Applying for jobs might sound simple, but it’s actually a process, and there are things you want to be mindful of so you get better results. Applying is not just the act of applying. It is the process by which you go through to secure an interview. The first task is to get in the door.
One of my favorite lines is, “It’s an and not an or”. You want to use all the tactics and techniques that you will have at your disposal to get in the door. We will walk through Teal’s approach and way of thinking using the following techniques:
Let’s talk about applying and getting in the door. Part of what we want you to learn is, what is your customer doing? We go back to that phrase of you are a salesperson, and your product is you. You want to understand your buyer. The best sales people understand their buyer.
We want you to understand a little bit about what’s going on on the other side. This is going to be geared more towards large companies, as smaller companies tend to be a simpler process, but on average, the companies take about almost a month and a half to fill a position.
What that tells you is they're taking it pretty seriously; they're putting a lot of steps in the process to make sure that they're hiring the right person. It is your job to get through that process.
Generally how it works is someone states a need for their team. Then the headcount gets approved. That usually happens in the budgeting process. Then again, if the company is bigger, the hiring manager will go to the talent or recruiting team and get some help writing the job description.
Then they will get it posted. Oftentimes they'll even talk about a budget and see if they can post it on different job sites or on different job boards because those cost money. Maybe they have a LinkedIn recruiter, or maybe they're posting on different job boards if it's a very niche position, but then they get it posted.
Then applications start to come in. Oftentimes a recruiter will also do outbound. They will start to source talent. If you've ever gotten an email or an email in LinkedIn that says, “Hey, you're a perfect fit for our position. We'd love to talk”. That's a recruiter doing outbound to you. That recruiter also might be an external recruiter that's been retained or hired on a contingent basis to fill the position.
Once they have all the applicants, they start to screen them, and they go through that process of vetting and screening. Then they set up the interview. That's all the stuff that's happening on the back end when you want to get in.
That's why it's important for you to know what's happening and to think about, again, what's your customer doing? What's their process, and how can you get in?
You're probably going to talk to a few different people in the process, and these are the folks that are going to be involved. There's oftentimes the sourcer, those that are doing that outbound, or, doing that initial screening. Then there's going to be the recruiter who is a much more seasoned and experienced talent manager and manages the whole process.Then there's the hiring manager. This is the person who you'd probably report to, the person who is running the process, and is ultimately vetting the person that's being recruited because they're going to be on their team.
Those are three pretty important roles. Occasionally there's a fourth role, which would be someone who sort of sits above the hiring manager who might be checking for different things. That might be the CEO or an executive in the company.
That takes us to company size. We want you to really understand companies for the environment, their process, and what you can expect.
Based on company size, here is who will most likely be your initial contact:
What you want to have in mind is that the goal of applying is not landing the job, it's to land the interview. All these materials that you prepared, your customized resume, potentially a cover letter, the work that you did. It's all to land the interview. Once you land the interview, you will focus on landing the job, or landing the offer we should say, but really the goal of this process is that you landed the interview.
There are four main ways for you to get in the door and land an interview.
Each way requires a different amount of effort. You want to know these four approaches to getting in and how to get your materials in front of somebody so you ultimately land that interview.
How should you go about getting referrals? Hands down, referrals are the best way to get into a company. They have the highest percentage of new hires. A lot of companies will pay a bonus if you refer people because hiring is a risky process. If the people that you’ve already hired and are part of your culture are vetting a person, that just really builds and boosts the confidence that the person is going to be a great hire.
Referrals are definitely the way to go. Companies even hire faster when there are referrals because people get to skip the line. You really want to go to referrals first and tap your network. That's why we continue to talk about the importance of building out your network and the contact based approach to finding opportunities.
You can’t always get them, but we can’t stress enough how important referrals are in the overall process. Here are some helpful tips on getting referrals:
Using LinkedIn contacts for referrals can be super helpful, whether that be a first or second level connection.
Referrals will carry much more weight if you have a relationship with the person. If they know you, they can vouch for you.
Make sure you learn about the company’s referral process and if they offer a bonus. Sometimes the company won’t give a bonus if you apply before the person refers you, so just be mindful of that.
Here is an example of your ask and a little bit of a pitch for yourself. Make your value clear.
Don't make it too long. You want to directly email this person. And then again, be clear with what you're asking for.
- I'm really interested in this particular title.
- This is why I think I'm a great candidate for it.
- Will you help me and get a referral in?
We also have a communication template located within Teal's Job Application Tracker to assist you in asking for a referral.
We recommend that you use these techniques and try to build up that list of people that can refer you into companies that you're excited about.
Recruiters can be a great resource and huge ally into getting into companies. Let's talk a little bit about how they work.
