Xenium’s internal Talent Partner, Kathleen Lowe, recently sat down with us and shared key advice for applicants based on her hiring experience.
1. Be Transparent About Gaps in Employment
If you have multiyear gaps in employment, don’t fret! The key is to acknowledge them and provide context and reasoning for the gaps.
Go ahead and reference them in your cover letter and/or resume. This is a professional way to acknowledge the elephant in the room. There are many reasons you may have taken time off working – maybe you were a stay-at-home parent, acted as a caretaker for your own parent(s), or perhaps your spouse’s career prompted many moves, limiting your options for finding sustained positions. Maybe you went back to school full-time, or even traveled for an extended period of time!
Lots of long gaps will definitely prompt the question at some point in your application process, so think about the gaps in your employment history and be prepared to speak about them honestly and professionally. Bottom line: be up front and be ready to answer the questions that come up.
2. Explain Frequent Job Changes
As recently as 10 years ago, job hopping was frowned upon. However, the trend appears to be shifting as millennials have been known to move between jobs faster than other generations. As this has become the norm, fewer and fewer recruiters view it as a red flag. However, many recruiters still will ask questions – what was missing from your prior positions that prompted you to leave so soon? Why have you jumped around? What are you trying to find? What’s the ideal job you’re looking for?
Answer these questions in advance in your cover letter and be prepared to discuss them in a phone screen or interview. Be open about what you’re looking for in a position. If you worked in temporary roles, be sure to indicate those positions as such. Spin your frequent employment change in a positive way by emphasizing your versatility and the variety of work you’ve been exposed to.
3. Be Engaged, Eager, and Excited
We all know that job searching can be a grind. So many online forms to fill out! So many specifically tailored cover letters to write…only to never receive a response back. It’s draining, especially for those attempting to squeeze their job searching in between other aspects of life – family, current employment, and more.
Don’t let the exhaustion overwhelm you though. Stay attentive as you assemble your application materials. “I often receive cover letters with the wrong company name in them!” says Lowe. “We’re all human, it’s a simple, common mistake. But taking the time to address the right company is important.”
For any job in any industry, engagement in the interview process is key. A phone screen or interview serves to assess a person’s skills and abilities, but it’s mostly a way to feel out the person, what they’re looking for, and what it might look like if they were in this position.
“It surprises me when, in a phone screen, someone has no enthusiasm in their voice,” says Lowe. “I hire for HR positions, and HR is an engaging profession. You have to engage with people of all backgrounds and have the communication skills and the right demeanor for the job.”
4. Do Research and Come Prepared to Ask Questions
It may seem obvious, but be sure to have a full understanding of the role you are applying for, the skills needed, and the company as a whole. Google the company, find them on social media, see what they’re all about. If they have a ‘Meet the Team’ page, learn about the people who work within the department you’re hoping to join.
This is another way of demonstrating your engagement and eagerness, as discussed above. Even simple questions about the position description, where the role fits within the dynamics of the team, what goals the supervisor has for this role, and the culture of the organization.
5. Follow the Hiring Process
Always submit your resume and application as the company has requested. Following up via email with the recruiter and re-sending your resume is fine. Most companies have an applicant tracking platform for their applicant pool, and it’s important to make sure that your information is entered into the system. An email might be easier to send as an applicant, but ensuring your name is in the recruiter’s formal process is crucial.
“It’s much more helpful in the applicant tracking process if an applicant applies online.” says Lowe, “It ensures the applicant’s information is in our system and we can track and share their information with different hiring managers for different positions.”
If you’re interested in working for the company but don’t see a posting that fits your experience level, there still may be a way in. “We have an Always Accepting Resumes field in our online platform for this reason,” says Lowe.
What does it all boil down to?
- Anticipate the questions a recruiter might have about your resume, and answer them in advance or have your answers ready for when they come up in a phone screen/interview
- Approach your cover letter with the goal of explaining both where you’re at in life and what you’re looking for. Be authentic; most if not all employers appreciate it.
- Consider the culture of the company you’re applying for, and how to demonstrate that you’d be a good fit. Lowe hires for engaging HR positions, so communication skills are something she pays attention to when screening applicants. Think about the position you’re applying to and what the recruiter will be looking for from you at all steps of the application process.