While growing up, I was told that businesses weren’t hiring and jobs were moving overseas. While there was some truth to this, these days, I’m noticing the opposite problem: Businesses can’t find the employees they need.
I recently led a panel of three successful entrepreneurs. When asked what their most pressing business challenges were, all three said the same thing: recruiting.
The reasons behind this state of affairs are many. Business owners have difficulty devoting time and resources to recruiting, and young people graduating college have few skills and limited experience. However, I’m convinced the core of the issue is that people approach the job search with a ton of bad advice about what employers are looking for.
The inconvenient truth is that things like having business cards, upgrading your wardrobe, and using LinkedIn are not going to do much to improve your chances of getting hired. That information might have been valuable in the past, but it borders on platitude now.
This post is for those job seekers who are tired of being given the same old tired advice. Here are five things to do that will increase your chances of landing the job you want:
1. Be More Interesting Than Your College Degree
I like to pose a question to prospective candidates that goes like this:
Imagine an employer is hiring for a position and has to choose between two applicants.
Applicant 1: Has a college degree in marketing.
Applicant 2: Has no college degree, but has experience working with dozens of freelance marketing clients and has amassed numerous testimonials over the past two years.
The choice for the employer is obvious. Now, this is an extreme example, and I’m not here to tell you to skip college. However, this example illustrates a point many job applicants miss: Employers value skills, not papers.
If the only thing you can point to is that you have a college degree, you’re not doing enough to stand out from the hundreds of other applicants who also have degrees. Instead of expecting your degree to do the heavy lifting, focus your application around the value you’ve created for others, the interesting experiences you’ve had that are relevant to being an employee at the company, and the concrete proof of why you’re the person to hire.
You’re more than a paper. Show that to people.
2. Have a Value Proposition
Noah Kagan, the former director of marketing at Mint, landed his job by doing something that everyone should consider doing when applying for a job: He made a 90-day action plan for his first three months on the job that broke down what he would do and why it was valuable.
I’ve done something similar for almost every job I’ve ever gotten. I’m currently the head of marketing at Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program, and I was able to land my job by proposing three deliverable projects that I thought would drive more business.
If you’re applying to a new job, consider doing some research on the company to find out where you could uniquely add value. Then, propose what you would do during your first month on the job. This allows you to take charge of the hiring process. Compare bullet points on a resume to “I want to do X, Y, and Z for you because it’s going to increase your web conversions by 10 percent.”
3. Make a Short Video Pitch
Having done some hiring at a few companies, I know firsthand how frustrating it can be to review a couple dozen applications. The unfortunate thing about this process is that many applicants will never even get a fair look. Resumes and cover letters are very easy to passively read or ignore.
Instead of a cover letter, make a video where you talk about yourself, why you want to work for the company, and anything else that will make the employer want to give you an interview. Sell yourself on that video like you would sell a product.
4. Build a Personal Website and a Digital Paper Trail
For all the talk of doing research on potential employers, there is surprisingly less talk about how to help employers research you. Sure, you can use LinkedIn as one tool, but that’s probably not going to be enough. Employers are going to Google you. The more you can use the search results to tell a compelling story about yourself, the better.
Starts by building a strong personal website. You can set one up cheaply through WordPress. Here’s mine. Include case studies of your work, a solid “about me” page, professional photos, contact information, and your writing, if you have some.
If you can, go beyond a personal website. Get active on Quora by answering questions about your field. Submit articles to industry blogs. Make YouTube videos, tutorials, or online courses. Do some interviews on a few podcasts (it’s easier than you think!). In short, build a digital paper trail an employer can follow that tells them you have a history of creating value and are a dynamic person both inside and outside of the workplace.
5. Propose a Working Trial
Hiring someone these days is risky business. Between the costs of onboarding, salary, benefits, training, recruiting fees, and time, it can be an expensive process. The last thing an employer wants to do is hire someone they have to fire soon after because they couldn’t keep up with the demands of the job.
You can reduce this fear by proposing a trial period. Maybe the company hires you as a contractor for a month at a discounted rate instead of as a full-time employee. Maybe you complete a small project for free or cheap. Just like a software free trial makes it far easier to get customers onto your platform, a trial of you is a great way to lower the barrier to entry for a new job.
Remember that your job is to create more value than you take out in salary. Whatever you do in the hiring process should be informed by this understanding.
Derek Magill is the director of marketing at Praxis, a program that places young professionals in apprenticeship roles at startups.