Increase your chances of getting to interview

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I’ve just completed a recruitment brief for a small organisation and thought it might be a useful time to reflect on some of the things I have learned, or been reminded of, to help recruiters and applicants get to interview.

Firstly, and no apologies for restating some obvious points, it is really important as a recruiter to get the brief right before you start spreading the word. This includes not only the job description and the person specification but also some of the key job terms and conditions – salary of course, but also location and length of contract. There may be other details that can be agreed later on in the process but you will need to be clear about the what, who, where, when and how much.

Next be sure that the interview date you decide upon is one that the interview panel can all do (and ideally have 3 people on the panel) and that you have a venue available for the time of the interviews. Allow a budget for the cost of interviewing – meeting expenses, travel costs for candidates etc. Think about where best to advertise and for how long – ideally allow a month and avoid major holiday periods if at all possible. Use your networks to promote as well as any paid for recruitment media you can afford. It is also vital that the key decision makers are available at the critical points in the process and that they appreciate the importance of communicating with each other and responding quickly when decisions need to be made.

Assuming you do all this and with a fair degree of luck of timing you will succeed in attracting a good number of potential candidates. In the current job market you will probably receive far too many good applications to shortlist for interview and you need to create a structured process which is thorough, relevant, simple and consistent.

As an applicant here are 8 practical tips on what can you do to increase your chances of getting on to the interview shortlist:

  1. Make your case clearly and in sufficient detail that anyone reading your application will see that you meet each of the criteria in the person specification. Spell it out. Don’t assume that they will know what you know.
  2. Speak their language. There should be plenty of clues in the job application pack as to what they are looking for. Reflect it back to them.
  3. If there are essential criteria it is essential that you have them and give evidence in your application. (However don’t be too narrow in your interpretation of what they are asking for and rule yourself out unnecessarily. Ask your family and friends to help think about what you may have done which is relevant).
  4. Desirable criteria are just that – a wish list which may tip you into the ‘yes’ pile if you and lots of others have all the essential criteria. Don’t let the lack of a desirable item put you off applying if you meet all the essential criteria.
  5. Pay attention to detail – check and double-check for spelling mistakes. Especially get the name of the organisation right. I was amazed how many people failed on this obvious essential.
  6. Put your name, not just your initials, on each page. Covering letters or emails may get separated from the rest and an anonymous application is worthless. Similarly put your name in the title of each electronic document. Your file name CV is fine for your own records but not for a recruiter faced with 50+ CVs which have to be opened to identify each one.
  7. Make your application easy for the selection panel to read. Remember they are ploughing through loads of applications and expecting them to cross reference between supporting statement and CV will not do you any favours. It’s your job to do as much of the work for them as you can.
  8. Make sure that your application is tailor-made for the job. Generic covering letters and CVs with no supporting statement will not succeed. You need to spend time preparing. Save yourself and the recruiter the time wasted in dealing with an application emailed in haste.

Finally, remember that getting to interview is a major achievement and if invited you should congratulate yourself for getting that far. Keep a copy of your application so that when you get the invitation you can use it to prepare for getting the job. But that’s another blog.