Read any job search advice column and you’re nearly guaranteed to run into the age-old question: “How can I make my application stand out?”
Seeing it over and over again may make the question seem trite, but there’s a reason it’s asked so frequently.
With technology advancements and market disruptions, the answer’s always changing — and what was once a hard-and-fast rule may fade into fiction.
The problem? Those out-of-date pointers tend to linger around for a long time.
To go beyond trite to tactics, I spoke with Rachel Bitte, chief people officer at Jobvite. In their latest survey, Recruiter Nation, Jobvite spoke to more than 1,400 recruiters to determine what does and doesn’t matter to them in a job application.
They’ve found plenty of evidence that some of the most persistent application stories have no basis in fact. Below are the top four that can damage your job hunt:
Myth 1: A great GPA means great job offers
It’s common for high-achieving, recent college graduates to rest on their report card laurels when it comes to finding a job, but even seasoned career veterans sometimes expect their cum laude status to wow recruiters.
Although it may be hard to believe, 57 percent of recruiters say that GPA has little to no influence on their decision. Instead, they most often prioritize relevant work experience, Bitte says.
So what happens if you’re just embarking on your professional career or your dream job is in a different field than your current one?
“While you can’t invent job experience or go back in time to change your previous experience,” Bitte says, “you can change how you frame it.”
Whether it was data analysis, team management, or social media skills, you probably took away something from a past job that carries over to a new position — make that connection clear on your resume and in interviews. Unless your previous experience is radically different from the job you’re applying for, a diverse work background can be a real asset.
Myth 2: Recruiters worship cover letters
Cover letters had their place at one time — personalized notes used to be one of the best ways for recruiters to get to know a candidate before bringing them on-site. But with the ready availability of video interviews and personality tests, cover letters have gone the way of the VHS, with 63 percent of recruiters saying they don’t matter.
Make it easy for hiring managers to quickly grasp how you match up to their requirements by developing and submitting a “Job Candidate Packet” rather than a traditional cover letter and resume. In it you will match up the job description specifications with your skills, experiences, and results in a clear, easy to use format.
Even with cover letters on the decline, “your personality needs to shine through during the application process,” advises Bitte. To do this, try adding a few hobbies and interests to your LinkedIn page, and make sure any communications to recruiters sound like something you would actually say (while keeping it professional, of course).
If you’ve already reached the interview stage, then it’s even easier, since recruiters often ask questions with the express purpose of getting to know you. Stay calm and be genuine — if the company is truly a fit for you, they’ll appreciate your authenticity.
Myth 3: Social media is nothing but trouble
With so many stories about people getting fired due to social media gaffes, it might seem like the best solution is to withdraw from social networks entirely. But according to Bitte, “If you play your cards right, you can make a lasting, positive impression on recruiters” (92 percent of whom use social media in their jobs).
In particular, Bitte recommends, “Highlight your work with charities or professional organizations to show that you’re a passionate and dedicated person.”
At the end of the day, “The odds that your recruiter is checking you out online are nearly certain,” Bitte says. “It’s up to you to decide whether their impression will be positive or negative.”
Myth 4: It’s easy to get in on merit alone
In the job market, for better or for worse, who you know really does matter — 78 percent of recruiters agree that referrals are the number one source for quality hires. So don’t be shy about reaching out to someone who works at your dream company — it just might help you get your foot in the door. Asking friends, family members, and even former coworkers to introduce you to a contact is perfectly acceptable if it’s done courteously.
If you don’t know anyone involved with your dream company, then use LinkedIn to find an employee with whom you can strike up a conversation. If nothing else, you’ll walk away with more information — and in the best case scenario, they’ll refer you.
It may seem overwhelming to keep up with a constantly-changing job market, and Bitte acknowledges that it’s tough to navigate the many avenues to a job. But one piece of advice, she says, will remain constant no matter how much the recruiting landscape changes: “The job seekers most likely to emerge victorious will be the ones who do their research.”