Applying for jobs? Treat recruiters like customers

I’m in the midst of my biggest job hunt since 2003, when I was finishing undergrad. The competition was fierce then because jobs for freshly-minted BAs were scarce. This time around, I’m applying for MBA summer internships in consulting. Hiring has picked up in the past few years, but competition is still fierce because a lot of MBAs want to be consultants and consulting companies don’t bring on as many interns as they do full-time, post-MBA hires.

I’ve done the research and the networking, and now it’s time to submit applications. My resume bears only vague resemblance to its former self and I’ve also transformed my approach to writing cover letters. I’m proud of my writing prowess, but found that my resume and – especially – my cover letters were coming across as a lot of blah blah blah.

This is not good.

The problem?

I was writing them for myself, from my own perspective. I knew what I wanted to say and thought I was saying it.

The solution?

Treat recruiters like customers.

These poor souls have to slog through hundreds of applications, many of which contain a lot of blah blah blah, well-intentioned but vague – and therefore meaningless – blather. I’ve been in their shoes and, for me, it became a game of quick scanning and rapid elimination from contention of most candidates.

Their problem is too many candidates that are too poorly differentiated. I can’t solve that larger problem, but I can make sure I cater to them as my customers by:

  • Supplying relevant information. Recruiters don’t need or want to know everything I’ve done in the past 8 years. Cutting out the irrelevant information makes it so much easier for them to see that I’m a good fit for the job.
  • Structuring the information. Recruiters need to scan, so make it easy. Use consistent formatting on the resume and cover letter. Keep lines and paragraphs short and to the point. Use bullets or tables in the cover letter to facilitate scanning.
  • Using specifics. Generalities sound nice, but they are like online dating profiles where the dude says he’s funny and smart, rather than showing that he’s funny and smart. Don’t say “I’m a strong leader” or “I’m a people person”, show it. Don’t say you want to work for XYZ company, show that you’ve done your research and have solid, specific reasons why.

When you treat recruiters like customers you make their lives easier. You differentiate yourself from the pack by showing that you know what’s relevant to them, and that you aren’t someone who spams his/her resume to every job post. Customers don’t like spammers. Follow these rules, though, and you’re likely to be on the other side of the desk at XYZ company, wishing job candidates would treat you like a customer.

P.S. Thanks to my smart and funny sister for inspiring this blog post.

This entry was posted in Customer behavior, Marketing, Product design, Usability. Bookmark the permalink.

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