There are two main categories of recruiters. There are internal recruiters. These are employees of a company, usually salaried, maybe they have some kind of bonus structure. Then there's external recruiters. Sometimes they might be called headhunters, but these folks are contracted, and they're contracted in two ways, either on a retained basis or a contingent basis.
The way these two types of recruiters work is different. Those that are internal are really looking to grow the company. They are a part of it and are invested. External recruiters tend to be a bit more transactional and are just trying to get the person in because they get paid when they make the hire.
Internal recruiters are typically going to be at larger companies. The bigger the company gets, the more focused they are on a function, so recruiters will get a series of categories of jobs. You want to look out for the specific category when you’re meeting with a recruiter.
More on internal recruiters:
Most internal recruiters are very active on LinkedIn. That is their tool of choice to find people. Oftentimes, they are spending the bulk of their time and energy on outbound and sourcing candidates.
Example of how to contact an internal recruiter:
Then there's external recruiters. These are people that are hired, and they're hired in two forms, contingency and retained. Contingency is usually a lower fee. They usually pay ~25% of one year’s salary, not including equity and bonus. One caveat is that the person usually has to stay at the company for six months to a year. Otherwise they forfeit the fee and have to give it back. They are compensated on the hire.
Retained is a little different. It is when a company will go to a recruiter and retain them to actively look for a person. That means they start to spend time and energy sourcing. They build out presentations and help write the brief. For retained positions, they'll often pay 33%, sometimes as high as 50% if the recruiter is really good and has a great ability to bring in talent.
Something that you ask a recruiter is if it’s a contingent basis or a retained basis. This gives you the sense of who is throwing a bunch of darts and who is being a bit more specific. Another thing to think about with external recruiters is they usually focus on a function because that's how they build out their network.
Here’s more on external recruiters:
External recruiters really focus on finding key people and they try to be very efficient with their time. If you don't look like someone that they can place relatively quickly, they're probably not going to invest a lot of time and energy in you, so be mindful of external recruiters. Remember, they get paid if you get placed.
It’s worthwhile investing in those relationships because you never know what opportunities they are going to find, so be mindful of that.
Example of how to contact an external recruiter:
Recruiters are busy, so you may not always hear back from them. Here are some additional best practices with recruiters:
- Follow-up and building a relationship is key for both types of recruiters. They will be pitching you to the hiring manager.
- Recruiters are most helpful when you work in a field with a shortage of talent, have specific hard-to-find skills, work in a top company, or are in a leadership role.
- Recruiters change jobs and companies often. Stay connected with them on LinkedIn for the future.
That is how you work with recruiters. Again, they're a great resource for finding opportunities and another one of the ways that you can focus on getting in the door.
A cold outreach is reaching out to someone you don’t know. You’ve never met them before. It might feel a little uncomfortable doing it, but remember that the people you are reaching out to are looking to hire. Frame it in that way, and they are going to be excited to talk to you.
When you don’t have a connection into a company, you want to find anyone that is tied to the role of that company. How you might do that is understanding the function. If it's in the marketing department, for example, ideally you get the head of the marketing department.
How do you find a contact?
- Identify a specific role at the company
- Research the company on LinkedIn, social media sites, the company website, or Google search
- Locate potential influencers (recruiters, hiring manager/team)
- Obtain contact information (preferably email)
Once you find the person you want to contact, you want to try to send them an email. If you don’t have the person’s email, there are easy ways to find it online, and there are little things you can do to try to get into their inbox.
If you want to get a job at a certain company, search for multiple roles at that company. Again, think about the size of the company and who might be your initial contact. You can do this search on Google.
Once you find the person you are looking for, you can navigate to their LinkedIn profile. Do your research. See who the person is, where they’ve worked, how they build their team, things like that. Now you have more information about the person, but you’re still missing the email.
A really great platform for finding email addresses is hunter.io. Go to “Product” at the top and click “Email Finder” in the dropdown. You just put in the person's first name, last name, and the company. It will even give you a really cool auto suggestion because it knows all the websites of all the companies. And bam, it'll spit out the email address for you. It will even tell you a confidence by which it thinks it's going to work or not work.
The good thing about email is if you send it and it doesn't work, it will just bounce. Nothing will happen. Remember that with a company email address, 99% of the time they follow a format. The big companies need to keep it easy, and it can’t be all over the place. The way they do this is they ping the server to see if they get a response, and then they have a database of their formats and the way they do the names.
Obviously, personal emails are much, much harder, because those can be all over the map, but for business email addresses, it's pretty straightforward. This is a very known and common sales tactic to do direct outreach. This is how you would go about finding the email address of a person that you're excited to talk to about a role at a company.
Cold outreach emails can be a little overwhelming, and you might not know what to say. Well, we have a template to give you a place to start.
