5 Steps to Landing Your Dream Job Interview

“I have been applying for jobs for the past 3 months and no replies” – how often have you encountered this situation in your life or heard this from a friend or a colleague? Probably a lot!

Over the past few years, I have been trying to analyse the changing behaviours of both job seekers and employers/recruiters to try and understand how I can get better at recruiting people for my startup as well as advising Knowledge Officer program graduates and my friends. This article is the result of my experience in the tech world over the past 10 years, reviewing over 1000 job applications and helping over 100 people preparing for their next career move.

To make this short, I will focus this piece on the job seeker angle and cover the employer/recruiter angle in the next one. I will also focus more on junior and mid-level job seekers as I believe those are the ones facing the biggest challenges at the moment.

Thinking about applying for a job in your country or abroad? Doing a career transition? No response or feedback? Here are 5 pointers that might move you faster in the process and land a job interview.

Step 1: Invest in your digital presence

One mistake that many candidates do is that they miss investing in their resume and/or LinkedIn profile. A massive mistake! And by “investing” here, I am not talking about buying a template or updating your profile with the latest experience, focusing on your achievements/impact and not just listing your responsibilities, etc. These things are definitely a no-brainer. I am talking about real investment in terms of showcasing your portfolio in the past years and most importantly, what you can bring to the table.

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. Pick the title that you are applying for, e.g. “Junior Account Manager.”
  2. Search for 10 job posts hiring for this role in your country (or the country of your choice) from 10 different companies
  3. Study the responsibilities and qualification sections for each job post and come up with patterns and trends.
  4. Go back to your LinkedIn and Resume and make sure to use a similar language, titles, keywords, and highlight your achievements in the areas relevant to the patterns you have seen. I have to be clear here that you should not fake anything as you might win an interview, but you will lose big time in the screening!
  5. Seek recommendations from experienced people holding this title now and ask them to share it on LinkedIn. Try to let them write within the scope of the role you are applying for and not a general endorsement.
  6. For every different title you are applying for (in case you are applying for multiple titles), do the same process. Yes, this means you will have a resume that you use for each new title that you are applying for, e.g. one for Account Manager and another one for Customer Success Manager.

Step 2: Think like an employer / recruiter

This is a crucial step as it can save you months of rejections or no replies. You need to really study the companies you are applying for and put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, why are they hiring for this role? What’s unique about their company? How can I stand out and present myself with a profile as equal if not better than their existing team members holding the same title? You will need to think outside the box!

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. Come up with a list of companies you wish to apply for, and they have current openings that match your desired title.
  2. For each company, study their industry dynamics, how they talk about their employee’s DNA and culture from their website, and look at 5+ profiles of employees within the same title on LinkedIn.
  3. Come up with a list of 3-5 points that are common between those profiles and how the company describes their work environment.
  4. Revisit your objective in the resume and/or LinkedIn profile and your cover letter (if requested) to make sure those points are highlighted in your application among the role-specific points we discussed in Step 1 even if that means having 3-5 different versions of your resume based on the industry and the company.
  5. Focus on your domain knowledge and skills within their industry and company’s focus and not just your technical and role-specific competencies. Companies do appreciate domain experience and knowledge A LOT! e.g. Are you applying to an EdTech company and you have previous experience in this industry? Talk about that!

Step 3: Search like a Pro

It takes a lot of good research skills to be able to spot the right opportunities that are currently available on the market at the right time. You need to be a quick detective that can find the right opportunities within a week of them getting posted and it takes more than just hitting the job links you receive from some newsletters or a quick search on LinkedIn. You need to have an effective search strategy and find a process that’s repeatable and efficient.

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. Based on your country, find a top local platform (excluding Google and LinkedIn) that is famous for having most of the job posts in this market. You can ask your 2-3 senior friends in your network to quickly pick one. This could be Hired in the US or Indeed, in the UK, for example. Create job alerts for the relevant search queries on this platform to receive daily relevant jobs on your email. If your search query is returning more than 100 results, your search is probably too broad.
  2. Familiarise yourself with Google job search by typing the title you are applying for e.g “Account Manager jobs in the UK” and then hitting the jobs widget to view all jobs using the right search operators to increase the relevance of the search results and use the filters available. Create job alerts to receive daily relevant jobs on your email.
  3. Familiarise yourself with the LinkedIn job search. Use Boolean Modifiers to get the best results and use every search filter possible to target the most relevant jobs to you (Hit “All Filters” to view all the filters available and don’t rely on the default ones only). Create job alerts to receive daily relevant jobs on your email.
  4. If you do Steps 1-3 really well and optimised your search effectively, you don’t need to do anything now but read your daily 3 newsletters and start applying.

