After going through almost 200 resumes in the last few weeks, and many hundreds more over the last year, I can't keep this in anymore. If you're applying for a job and not even getting a first round interview, you're probably making some easy-to-correct mistakes in your approach.
So here goes, the 5 things I suggest to think about when you apply for a job.
- Spell my company's name correctly, and beware of copy and paste. Wildbit get's autocorrected to Wildcat, and I've had someone actually apply to "Fitbit" because they copied from a previous application.
- Think about the person that will probably read your application. I am a woman, and co-founder of the company. I am not a "sir". We're a small team, so there's probably no "hiring manager". Instead, try addressing your letter to a founder, or someone who is leading the team you're applying to work with. Paying attention to this detail shows the kind of work you'll be able to do when you come onboard.
- Research the company. What products do we build? What's the team like? Show me that you want to work here, and that it's not just another place to apply. I learned in college that you always spend at least 30 minutes before applying to a job (or coming into an interview) researching the team and the company. What have they done recently? What's the latest news about them? What's their culture like?
- Tailor your application to the job. Please don't send the same application you sent other companies. If I'm looking for a designer, tell me about your design skills. Not your project management experience. Or your experience as CEO of your side project. I want to know those things too, of course, but with a 100 applications to read in one day, I need to know how you'd help our team in this particular position.
- Don't try to pass off experience you don't have. For example, we ask you to check off some boxes for requirements that are important for us. Do you have previous experience working in a Saas company? If you say yes, but your resume clearly shows me you don't, it doesn't look good.
Most importantly: Be thoughtful and intentional
Your primary focus should be to make your application stand out in the sea of crappy ones. In all of our applications, I ask a single question to give each applicant a chance to show me they want to be here: "Why do you want to work at Wildbit?" This is extremely important to me, because I only want people who value the team and culture we've built here. We're a close group, and you need to want to be here over anywhere else. This question allows people to self-select out, so I read this answer first. It's my first step to disqualifying an applicant.
Your primary focus should be to make your application stand out in the sea of crappy ones.
Real examples of how NOT to answer this question:
- Frankly, I just need a job.
- I want to work remotely and you do remote work.
- Wildbit will help me grow and become a better developer/designer.
- I want a change of scenery.
- I want to work for a company where I can grow and also learn other valuable skills that will make me better.
- I think this is a great company and I would love to work for you.
Disappointing answers usually come in three varieties: Generic, selfish, or just plain weird.
The first and third are clear and just not worth discussing. The third is bad, and you can fix it. I don't want to know what Wildbit will do for you. I know what we can do for you. I want to know how you can help our team and make our products and our customers better. Sell me on yourself. If you can't convince me here, how do you think you'll do in an interview? Some of the best responses spoke to our team culture, showed me that you read our blog, our team pages, looked at our products. That you understand the role you want to play and that you can help Wildbit be better.
Looking for a job is hard, and hiring is hard. You can increase your chances dramatically by paying attention to the details and standing out. You are completely in control of your chances of getting an interview. Just spend the time to apply. I doubt you'll do well by blindly applying to a dozen places. Find the ones you really want, and invest time into getting them.