The REAL Secret To Success In Applying To Jobs (and how to fix the blackhole in HR in the process)

Over the past few months I have seen several articles that talk about the ‘secret’ to being successful to applying to jobs. They all have some sort of special recipe or magic formula that you can use to increase the number of call backs you receive.

I am here to tell you that there is only one rule for true success in applying to jobs online, in the paper, or wherever they might be.

     (getting on my soapbox and getting ready to shout from the mountain tops)

It’s simple really – if you are qualified apply, if you aren’t don’t.

Let me give you an idea of what I mean:

  • Knowing a sales manager doesn’t make you one if you have spent the last five years working as an administrative assistant.
  • Having a dream that you should be an accountant doesn’t qualify you to do taxes if you have never taken the first accounting class.
  • Having interacted with software developers doesn’t mean that you are ready to sit down and write world-class code – it means that you have interacted with software developers.
  • Walking into a garage and picking up a wrench does not make you a mechanic. It makes you a person that picked up a wrench in a garage.
  • Going to the doctor and getting a prescription does not qualify you to be a medical device or pharma sales person. It means you got sick.

     (getting off of my soapbox)

Need some help in deciding if you are qualified for the job? Here are a few tips:

     (hang on, need to get back on my soapbox)

  • Look at the job title. If you have never held that job title, the title below it or above it, or anything close to it you should not apply.
  • If you do not meet the top REQUIRED requirements (which are different from the nice to haves) you should not apply to it.
  • If the job calls for a Ph. D. and all you have is an associate degree you should not apply for it.
  • If the job calls for travel and you cannot travel you should not apply for it.
  • If the job is too far of a commute for you or requires a relocation and you cannot move do not apply for it.
  • If the job says in plain English, “candidates without experience in ____ will not be considered” and you have not, do not apply for it.
  • If you have applied to one job five times already and you have not been contacted about it you are probably not a fit in the employers eyes and you can quit applying to it.

     (getting back off of my soapbox)

There is a lot of chatter online and off about the black hole that exists in HR and recruiting. If people would apply ONLY TO jobs that they are qualified for it would free up a lot of time and a lot of attention for those candidates that do meet the qualifications and I think a lot of the problems would correct themselves.

I know that I will get some flak for this post but it is something that has needed to be said for some time now.


Until next time, good hunting, and good luck!


5 responses to “The REAL Secret To Success In Applying To Jobs (and how to fix the blackhole in HR in the process)

  1. All of what you have said here is appropriate and good advice. However, in my years of experience and observation there has been a number of instances where the so-called “transferable skills” have played an important part in choosing the right candidate for a position. As an engineering manager I have had the opportunity to interview a fairly diverse group of people, and have recommended hiring several people who turned out to be outstanding employees, who learned much of their specific task-related skills on the job, and who likely would not have even come to my attention had it not been for an HR “screener’s” ability to think outside the box and bring in someone with a strong skill set that didn’t quite match the stated specs for the position. As a candidate I have also been in that situation myself.

    • Phillip Featherstone

      Well said Michael. I have found that a lot of HR people don’t think outside the box and it is especially true of professional recruiters. To be fair to recruiters, they have to make a living so they are not going to try fit the proverbial round peg into a square hole

  2. Right, I have too many times that HR screeners only look for key words and disregard the rest. Mr Ballou must have HR screeners who are chess players (as am I) and who don;t just see see words, but see people who have transferable skills like me of leadership, work ethic, decision making and seeing beyond the problem via strategic thinking and strategy alignment skills. I would be happy to hear from Mr. Ballou and share my skills. Finally, some positions description are written in such a way as the first few lines are leadership skills to mange people and resources while the last few lines are looking for a technician. In fact, while the title may scream “leader needed” it often implies “we simply want a skilled technician and hope we get both.” I would say that if you want a technician please assure the title is true to the task, otherwise don’t write PDs with technical focus is you are looking for a manager who can learn to speak the language. Thank you for allowing me to share. With 35 years managing projects, people and resources I appreciate Mr. Ballou’s courage in expecting his HR team to – think in order to serve his best interest.

  3. The problem I have noticed when applying for jobs is that MOST companies write job requirements wanting skills far above what is necessary to actually perform the job.I guess the legal concept of BFOQ is no longer adhered to this many years after the hard fought legal cases were won. The thing that that amazes me is non technical “Entry Level” positions have 3-5 years experience and a degree as requirements.

  4. I am in agreement with the post above if you know someone at the company to which you are applying, or if you have a skill set that is quite obviously transferrable. Otherwise, I’m in agreement with Matt that applying is waste of your time and the time of the person hiring/screening. I take time to modify each job opening to specify the requirements of each hiring manager. If they say they need someone with a specific certification, my job is find them someone with that certification, and like Matt said, I’ll use language like “required” vs “preferred”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s