‘What is the right way to apply for a job? The answer is, ‘Many’. Right now, there are hundreds of individuals actively applying. All of them will look up relevant job posters and apply. A few may follow up regularly, and fewer still will make the effort to reach out to the recruiter, while a handful will take a proactive approach, which will make them stand out. A proactive approach is what candidates need right now to maximise their chances of landing a job.
What is a proactive approach?
A proactive job search implies making an extra effort, while applying for a job. It is almost similar to a sales pitch that professionals make. Before pitching to a client, a sales or marketing professional collects data, drafts a presentation — essentially identifying what the client is looking for— and then tunes the pitch to reflect the needs of the client. The whole exercise involves research and curated hard work to bag every single advertiser. This is exactly the kind of effort that candidates today need to put in, to stand out in a large crowd of applicants.
“If a person comes in through a referral, I will listen to that person and if that individual impresses me enough, I may even be willing to find a role for them.”
The typical way to apply is to send out resumes for multiple jobs posts and then wait for an answer. With the market as it is right now, this same technique may not bear any fruit for most. By the time a candidate applies for a post on a company job board, or responds to a post on social media, the opportunity would have already passed. This is quite a common occurrence.
The truth is, there is never a good time to apply for a job. Earlier, the economic slowdown had everybody worried. Now, it is the pandemic causing job losses and drying up opportunities. In the near future, it may be something else, may be a surge in demand for new skills.
“As a recruiter, if a candidate makes an effort to step into my shoes, understands the pain areas and provides a viable solution or perspective, then I will be willing to set up an interview at least.”
However, going the extra mile will help capture a recruiter’s attention from among a sea of applicants. It is not just about sending out a video CV or doing anything different for the sake of it. Understanding what the company needs from a candidate, and how the applicant can bring a difference to the role is what being proactive entails. It is about coming up with a solution or an idea and using that as a part of the job application.
Such efforts do not go unnoticed by organisations. Amit Sharma, head – central HR, Zee Entertainment, looks at ‘applying for a job’ with a design thinking approach. “As a recruiter, if a candidate makes an effort to step into my shoes, understands the pain areas and provides a viable solution or perspective, then I will be willing to set up an interview at least,” says Sharma.
For instance, if an individual is applying for a communications position, she or he can make the effort to understand the kind of stories that an organisation is coming out with, relate to them and plan a strategy to reflect the values of the company better.
Even if the company is not hiring, such efforts never go to waste. “Even if there is no position available at the moment, I would still want to have a dialogue with such people. They will come to my mind first, whenever there is a vacancy,” adds Sharma.
Reach before you pitch
Researching, planning an approach and then pitching to the recruiter is not enough. Rather, it is not the first step. There is a simple reason why.
Organisations follow a process while hiring. Even if, say a musical CV gets noticed, most of the creative efforts are likely to get lost in the crowd. Applications are first sorted on the application tracking system (ATS) or artificial intelligence (AI), before the recruiting team sorts through the shortlisted names. It is only towards the end that a manager or person in charge conducts an interview. If a candidate has designed a presentation after painstaking research, she/he may not even get shortlisted or make the first cut. This is because, the company is merely sifting through CVs and not looking for anything different.
How to pitch
This is where referrals come in. To ensure maximum juice out of their efforts, candidates will first have to put one foot inside the door. This essentially means connecting with somebody already working in the company —a friend, an ex-colleague or an acquaintance — and asking for a referral or finding a way to connect with somebody in the organisation.
“If a person comes in through a referral, I will listen to that person and if that individual impresses me enough, I may even be willing to find a role for them,” admits Aditya Kohli, CHRO, Clix Capital.
This way, the candidate finds the right avenue and the right person to pitch her/his candidature. A referral usually works best, even more than directly getting in touch with the recruiter or the head of HR in an organisation. Recruiters receive hundreds of e-mails directly in their mailbox every day, asking for open positions. This method has reached its peak and it is time to find a different approach now.
Kohli adds that this is also a good time to create a passive network, which may come in use later on. For instance, in the next two or three months, candidates can consider reaching out to and connecting with professionals already working with organisations they are keen to join, even though there may be zero vacancies available at the moment. This is a good time to build relationships. It may take a certain degree of effort and energy, but will come in handy later on.