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Recruiting blog part 1: How to get a job in three simple steps

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Or at least, how to get into the final 15% of applicants.

We recently went through a relatively short hiring process for a (paid) intern position within the insights team here at finder. It was a fairly standard affair as job application processes go. At the top of the ad, we encouraged applicants to “please read the whole description before applying.” At the very end, we had a little section as follows:

Application process

If this sounds like the kind of opportunity you've been looking for, please apply below. Use your cover letter to introduce yourself; we want to know who you are, what you've worked on and why you think you'd be a fit with our team. Please also answer the following questions in your cover letter - What news sources do you read regularly? What is the extent of your experience using Microsoft Excel?

Despite the application being open for less than a week, we had a healthy stack of CVs at the end of it. From here, it’s simply a case of cutting this long list down to a final list of credible candidates to interview. You'd be surprised how easy it is for a potential employer to cut the wheat from the chaff. What follows are three simple rules you can follow to avoid getting cut.

Three simple rules

Here’s the thing - “stack of CVs” is a misnomer. In most cases, when you apply for a job online, your CV will never be printed out. It’s simply too much of a waste of time, paper and ink to print out every application. Generally, companies who handle their own job outreach will use some sort of application aggregator.

This is a service which operates across several job sites simultaneously, keeps track of ads and collects applications on each platform. When a manager sits down to review all applications for a role, what they’ll likely be looking at is a list of names on a screen with details of documents uploaded. This is the first stage where it’s possible to get cut.

At finder, we don’t want to hire people who haven’t put in the time to read the full job description, which asked fairly clearly for a cover letter of introduction. Believe it or not, a lot of applicants don’t read the full job ad. In this case, it was possible to immediately cut 55% of applicants from the running because they never bothered to upload a cover letter. So here's rule number one:

1. Always include a cover letter

We've now got less than half of the applications left to consider. At this point, we have two options - to review the CVs or the cover letters. CVs are boring, while a cover letter will tell us a lot more about a candidate’s personality, attitude and writing skills. Reviewing the cover letters for the remaining applications for this role revealed two distinct groups of applicants: those who understood the ad and wrote a cover letter for the position, and those who just attached the same default cover letter for every job application. Letters starting with phrases like “To whom it may concern” or “I wish to apply for the position advertised within your company” immediately give away a generic letter. Here’s rule number two:

2. Personalise your cover letter

If you can find out the name of the person who will be reviewing your application, include it. Mention the specific position you are applying for. Mention the company and why you want to work for them. And finally, if there are any specific questions in the job advert, answer them.

Once you follow these two rules you’ve likely tripled your chance of getting a job and made it through to the list of serious candidates. Now that you’re there, following the third rule is a no-brainer:

Applicants (1)

3. Be available

Make sure you’ll notice your phone if it rings, and check your email every day. If you don’t respond to an email within a few days or you don’t answer the phone number you provided after multiple calls, it’s likely the person trying to contact you will just give up. There are other good candidates waiting. Even if you do get back to them after a few days, it doesn’t show much enthusiasm for the position you’ve applied for.

Congratulations. You’ve made it into the final 15%. You’re most likely in the final pile of printed applications. Now it’s down to your actual CV.

I’ll cover how to stand out from that pile next week.

Graham Cooke's Insights Blog examines issues affecting the Australian consumer. It appears regularly on

Picture: Shutterstock

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