Let`s face it. Job-hunting, especially during Covid is tough. 

Maybe you are sending out applications and wonder why they get rejected. It’s hard to know what you’re doing when you’re starting out. But here’s the good news: Getting the job you want is possible. You just need to be smart about it. I’ve put together some simple job search tips that will help you improve your application success.

Even before Corona finding a job that you like and pays well was hard. After a few rejections’ frustration builds up. As a professional you studied and worked hard before, but the competition seems overwhelming, the application process complicated and the recruiting decision mysterious.

  • So should you settle for less and just take any job there is?
  • Or maybe you should just wait for better times?
  • Or you could just apply to as many different jobs as possible to improve your success?

No. None of the option are great alternatives.

  • There is overwhelming evidence that if you settle for a lower paying job in a recession your salary is lower for nearly a decade (Harvard Business Review, 2018). 
  • People who created successful careers over the long term often did that because they were the ones who took a challenging new position, despite challenges. For example Airbnb, Uber, Square and the likes all started during the 2009 Great Recession.
  • And the last strategy: Become an application machine is also a bad idea as you will see below

But you can use 6 easy job search tips to boost your application success especially during Covid. 

How to get closer to your dream job: Pass the first application round

While about 9 out of 10 applicants get rejected in the first round (application deck), the number drops to 6 out of 10 in the first interview round. In other words: You tripled your chances if you move from the application stage to the first interview stage (especially in highly competitive industries the first application stage could have rejections of about 95%).

So how can you stand out from the competition? What miracle do you have to perform to get noticed and pass the first round?

Here's the secret: you don't need to spend hours in 1:1 career coaching. You don't even need to be an applicant with the most impressive credentials..

All you need to be is better than mediocre. All it takes is to invest 1-2 hours in improving the key aspects of your application.

However, most applicants overlook this first stage. They send out as many (mediocre) applications as possible but overlook key parts of a successful application deck. This makes the life of recruiters much easier though. They scan for the common application mistakes and click reject.

The Problem:

Based on more than a decade of hiring experience I gained in competitive industries (strategic consulting, Vice President HR for a fortune 500 and for start-ups) I saw countless cases of highly qualified professionals who were immediately rejected. They forgot simple but essential application rules. At the flip side, we invited numerous `underdog´ candidates (and made offers) just because of the great impression their application made.

The Solution:

Therefore, this can be your opportunity. If you your application is among the few well-crafted ones you are much more likely to be invited to the job interview. There is no better time than today to improve your application, because you can step ahead of the (and higher qualified) competition by avoiding the most common application mistakes.

This article will give you the 6 most important Job Search Tips to improve your application success during Covid. If spend 1-2 hours in following the below steps your application success should at least double compared to the average.

2 Essential Job Search Tips: Beat the most common reasons Why your application gets rejected

These two essential steps alone should already double your success for a interview call-back. Although simple, many applicants skip them.

Step 1: Answer the 4 W questions

If you are not crystal clear on what you want, it will be very difficult to make progress in your job-hunt - and it will be even harder to convince the hiring manager (they can 'smell' if someone is unsure). Answering the below questions will be the most important preparation in your job-hunt (and it will make writing your application deck much easier):

  • Where do I want to work (ideal job incl. industry, location, department & seniority)?
  • Why do I want to work in that job (try tying it to your unique interests or strengths)?
  • What value will I offer my future boss (most applicants forget this - they list all the reasons Why they want to work for amazing company Z - but not Why amazing company should hire them).
  • When will I apply and how many applications will I send (do not forget to make it real with a measurable and concrete goals)?
  • Step 2: Write a real Cover Letter (Email)

    One of the fastest (and surest) ways to get rejected straight away is to miss the cover letter. A recruiter who has dozens of applications normally automatically rejects all applications that either have no cover letter or that do not mention their company once.

    However, you can write a cover in 15-20 minutes. With this little extra you nearly double your chance for a call-back. You can find additional writing resources at the end of this article.

    A very basic Cover letter Template.

    • Who: Dear X/ Sir or Madam. (No need to procrastinate here on finding the name)
    • What: Describe which position you apply to & where you saw it (recruiters love knowing someone read there job add)
    • Why You: 1 to 2 sentences why you would be a great fit. No need to reinvent the wheel here. Simply state that based on your XXX experience & YYY background you fit well with ZZZ skills they search (the job add will exactly specify what they search)
    • Why Them: 1 to 2 sentences why you like to work 1) for their company and 2) in the position. (If you have no idea what to write then use 1 to 2 sentences of their career webpage… HR will love you actually read their career page)
    • (How you can Help Them: If you have more time, 1 to 2 sentences that show How you could provide them FAST with the work they need. Back it up with 1 sentence based on your previous experience.)
    • What Now: 1 sentence to say thank you and state your desire for an interview

    For executive positions:

    Directors, Vice President, Managing Directors are less likely to need a Cover Letter. Especially if an executive recruiter approaches you they will make the introduction. However, be aware that a hiring committee may make the final decision and 'traditional' leaders may be concerned if your application deck misses such a letter. They could perceive it as 'arrogant' or 'lazy' which could make the difference in the final decision. Therefore, take the extra small step to write a few introduction lines so you don´t give them a reason to reject you.

