How To Stand Out in a Sea of Applicants: Top Tips from Recruiters

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Few things are as nerve racking as applying and interviewing for your dream job. We’ve all been there before; as we craft our cover letters and edit our resumes, we desperately wish we could be inside the mind of the recruiter or hiring manager who will take the first look at our applications or conduct our interview.

On Tuesday, February 26th, NY Creative Interns hosted four recruiters from creative companies at Meetup HQ, where they shared stories and advice that provided an inside perspective on the recruiting process. The panelists included Carolyn Zimatore: Talent Acquisition manager at HarperCollins publishers, Chelsea Scott: Talent Recruiter at Refinery29, Abdul Smith Senior Interactive Recruiter at SapientNitro, and  Janel Glaspie: Recruiter at Bad Boy Woldwide.

panel
Panelists from left to right: Janel Glaspie, Abdul Smith, Chelsea Scott, and Carolyn Zimatore. Photos taken by Beth Laschever.

Resume and LinkedIn Profile

The key component to any application is the resume. Be concise and clear about your valuable skills and accomplishments, and keep it to one page; for those just starting out there is no reason for it to be longer. Include links to your online portfolio or important work. If Chelsea has to spend time hunting for a link to a portfolio then it’s very likely that she’ll move on to the next candidate. The most important thing the recruiter will want to see is what you can bring to the table.

In today’s world your LinkedIn profile is almost as necessary as a paper resume, and in some fields it’s even more important. Abdul mentioned that he often has a hard time finding people with robust LinkedIn profiles. Carolyn mentioned the interactive aspects of LinkedIn, such as endorsements and recommendations, make it even more appealing to a recruiter. If you haven’t created an account and started making connections yet, then you need to get started right now.

Cover Letters

While resumes are typically mandatory, a cover letter can often be optional. Abdul rarely looks at cover letters because he feels that anything important should already be on your resume.

Carolyn had a different opinion. Since she works in publishing, it’s important that she sees how you write. The easiest way to demonstrate your writing skill is with a fantastic cover letter. A cover letter should also be used to address any holes in your resume. Are you willing to relocate? Is this the first position you’ve applied to a position in this industry? These are questions the recruiters might ask that you can use your cover letter to answer.

Chelsea has found cover letters to be especially crucial for positions like brand sales and editorial, where pitching and selling are part of the job. Your cover letter is your first pitch; you have sell yourself and convey why you want to work for that brand. As Chelsea said, “A lot of people have passion, you just have to show us why.”

If a company directs you to email your resume with no mention of a cover letter, the panel agreed that sending a personalized message in the email body is a great way to stand out.

The Waiting Game

The period of time right after submitting a job posting can seem like months when it’s only been a few days. Just be patient and realize there are many factors at play that could lead to a delayed response from the recruiter. Some companies post a position and wait several weeks before contacting the first applicant while other companies take applicants on a rolling basis.

Janel noted there is nothing wrong with following up about a position after a week or so, as long as it is done professionally. Abdul suggested inviting the recruiter or hiring manager to be a connection on LinkedIn and mentioning that you just applied to their position in your invitation. Even if they don’t accept the connection, there’s a much higher chance they will look at your resume.

The Interview

Look at an interview as a conversation. Since you landed the interview, you obviously have the skill set position needs. Remember that an interview is not just to see what you can do for the company, but is also to confirm that the company fits your needs and career goals as well. Be sure to bring copies of your resume and be confident.

After an interview you must follow up with thank you emails. This step is very important: Carolyn and her team once didn’t hire their top candidate for a position because they did not write a thank you note after the interview. Hand written cards are a nice touch, but in a digital age with instantaneous feedback, an email a few hours later can often do the trick. The most important thing is to make the note personal and mention something you spoke about during the interview.

discussion                                                              Attendees in discussion

Other Ways to Stand Out

There is nothing wrong with contacting a company even when they don’t have open positions listed. Chelsea aknowledged that every piece of email and mail that comes into the Refinery29 office is looked at. Even if you aren’t called in for an interview, this still gives you the opportunity to separate yourself from others and put your name in the recruiter’s mind when a spot becomes available.

Some applicants take it to the next level when attempting to stand out from the crowd. Carolyn remembered a package that was once sent to her office. Inside the box was a child’s shoe with a note attached saying “I just want to get my foot in a door.” Carolyn had already hired someone for the position, but she still took the time to show her hiring manager and team. Some of her coworkers were actually freaked out, others thought the idea was awesome and creative. In the end the person did not get the position, but Carolyn still talks about the story years later, so it was certainly memorable.

Follow Up

Even with a killer cover letter and awesome interview, you may not always get the position. All four recruiters agreed the decision often comes down to a cultural fit. They take into consideration other factors in addition to whether or not your are qualified, one big one being if you’d work well with the potential boss’s management style.

It is acceptable to follow up with a company and ask (respectfully, of course) for feedback on what you could have done to be a stronger candidate. You may wind up with constructive feedback to use when applying to positions in the future. A positive attitude afterward can also help keep you in mind for a position in the future that may be a better fit.

 

Do you have any hiring tips for others, or any questions about the hiring process? Let us know in the comments below. 

Want to meet top companies, new mentors, and other awesome, talented young pros like you?Join us for Hustle Summit, the most epic networking event you’ll ever attend, taking place on Friday, January 27th, 2017 at Irving Plaza. We’ll connect you digitally and in-person to the coolest companies, greatest pros across industries, and your future life-long friends. Companies we work with include HBO, Scripps Networks, BuzzFeed, Blue Apron, IPG Mediabrands, L’Oréal, and more. Learn more & save the date at hustlesummit.co

 

 

 

2 comment on “How To Stand Out in a Sea of Applicants: Top Tips from Recruiters

  1. A good rule of thumb with the resume is to remember that the top 1/3 of the first page is your primary real estate. Similar to the “above the fold” idea with a website, you want to use that to your advantage to present the most impactful information. Have a strong summary statement that gives a few lines about who you are, what you do, and what you bring to the table as far as your skills, strengths, experience and knowledge. Creatives might add a portfolio link, or make mention of specific industries or types of projects or media they’ve worked with, or specialize in.

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