Step 4: Apply for jobs like a Pro

Do you think that applying for jobs means that you do the previous 3 steps and hit the apply button on those jobs with the best application given the tips mentioned so far? That will get you probably a conversion from application to replies of probably 5-10%! In order to double this conversion rate and get more replies (and hopefully interviews), you need to go beyond the standard application process and apply through different means in parallel using your network.

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. For each application you submit, send LinkedIn request to connect with at least 5-10 people of the same company. Pick those within HR, Talent, People departments and those having the same title you are applying for. Don’t send requests to management or very senior people as your chance of getting accepted or having a conversation will be lower compared to junior or mid-level.
  2. Wait for 2-3 days till they accept your connection request.
  3. For each accepted connection, start to have a conversation on LinkedIn messaging asking them more about the company’s culture, more details about the role, what they are looking for, their selection process, their timeline, etc. Don’t talk to more than 1 person from the same department, i.e. talking to only one person within HR, one person within Talent Acquisition, etc.
  4. After you finish the conversation (whether on messaging or via a call if they accepted) and depending on how friendly this person was, ask them if they can endorse your application or get you some feedback.

Step 5: Invest in quantity with acceptable quality

Have you closed enterprise-level B2B sales before? You start with an average lead list of 20-30 accounts (aka companies) that you want to target, research them really (I mean “really”) well, build a lead list of 3-5 for each company (think of people who work for those 20-30 companies) and start messaging/calling those people within a considerably high personalised approach. This is what you want to be doing when you are applying if you want to land a job interview! You are a B2B sales manager trying to close a deal worth £50K+ and investing heavily in your application quality while at the same time having a target of applying to anywhere between 60-100 applications in your journey to landing a job.

Get to the point! How can I do that?

  1. Come up with a list of 20 companies you wish to apply for jobs at based on your interest and the currently available openings (check Step 3).
  2. Build a simple excel sheet to track your applications adding these columns: company name, the title you applied for, job application link, the date of applying, and application status (rejected or accepted for screening)
  3. For each job application, follow steps 3 and 4 but make sure you don’t apply to more than 10 per day. Your quality will deteriorate after that, and you will start “mass-applying” which is easy to spot by recruiters.
  4. Every 3-5 days, study the excel sheet and measure:
    • Your application rate: How many applications you submit per day. If you are making less than 5 applications per day, you should know that your process will probably take more than a month to secure a job.
    • Your conversion rate: The percentage of your applications that received a rejection or acceptance. Try to segment this by Job Title in case you are applying for multiple titles at the same time. If your conversion rate is below 15%, you should revisit Steps 1 and 2

Landing a job interview in today’s market and especially during a pandemic is understandably hard. Still, those tips are meant to help you stand against the crowd and optimise for a higher probability of moving into an interviewing or screening stage. Finally, I have to say that to succeed; you need to “enjoy” the process and not just do it. Believe me, employers and recruiters can easily spot the mass-application-style job seekers in a few seconds, and you should not be among those.

Do you have any other tips to share or want to share with me your experience after applying those tips? Would love to hear from you so that everyone can benefit! Please leave a comment and I will be updating this post every week based on your comments and feedback.

Do you want to increase your chances to get hired? Start learning today with Knowledge Officer and talk to our career advisors who will help you land your dream job interview. Explore the Knowledge Officer plans here.

About the author:

Ahmed El-Sharkasy is currently a Co-Founder of Knowledge Officer with more than 10 years of experience working in world-class startups in the Middle East and Europe. He was also the first engineer at Onfido, the leading identity verification service in the UK and Europe. After going through one of the top accelerator programs in Europe (Entrepreneur First), Ahmed is currently the CEO and Co-founder of Knowledge Officer, a London-based EdTech startup with a mission to build the shortest and most efficient path to employment and career progression. He has also been included in the list of top 100 influencers in Edtech by the EdTech Digest. 

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