    The 4 Quick-Wins: Easy Steps your profile stands out in Covid times

    Try to answer the below questions to add up quick-wins in your application deck and boost your job-hunt success. They should not take more than an hour in total to do. However, most applicants will skip these steps, which can help you stand out in this tough job-market.

    Step 3: Boost your CV with numbers

    Ask yourself how you can quantify your previous successes on your CV. For example think about your average grade and class position, the university ranking (national or international), project budgets you overlooked in $/€, number of team members or clients managed, executives (their level, such a C-suite) you interacted with.

    The important thing here is to show hard facts to the hiring manager. Try to put numbers, even if you just did a side-job in a bar during your studies. For example, you can mention "waiter at bar X approx. 12 hrs. a week to finance my studies".

    Step 4: Adapt the critical elements of your CV to the job position

    Writing & designing your CV takes time. Most likely once you are finished the perfect version, you want to send it out to as many companies as possible. However, to maximize your success in the application screening, try to adapt key elements to the job add.

    For example, you are applying to a Marketing position, but in a bank. Try to highlight some parts related to finance or banking. You could mention

    • Education - Coursework includes: Banking and Finance, Marketing project at XYZ bank
    • Work experience - Noteworthy project: Marketing Pitch for X Bank
    • Interest - Member of the banking association

    Even if you only spend 15min. per job post to add 1-2 points to your CV this can dramatically set you apart from the "average" candidate who seems to lack relevant experience. Moreover, you already prepared for one of the favorite interview questions: "What experience do you have in our industry"?

    Pro Tip

     Use the key requirements in the job add as keywords you can add into your CV and Cover Letter. HR (or AI programs) will scan your application for key phrases to see if you address the requirements in the job add. Also from a cognitive science perspective people will like to see their own words in your application deck and will judge you smarter. 

    Step 5: Align all your job profiles (CV, Linkedin, or XING)

    HR loves to check the information your provide. Make sure they don't have anything to complain about.

    Focus especially on key dates (e.g. when you finished your studies, left a company) and check if they match between certificates (references) and your CV (linkedin).

    Step 6: Include 1 - 2 people as references 

    Having references, especially from people with senior positions, can substantially increase your chance to get invited to an interview. Try to find references with interesting job titles and who like you. Most of them will be happy to help. If you cannot think of someone then ask your former professor or colleagues.

    If you followed all of these steps I am certain you will set yourself up for success in your job-search. Getting invited to the first interview is the most important milestone to win your dream-job. Thus, spend a few hours on optimizing your application deck and you will step ahead of the competition

    More Job Search Tips: Free Job application templates & resources

    If you like to dig deeper in the 'Arts' and 'Science' of how to write a Cover Letter, structure your CV and find your ideal salary then check the below resources. In all my job-searches (from starting at McKinsey to landing a job as global HR Vice President at a Fortune 500) I spent days on going through these resources and perfecting my application deck.

    However, if you want to learn these highly effective steps fast and condensed in a few hours then make sure to check out my Career Crash Course. The course is based on more than decade of hiring & HR experience, the science of human behavior and the strategies that allowed me to negotiate a 20,000 EUR higher salary.

    How to write a CV and frame your cover letter

    University of Pennsylvania: The Careers Office of the University of Pennsylvania is a true goldmine. Not only can you find here detailed guides on writing your application deck but also resources for various careers, industries and positions.

    What salary can I expect

    Robert Walters: Their Annual Salary Survey is my go-to resource to get an indication of potential salary ranges for different countries and industries. But take the ranges with some scepticism and do not forget your own research. In my Career Crash Course I dedicate a full module on understanding and creating your salary.

    How to ace your interview

    Vault Guides: This is the holy grail if you want to win your interview, especially if you are going for prestigious consulting companies. Make sure though to not only read the guides but to see interviews in practice or let someone explain you the different steps.

    OnE last warning to save your money...

    For all advise on job-search and career development, make sure your 'expert' or 'career coach' actually worked in a highly competitive industry themselves. You would not trust a Dr. who never healed a patient themselves....

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    About the Author

    Work Psychologist & Advisor, with the sole purpose to find and offer you the most competent advise so you grow professionally and live a fulfilling work-life on your terms. 

    Find out more: How I went from being an anxious, always pleasing and stuck in the rat-race professional to creating a well-paying career and fulfilling life on my terms.


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