Ask Me: How Do I Get Noticed When Applying for a Job?

I answer your questions. Have one? Ask me.

I just read your article on working at a distributed company which was really awesome…very useful and informative.  I’m not a “techy” although I’m married to one I didn’t get blessed with the technical aptitude or desire.  My experience is in Finance, Accounting and Administration.  I would love to get out of the grind of Corporate and work with a distributed company.  After 18 years I am looking for flexibility AND variety.  I’ve been sending out my CV to distributed companies hiring and not hiring in my field.  The hiring is ripe for the tech field but not so much for my skillset.  I wondered if you had any tips that you could share for getting noticed.  Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from you!

I loved this question. In my early years at Hewlett-Packard, I was part of the interviewing committee for new employees, especially new college graduates. Normal interviews were conducted over (a now astonishing) eight-hour span with different team members. 8 hours! Fast-forward to now, where I conduct most of my interviews via text chat, and sift through introductions and resumes in various formats (LinkedIn, Google Forms, email).

I’ve read enthusiastic, unintelligible, brutally honest, and boring applications. What makes one stand out from the other?

My biggest tip for getting noticed in applications is: do the work. Research the company, find out what they’ve been doing or planning in the area you’re interested in, and tailor your application with this knowledge, and possibly your ideas around the job. Don’t wait for an interview to start sharing why you’d be a good fit!

I estimate with only just 30 minutes you can come up to speed with what they do (look at their corporate site), what’s been written recently about the company (check Google News), what products or initiatives they’ve released lately (check their social channels for press releases, announcements), and how they communicate.

Armed with this knowledge, you can take the time to write a more pointed introduction that not only positions you for the job, but for the job at that company. Of course, you can’t pretend to know everything about the company, and something you might suggest might be completely wrong or off-base, but it shows it’s not just another form letter. I suggest avoiding telling the company what to do, but rather areas/interests where you could get started.

And the time won’t be wasted — if you get an interview with the company, you are already a step ahead!

Updated to add: a few things I had jotted down but forgot to include: 

  • Address specific requests listed in the job application. 
    Make sure while you’re preparing your application that you’ve actually answered any questions or specific requests listed in the job description & application page. If they want to see particular examples of work, highlight them. If they want you to answer a question in your cover letter, do it. You’d be surprised how many people submit generic applications even when specifically told their application will not be considered without specific information. And it shows you pay attention to details.
  • Spelling the company and its products correctly.
    It feels like obvious advice, right? You’d be surprised at how many people misspell or incorrectly case WordPress.com. WordPress.com isn’t that different, right? Wrong. It’s not about the spelling but the attention to detail and care you’re giving the application. You’re saying: this is important to me, important enough I’ll take a few extra seconds to check my work.
  • Spelling and grammar in general.
    If English isn’t your native language, beg a friend to give it a read-through. Use in-browser spell checkers to see if anything missed your attention.

For some advice on positioning yourself for a job that’s not listed, check out How can I position myself for a job with a potential employer?

And yes, we’re hiring at Automattic.

3 replies »

  1. Thanks again Sara for your useful tips.

    Last week I just sent in my application for Performance Marketing.

    But before I sent in my cover letter, it really helped to watch some videos of Matt Mullenweg on his vision as well as catching you present at LeWeb.

    Here are the two videos for people who are interested

    Startups – Matt Mullenweg Founder of Automattic – Part 1

    LeWeb 2011 – Ignite@LeWeb – Sara Rosso

    Thanks again.

    Cheers from Hong Kong

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Sara is your in-house geek, sharing tech tips, biz Info and how-tos to bridge the gap between meek and geek.

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