CAREER ADVICE

3 Tips to Go the Extra Mile on Your Job Application

Diana Costa, Freelance writer, Brazil

22 March 2016

Last weekend I sat down to help a good friend who is preparing for a career move, and I started thinking of the last time I was searching for a job myself. I remember the range of emotions felt, from insecure and self-doubting to confident and – eventually – successful.

What determined the emotional shift was the amount of effort I put into my preparation, specifically in what entails demonstrating that I could do the job. A few months ago I published a post about creating your fake CV then making it a reality, and I was surprised by the response I received.

A lot of co-workers and friends who read it approached me with the same sentiment: we have not been properly prepared to get a job throughout our education. We have, however, been prepared to do the job.

And that is what I wanted to share with you today. 3 tips that have helped a lot of candidates who applied for jobs I was recruiting for, and which may help you get a job you are qualified to do but maybe unqualified to get. What do I mean by that? Well, a lot of us are qualified to do a lot of things, but getting a job requires a specific set of skills that may not play any part in actually getting the job done. The trick is showing that you can do the work.

When companies hire, they are essentially looking for someone to solve a problem for them. What most of them search for in a candidate is the answer to these three questions:

1. Can you do the job?

This question refers to the candidate’s competencies and abilities that will allow him or her to do the job they are being hired for. Plain and simple, can this person perform in this role?

2. Are you going to love the job?

If a candidate can, through their interview process, tick the “yes” box for this question, it means they have managed to demonstrate that they can rally when things get difficult and that they will be a positive influence to those around them. Change and frustration happen in all jobs, but when people truly love what they do and who they serve, they can thrive even in the most challenging conditions, and being able to assure your future employer of that can be key.

3. Can we work with you?

A “yes” to this question means the hiring manager believes you can be a good culture fit. This means you can learn from mistakes, deal well with feedback and be managed (if applicable).

Now, a simple CV+ Cover Letter + Interview can get you where you need to be, but it is likely that you will have to send dozens of application packages to get a response if that’s all you’re doing. Even if you are optimizing your CV using the right industry keywords, you may still go unnoticed even if you are qualified for the position.

Understanding these principles, here are some things you can do that will get you noticed for sure:

1 – Friendly Stalking:

Every step of your job search is easier with a little intel. Get acquainted with the people who have the job you want inside your company and others in the industry. It is so easy to find them on LinkedIn and you should never underestimate people’s willingness to help.

Finding the current hiring manager for the position you want and sending them a friendly message with a couple of questions about the role or industry can show that you are willing to go the extra mile and are not afraid to find out if and how you can actually contribute.

Avoid questions such as “Do you think I’m a good fit?” or requests like “Can you help me through this process?”. Ask questions that show you have high standards for yourself and, at the same time, that you are genuinely interested in this person’s experience and what they have to share. “What do you like the most about this company’s culture?” or “What are the challenges that someone in this role will face?” are two questions that can get you some really useful answers while maintaining your image of someone who is really interested in contributing.

Tell them you are contemplating applying for the job, and show knowledge by asking specific questions about the role. That keeps you on the hiring manager’s radar when HR sends your CV over.

2 – Free Sample:

The “free sample” is the ultimate extra-mile. It’s – in my opinion – the best way to showcase your skills and help you stand out from the crowd. This basically consists in studying the role and providing value before you even get an interview.

For example, if you are applying for a content marketing role, creating a ready-to-implement proposal for a social media campaign including budget, expected ROI, and featuring the company’s products (that you already know about, because you are that proactive!). This is not a portfolio sample. It is an actionable, valuable product of your time and effort, that demonstrates not only your level of skill and knowledge, but your proactivity and willingness to go the extra mile. This can apply to pretty much any role you can apply for, regardless of industry, size or level.

Another benefit of this strategy is that, once you send your “free sample” to the hiring manager, they become aware of what you are capable of doing. That will not only make them want to hire you, but it will make them fear loosing you to their competition, and that can make the whole process a lot faster for you!

3 – The 30-60-90 plan:

Although this resource has become more and more common as time goes by, never underestimate a good plan. It is incredible how many people show up for their first day at work with no idea of how things are going to unfold, and that’s exactly what the 30-60-90 strategy is. It is basically a plan for what you are going to do in your first 30, 60 and 90 days in the job, and it shows that you need little guidance and are proactive enough to create your own path within the limits of the organization and of your own role.

You can add your 30-60-90 plan to your cover letter, and that will most certainly make you stand out from the crowd. No idea how to start? No problem! Here are some ideas that apply to most industries and roles:

30 Days: In my first 30 days, I will focus on listening, learning and studying the company. By day 30, I should be proficient in the company’s internal processes and systems, and getting familiar with the culture elements that are relevant to my role. I also intent to invest time in getting to know my teammates and team leader, in order to establish trust and learn from their experience.

60 Days: By day 60 I intend to have mapped my internal and external stakeholders, gathering feedback and aligning expectations with each of them for the coming month. I would also like to have established clear milestones and goals, by studying the best practices in the industry, the company success history and the margin for innovation.

90 Days: By day 90 I expect to have accomplished x, y and z metrics of the role, at which point I will seek the feedback of the relevant stakeholders in order to evaluate the impact of existing processes, as well as innovative ones.

There you have it, guys.

I know this seems like a whole lot of work, but I promise you it will make a huge difference.

“Focus on the jobs that get you excited and go the extra mile to get them!”

 Diana Alves Da Cunha Costa

Diana Alves Da Cunha Costa

Social Media Strategy | Community Engagement | Freelance Writing | Digital Marketing

Diana is a bussiness consultant from Belo Horizonte Brazil. She is passionate about leadership development and personal growth. Her dream is to live in a world where education is stimulating, disruptive and encouraging of each individual’s uniqueness.

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