Candidates; the essential ingredient of every recruitment agency. Without good candidates recruitment businesses cannot function so we need to look after them. However, candidates can also do a lot to help make themselves stand out from their competition and yet sometimes seem intent on sabotaging their prospects in the recruitment process. This may be because they haven’t been through the process for a number of years, or may be because they have been given bad advice about how to conduct themselves. To try and understand what makes some candidates more successful than others, we conducted an informal poll amongst our clients and team to find out what makes a great candidate. Here are some of the results:
1. Be Qualified
We don’t mean you need to have numerous university degrees from prestigious institutions. What we do mean is that you should only apply for roles your experience genuinely enables you to do. If the vacancy requires at least three years post-qualification experience and that you have worked in the same type of role before, don’t apply unless you have the relevant qualifications and experience. Hiring companies spend a great deal of time getting a job specification right, so will not want to consider candidates who don’t fit their criteria. A great way to ensure your relevant experience is highlighted is to include a covering letter appropriate to the position – generic covering letters won’t cut it!
2. Your CV
This document is your introduction to what could be the best career move of your life. Your CV is the very first thing a hiring manager will know of you. How do you want to be viewed? As someone who has a beautifully crafted CV with no spelling or grammatical errors, encompassing a concise personal statement, a detailed history of your work experience and education? Or would you prefer to be the candidate who submitted a slap-dash CV with spelling mistakes and a second-rate history? Do you want the job or not? Also, you should adapt your CV to match the opportunity, highlighting the areas of your experience that are relevant, moving the bullet points around and deleting or shortening the explanations of experience that are not so relevant for this role.
3. Be Available
One of the biggest frustrations as a recruiter is to have a great candidate (on paper) applying for a position and then disappearing. We appreciate that people have busy work and personal lives, but if you’re actively looking for a new position, you need to make yourself available to talk about the opportunity you have applied for. If you struggle to be free throughout the working day, say so on your application with the best times and methods for reaching you. If the recruiter can’t get hold of you and starts to question your level of interest and commitment to the process you will soon find other candidates are being recommended in front of you.
This is vital. Research the company, the role and the interviewer (if you can). The company website is your starting point, followed by any information you can eek out of the recruiter or HR department. LinkedIn is where you can get the inside track on the interviewer – once you know a little about them you can base the questions you ask on the knowledge you have gained. For example, a great question to ask at the end of an interview is, “So, you’ve worked for the company for X years, what is it that attracted you to the company and what has made you stay?”
5. Eye Contact Obvious, but essential.
Your CV, experience and qualifications will get you through the door, but eye contact, that first few seconds when you meet the interviewer, could determine how the rest of the interview will go. Show that you are a confident person, not afraid to look someone directly in the eye (making sure you give a warm, genuine smile at the same time) and the interview will be off to a great start.
DO NOT walk into the room and embrace the interviewer! However do bring some passion with you. Don’t go overboard, but be enthusiastic and show that you love what you do. Your love of your chosen career will shine through when you talk about it genuinely. If you struggle to muster the passion you think you should have, you may be doing the wrong job!
Expect your motivation to be questioned by everyone. If you apply through an agency, your consultant will want to know your motivations for leaving your current role and for applying for this position. A hiring manager will ask the same – make sure you know why you are leaving your current role and why you want to move into this one – fumbling these questions will surely see you exit the interview process.
Being a candidate is easy; all you need is a CV and some jobs to apply for. Being a good candidate is a little harder, but well worth the effort. Remember, the Recruitment Consultant has a vested interest in your success so help them to do their job and treat them as an ally and useful source of information.