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How to Actually Get an Interview After Applying For a Job

Only 2% of job applicants get interviews. Here’s how to game the system and improve your odds.

by Chris D'Alessandro
Mar 4 2019, 5:20pm

Photo via Shutterstock

Job hunting is a frustrating process.

On your days off from your gruelling, low-paying survival job, you summon the energy to log onto LinkedIn and scroll through dozens postings—hoping that the doors to a career just may be opened by that piece of paper you went into crippling debt for.

Then you spend hours tailoring and spell-checking your resume and cover letter to a posting… or 10, because having to decide between groceries and your phone bill this month is getting exhausting, and your parents won’t get off your ass about getting a “real job.”

This process goes on for weeks, maybe months—applying to dozens of jobs through portals and getting nowhere.

So why doesn’t anybody call you for an interview? You might actually be hindering your already terrible chances of getting to the next step. Here are some things you can do to stop sabotaging your job search.

A lot of applications. And you may not be qualified.

“Many resumes for a role get overlooked,” says Rebecca Laramée, a Toronto-based HR consultant who aides organizations like TEDxToronto. “Recruiters spend as little as 6 to 8 seconds scanning your resume, so job seekers have little time to make a positive impression on a recruiter. Research shows that 98 percent of job seekers are eliminated at the initial resume screening. Only the 2 percent of candidates make it to the interview.”

“The competition is fierce, so applying for a job through online portals like LinkedIn, Indeed, Workopolis etc. alone is not sufficient,” Laramée told VICE.

Laramée also cautioned against additional ways applicants sabotage their odds of getting an interview. “People will tell you to apply for jobs that you are not qualified for,” she says. “This is a debatable tactic—but applying for jobs you’re unqualified for can actually hurt your chances at future positions with the company.”

According to Laramée, the biggest problem with applying for irrelevant jobs is that it tends to irritate recruiters. Her research leads her to believe irrelevant applications are the biggest turnoff for 30 percent of recruiters. And of that group, 43 percent suggest they would ‘blacklist’ those candidates by suppressing their names from even coming up in future resume searches.

According to data provided to VICE by the Vancouver branch of the global human resource firm, Robert Half, an average recruiter only reviews about 34 resumes for a position, in-depth. Of those 34, about 13 are selected for an interview. 57 percent of recruiters said that relevant experience is the top reason employers interview job candidates, followed by assessing soft skills and corporate culture fit (23 percent) and technical skills (21 percent).

Inversely, Robert Half sites that a lack of technical and soft skills are the top reasons new hires don’t work out. Twenty-nine percent of senior managers cited that it’s common for interviewees to not live up to expectations. This may be why recruiters get so irritated by applicants who are not qualified. Not to mention having to sift through the general volume of applications generated by online portals.

Can you game the system?

Possibly. Applying at a certain time of day could help you break through the cavalcade of applications.

“Considering the art and science to the job search alone can increase your odds of getting a job by nearly 40 times,” said Laramée, citing research from Talent Works, “Applying to a job before 10 AM can [significantly] increase your odds of getting an interview.”

According to this research, the best time to apply for a job is between 6 AM and 10 AM. During this time, you have a 13 percent chance of getting an interview—that means your odds are nearly five times better than if you applied to the exact same job during or after work.

“Whatever you do, don’t apply after 4 PM,” Laramée said. “Also, apply to jobs in the first three to four days of a job posting. In combination, just these two optimizations can increase your odds of getting a job by nearly 40 times.”

However, Laramée stressed that, at the end of the day, recruiters don’t hire resumes, as much as they hire human beings.

Employee referrals are the most powerful technique.

According to research by LinkedIn, more than 70 percent of professionals get hired at a company where they have a professional connection. Additionally, “nearly 70 percent of professionals want to use their communities to find jobs for others, but that number falls to 10 percent for people in their community they do not know personally.

Which means forming real human connections is practically a prerequisite to landing a job.

“Candidates who throw themselves into job board arena—especially in this warped economy—are going up against desperate motherfuckers who are packing heavy artillery,” says Hamza Khan, a keynote speaker and author who has dedicated his career to helping students and young job hunters.

” I’m talking about young, hungry recent grads armed to the teeth with technical skills, 10,000 Instagram followers and a failed startup, right through to laid off and/or transitioning industry veterans (sometimes toting PhD’s) with a beginner’s mindset. In that arena, your odds of passing the automated screening gauntlet are slim,” Khan told VICE. “That’s why it’s imperative to bypass the archaic hiring process altogether.”

Khan has some simple tips to get started, for even the most timid and anti-social. “Find the person who has the job you want. Follow them online, get on their radar, and then message them requesting 15 to 30 minutes of their time,” Khan said. “Offer to buy them coffee in exchange for their time, and be sure to bend your calendar to accommodate their schedule.”

He stressed that the goal of meetings like these is to not ask for a job, but instead to ask for advice, so that you may be considered for a job.

“If all goes well (and it usually will), do two things. First, ask to remain in touch. Second, ask for recommendations of other people to connect with,” said Khan. “Compared to sending out hundreds of resumes a week, this approach will leave you with more insight, more connections, and ultimately more of a fighting chance in a hiring landscape.”

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