LinkedIn,” get on LinkedIn. This is where roughly 78% of hiring authorities are searching for talent, including the people interviewing you.
Given that the recruiter informed you of the four people who would be interviewing you, you can look them up on LinkedIn either by names or titles. Let’s say the recruiter told you the hiring manager, HR director, the VP, and the CFO will be present in the interview; but didn’t give you their the names. Take the following steps:
Go to the company > click on the number of people who are on LinkedIn > go to All Filters > type in their titles in the keyword field. Voila, you have the names of the people who will be interviewing you. No read their profiles carefully and see if there are any commonalities. This can make for good fodder in the interview.
Why do I want to research the interviewers, you ask? It’s nice to know what commonalities you have with them and how to mention them in the interview. Let’s say you and the CFO went to the same university or like hiking. Bazinga, great fodder for conversation.
6. Prepare for the interview
Sarah Johnston offers great advice on how to prepare for the interview based on the job ad:
“What should you do with this information? Prepare a talking point for each skill mentioned. Make sure you always include RESULTS. Look for how the success of the role will be measured.
“For example, if it mentions that you will need to deliver results in client adoption and engagement and account retention, prepare STAR (situation, task, action, results) stories that speak to this. Invest the time to critically think through job description. This will allow you to share your experience in a way that matches or connects with the role.”
Adrienne Tom, Executive Writer and Career Coach, emphasizes the need to practice answering interview questions you predict will be asked.
While it may feel a little silly to speak to yourself on camera, recording practice of your most compelling answers will help you see what’s working and what could use a little tweaking. While it may feel a little silly to speak to yourself on camera, recording practice of your most compelling answers will help you see what’s working and what could use a little tweaking.
Now you’ve made it to the interview by following the steps above. This was done with minimal networking. Am I saying don’t network? Quite the contrary; networking is a more effective way to land a job. But, if you’re going to apply online, don’t simply sit by the phone waiting for the employer to call. Take action.