Living cheaply is not only cutting your expenses, it can also mean increasing your income. 😉 In this guest article, hiring expert Jenni Juvonen gives you some basic tips how to increase your chances for getting hired for entry-level jobs.
In my experience doing entry-level recruitment, it’s surprisingly easy for an applicant to stand out. One would assume that, if the job requirements are ‘great communication skills, excellent oral and written competence in English, good IT skills, attention to detail, motivation to learn’, that everyone would check the boxes, but that’s far from the truth – most people just claim they check the boxes.
To stand out – in a positive light – in the eyes of the hiring manager, there are a few simple tricks. In my experience, only the top 15% of candidates do them all.
1. Follow the instructions
If a cover letter is required, send one. “Please find attached my CV” is not a proper cover letter. If anything else is required, such as your earliest possible starting date, the position you are applying for, or examples of your previous work, make sure you attach them. If you are asked to send attachments in a particular file format or write something specific on the email subject line, that’s what you should do. This is how you demonstrate your eye for detail, not by writing that you have one.
Simple, but oh-so-elusive.
2. Demonstrate the required skills
Have a close look at the job requirements: Are there any skills that you could already demonstrate in your application? Chances are there are.
I already mentioned eye for detail, but skills such as written communication skills and language proficiency are equally easy to demonstrate. For example, if you are a design student, don’t send your CV as a .doc written in Times New Roman, but instead showcase your skills by making something more visually appealing. It’s not a bad idea for anyone to have a nice-looking CV, but it is especially important if visual skills are one of your selling points.
Another way of showcasing your skills is to attach your portfolio, or links to your previous work. You can even create something for this exact purpose, such as a few blog posts to demonstrate your capability of producing different kinds of text, or a YouTube video to showcase your video editing skills.
3. Don’t shoot yourself in the leg
It’s not enough just to say you are skilful, as you might inadvertently convince the hiring manager that you aren’t.
The thing is, many people claim to have all kinds of skills, but many of them also manage to display a lack of those skills within the first ten seconds. For example, people might claim to have an eye for detail, but have misspelled their own name or the name of the company they are applying for. Ouch, red flag.
Or, the applicant might claim to match the requirement of having a perfect command of the English language, while their cover letter clearly proves otherwise. “I am interesting in this job,” ironically, shows that you are not interesting to the hiring manager.
I have even encountered people who claim to have a friendly customer service attitude, but their response to an interview invitation was so unfriendly that they got disqualified even before the actual interview.
4. Know what you are applying for – and show it
It’s not at all obvious that most people read the announcements of the jobs they apply for, and a great way to stand out is to show that you have.
Too many people send stock cover letters where they describe their skills and experience in a generic way, but make no reference to the job description or the company. Since everyone wants to hire someone who is motivated, this is a great opportunity to demonstrate that motivation. This is particularly important for an entry-level job where many candidates are qualified, and a key differentiator between different applicants is whether the hiring manager thinks they would be motivated.
The mistake I used to make was to assume that if the job requirements list “good oral and written communication skills” that it would be enough to include a paragraph in my cover letter describing my proficiency in said skills. Now, after reviewing hundreds of applications, I know that there is a big difference between “I have a lot of customer service experience” and “As you are looking for someone with customer service experience, I would be an ideal choice.” Even though the information content of the two sentences is nearly identical, the latter is more likely to convince the hiring manager that you have at least read the job announcement. The more such references you make, the more you communicate your interest, motivation, and understanding of the job you are applying for.
Be what they are looking for
From the hiring manager’s perspective, it would be ideal if all applicants were great matches to the position being advertised. Fortunately for the applicants, that’s not the case, and simple improvements to your application can easily bring you to the top.
Jenni Juvonen is the Head of Customer Success at Inbot, and an experienced recruiter for entry-level positions. Just once, she would love for someone to start their job application with “Ahoy mate” and end it with “Yarr!”. Read more articles by Jenni here.