Access more communication templates for sending cold outreach messages in Teal’s Job Application Tracker.
Make sure to put it in your own voice. This is a much better option than LinkedIn In Mail, as it has become pretty spammy. Use these resources to find the email and shoot your shot!
This next approach is one that a lot of people do, and that is applying online. The great thing about it is we feel like we're making progress. We can apply to companies that we're excited about. We don't have to put ourselves out there in some of these other ways, but it comes with the lowest response rate because it just goes into a giant digital heap of applications.
There are some things you can do to make it more effective. I don't wanna make it sound like you don't get hired this way. Lots of people every day get hired by applying online, so don't think that this is an ineffective strategy. It just doesn't have the same efficacy as some of the others, but you should absolutely do it.
My general advice is if you can't get a referral or one of the other ways within 48 to 72 hours, just apply online. Then if one of the other ways works out later, maybe they can push you to the top of the pile. Applying online is a numbers game, but it does work, and people do get hired this way.
Let's talk about the best practices for that.
It starts with the applicant tracking system (ATS).Once companies get a little bit bigger, they use an ATS, and 99% of the fortune 500 use an ATS. The ATS is not as scary as you might read. It's not some sort of AI cyborg trying to guess at resumes. What it really is a very simple platform to collect data in a structured way.
It's usually run by HR. A lot of times it's used for compliance to make sure that they're doing the right kind of diverse hiring and being mindful about that process. One of the core things it does is it takes the resume and it makes it searchable.
Again, that is not some sort of funky AI that's using a recommendation engine. It's usually a recruiter typing in keywords to search.
Imagine a company posts a job, and they get 500 applications. A human is not going to read all 500. They'll probably read 50, so they need to then do a search for a few key terms. If there's a particular software or a technical skill or an experience, they will search for those. The recruiters call them ion searches, and then they will get that pile of applications down.
You need to get past the ATS when you apply online. It is one of the core things so that when that recruiter does that search and takes it from 500 to 50, you are in that pile of 50. That's why in the customizing your resume class, we talk so much about keywords and getting through the ATS.
When you apply online, do not just copy and paste the same resume. It is super important that you look at the job description, try to discern what is most important for them, and include that in your materials. When you are applying online, customizing your resume is the most important thing that you could do.
Use Teal’s AI Resume Builder to quickly compare the skills in the job posting to the skills in your resume. Make sure to add any relevant experience to your customized resume and to your application answers.
A few things to avoid on your resume when you're applying online:
- Columns and tables
- Text boxes, logos, images
- Graphics, graphs, or other visuals
- Headers and footers
- Uncommon section headings
- Hyperlinks on important words
- Less common fonts
- *Tip: Use a universal font like Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia, or Cambria
For online applications, these are safe to use on your resume:
- Colors (but may not translate over)
- Bullets (standard circle or square)
Make sure you have a good name for your document when you send it in. Avoid using the word final (ex: Tina-Miller-Resume-Final). Also be mindful about the file format - use .doc, .docx, or .pdf.
Here are some things we want you to think about if they ask your salary expectation on an online application:
You don't want to price yourself out because unfortunately, some companies will screen you for this if your salary expectations are higher than they're willing to pay for the role. What we recommend is get your honest number, give yourself a little bit of a buffer, and if you're worried that you're going to undershoot your number, you can always negotiate that later.
You can say something like, “Based on what I've learned throughout this process, and now understanding the full scope of the role, I actually think it's worth this”. Don't worry too much about it. Obviously it's a little bit of an uphill battle, but very much negotiable. And if they're excited about you and you're talking comp, then that's a good sign.
For all the jobs you've applied online or for all the jobs that you've gone through, we highly recommend that you track it. What gets measured, gets managed. Log those jobs in your tracker and track their phase. Use Teal's Job Application Tracker to stay organized.
Once you’ve applied, a key thing to do is follow up. Record when you applied in your Job Application Tracker so you can follow up as needed. To follow up on an application, we recommend the following:
- We recommend 5-7 days after applying
- Weekly up to 3 times
- Remember, it might take a while to hear back from a company, and it’s also likely you won’t hear back at all.
- Don’t take it personally
- Continue to apply to new leads and follow up
Here is a template to use when following up:
Don’t let having this copy be a blocker for you. You can modify and tweak it, but the important thing is that you send it.
The hiring process can take up to five weeks, so until that job posting is taken down and you haven’t heard back, keep following up. No bad can come of it.
The main focus here was getting in the door and the different ways that you can do that. Whether it’s through a referral, leveraging relationships with internal and external recruiters, direct cold outreach, or applying online, using all four ways will open up opportunities for you. Remember, the goal of this phase is to get in and get the interview.
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