Looking back, I have been really fortunate in my career to have largely avoided one of the most horrific experiences known to humanity – applying for a job amongst a sea of other people. I have either been in the right place at the right time, known the right person, or managed to convince someone that I am worth taking a punt on before a job was even advertised. As someone who has hired plenty of people and helped plenty of people with their careers over the years, I am often asked for advice about the best way to navigate such a soul-destroying process. This article is to share the best advice I can in case you or someone you know is in this position.
Unfortunately, applicant experience is not yet a buzz word
In the world of market research, terms like Customer Experience and User Experience are everyday terms. It’s all about the experience! In the world of Recruitment and Human Resources, Applicant Experience is a bit like respondent experience. Everyone talks about it, but no real progress has been made in over 20 years! And the desire for lower costs and great efficiencies continues to make things even worse.
These days if you are applying for a role, chances are you will have to do it through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which means entering your resume data for the twentieth time in a week, being asked to answer stupid questions about yourself, and probably even being asked questions by a computer with your answers being recorded on video with no human interaction whatsoever (hmmm, sounds again like respondent experience!). The fancy ATS’s will also use technology laced with artificial intelligence which is really just a different way of saying keyword matching. Hint, if you don’t include the right keywords, you have absolutely no chance of being considered by a fancy AI-based ATS. (Just like in market research where bots dominate, there are now AI resume bots designed to impress the ATS AI in some sort of weird AI-Bot fantasy world, but that is for another article).
And then you wait….and wait…and hope that one day someone might find the courtesy to contact you. I have known really good people, who would be an asset to any company, to have their ego completely destroyed through poor recruitment processes. In other words, most recruitment processes really suck which brings me to my best advice…
Remember, you are not your occupation. You are way more than that!
Yes, this is my best advice. The first time I say this to people, I can see their shoulders slump slightly as they realise I am being serious. Where is the advice that will guarantee job-seeking success? To answer this, I need to ask you a question…
Who are you?
If your answer to this question contains a reference to your occupation, then this advice is most definitely for you. If you are a Quant Market Researcher, or a Quallie, or a Sales Person, or whatever, then you are probably going to land yourself in trouble because that is what everyone does. They attack their job search activities thinking that they are only their occupation. Most job applicants forget that they are more than their role. For example, I am a lover of all things sport, of music, of having a glass of red wine (ok, maybe more than one), and dreaming of the good old days where travel was a thing. You are a rich tapestry of all sorts of experiences and expertise and colour and flavour, and the minute you forget that, you become one dimensional. Your job application will start to fade into every other job application that the poor person who has to go through them has to read. Yes, imagine YOU are the person who has to read through five hundred applications, what would you be looking for? Sure you want the right experience, but there are plenty of those people around at the moment. What is likely to catch your eye is someone who stands out, who has a bit of character, who is going to provide the team with additional character.
It’s about getting to the interview.
Whether or not you get the job you want will rely on your performance in an interview. Which means you need to get an interview! That is the first and most fundamental step in the process that everyone overlooks – the process of getting to the interview. People who get interviews are those that stand out from the crowd. When you are putting together your application, you need to be in the frame of mind that keeps in mind your entire being, not just your occupation. Job search activities are exhausting, and they will eat you alive unless you keep reminding yourself that you are more than just your job. By remembering this, it also helps you express yourself in a way that others will find appealing. You have a story to share, and so share it. In a world of vanilla resume’s and linked in profiles, you want to be caramel choc-chip with an hint of organic mint.
This doesn’t mean telling your story in thousands of words, brief is good. As a market researcher, you know you need to present bland facts in creative ways. Creating a job application should be a creative process, you want to stand out instantly.
Once you get the interview, the same advice applies. Have the mindset of taking your full self to the interview, not just the Quantie or the Quallie. The reason this advice is so powerful is that it (hopefully) stops you from falling into the trap of only discussing Quantie or Quallie things. And if you are looking for more job-search tips or a way to express your career story in a better way, all Research Society members can join www.fllair.com for FREE.
Author: Jason Buchanan, General Manager – Insights and Innovation, Optimum Consulting