Last year I advertised a fairly senior project management position at Saros, and because we work completely remotely the reach of the recruitment was effectively global. Despite nothing but our own networking to promote the vacancy, the response was, unsurprisingly, pretty extensive. I know times are hard and jobs are scarce, and a role offering completely flexible working was always going to have a good response, but the quantity and quality of applications was staggering, and not entirely in a good way.
The job required applicants to have great attention to detail and ability to follow instructions carefully – so the ones who could not sent an email with a specified subject line correctly did not even trigger the auto-responder to send them the job pack. First filter!
Even from those who managed that and despite offering a detailed application pack making the minimum standards of previous experience absolutely clear, we were inundated with applicants who were so staggeringly wide of the mark as to be nothing more than a waste of their time and ours. We were very flexible as to qualifications, and industry experience – I often like to recruit people from outside of the research industry who bring knowledge and contacts in from other sectors and add breadth to our collective knowledge – but the experience of managing work of the type required was non negotiable. As was the requirement to demonstrate either experience of, or genuine aptitude for, working remotely without direct supervision. No applications where I had to extrapolate or guess on either of these two factors made the cut.
Fortunately once we had weeded through all the ones which must have known had no hope, we were still left with a range of applications of very high calibre, from which we were ultimately able to make two appointments over the coming months. Sorry, recruitment agencies: you can keep spamming me all you like, but the days when we paid you 10% of a salary for finding us someone are over. The network is what matters today.
After applications had closed though I had a contact from an acquaintance, who had missed the shout-outs and whom I had not known was in the job market at that time. He was overqualified for the role, could have done it probably fine, and may well have been a fit for the team - but something about his approach really put me off, and it’s this I really wanted to write about: to help you in your next contact with a potential employer.
The opening words of his expression of interest were ‘This job would be absolutely perfect for me, because…” Following which he outlined in detail his skills and experience and matched them to the job requirements in a text-book way… BUT to me, it felt all the wrong way round. Whilst his passion for the role was evident, it was all about why it was so good for him.
What I wanted to know was, why would HE be perfect for the job. The role I was recruiting was ultimately all about delivering customer service at a senior level, about representing Saros to our clients in research, technology, and manufacturing… What I needed from this applicant and others was the recognition that in this context, I was the “client” with the job on offer and he was the “supplier” pitching to be chosen.
When we are pitching to a new prospective client we make sure that our enthusiasm for their project and brand is evident, along with our commitment to do our best work. But we are careful to indicate exactly how our experience and credentials are a good fit with their needs – it is never ever the other way around! They are paying the bills and we are providing the service.
When I am interviewing a potential new colleague, I need to know what they are going to contribute to our organisation. I am afraid that in this economic climate, and knowing I have done my shortlisting effectively, I take the enthusiasm as a given – if we end up interviewing someone who it turns out is not passionate about the role then we have done our job wrong (and that has happened, people don’t always reveal their full hand in writing).
What we need to hear about is why they are right for the job, how they are going to fit in to the existing team, and what they are going to bring to it. SHOW me why the job is perfect for you by fitting your needs to ours, not the other way around.
Whether you are marketing yourself to your next full time employer, or your next paying client, never ever forget this. They are the customer, they have to make the buying decision. You cannot see who/what else they have on offer, from which to make their purchasing decision.
For potentially overqualified applicants in particular, this is super-important. The strange economic times have torn up traditional career paths, and many employers find themselves in the position of interviewing previously senior and high-earning applicants, or those who have been in business for themselves. It is even more critical that your approach in no way conveys desperation, condescension or arrogance… not that my friend’s enquiry quite did any of these things, but it could easily have been read that way if I’d not known him.
So, if you are trying to get hired, keep the customer-supplier relationship in mind at all times. What are you going to do for them, that makes you a better bet than anyone else? Because that is what we want to hear about, to make our decision an easy one.
Most vacancies at Saros Research are initially advertised on our Facebook Page, incidentally.
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