Sometimes your dream job has a gatekeeper: the recruitment consultant. Former recruiter Chris Platts shows you how to get them on your side, even if you don't have experience in your chosen field.
We’ve all been rejected for a job that we believed we were perfect for, whether it was on the grad scheme merry-go-round or as an experienced worker exploring a career change. Getting the standard auto-rejection email, or worse still, the agonising silence, sucks. And if it wasn’t hard enough, applying for jobs outside your core area of expertise is statistically getting harder.
As a recruiter for the past seven years, I’ve seen it from all sides. That’s right, I’m the guy that you’ve cursed under your breath; the one that’s told you you’re not right for the job. I’ve been guilty of not responding to people who, in terms of their experience, aren’t what we’re looking for.
So how do you get me to sit up and pay attention to you as a career-shifter?
Here’s a breakdown of my top tips for avoiding being stonewalled by a recruiter:
1. Give me a relationship first, and your CV second
This is where your tenacity comes in. I don’t always like receiving unsolicited calls from candidates without seeing a CV first. But unless I’m really busy (which I often am) if they call my direct line or the switchboard, I’ll take the call and just have a chat. This is the best way to start a meaningful connection with me. Always call first, as I’m getting CVs everyday and I’m far too busy to reply unless you’re a perfect match.
2. Give me enough reasons why
The only reason I won’t put you forward to a role is because I’m still considering the risk. You may wonder: “What risk? All he has to do is send my CV”, but bear in mind that if I sent your CV to my client and it came back with an emphatic “no” – especially if you’re switching careers – my reputation could be damaged.
There’s a saying in recruitment that goes “you’re only as good as your last candidate”. A good recruiter is not going to risk sending in a CV unless they’re absolutely sure you’re right for the job, so you need to give me the ammunition I need to fight your corner. Also if a recruiter wants to meet up, do it; there’s only so much certainty I can gain from hearing your voice.
The only real chance you have of convincing me to take a risk on a career-shifter is to show me you’ve got an infectious personality, and are going to shine in front of my client.
3. Beat the bots
So you haven’t managed to influence the recruiter. Go direct to companies with applications; but before you do, beware of the ATS – Applicant Tracking System. If you’re not getting called in for an interview by HR then your CV might be getting rejected by robots. With advances in technology, some large companies have ATS systems that automatically filter out irrelevant CVs.
Optimise your CV with keywords and ensure your education and full work history is clearly laid out and “searchable”. Check out this infographic to see what may be happening to your CV once it gets sent off to a job application.
4. Be realistic
Now this one is a tricky area. I’m all for transferable skills; in fact some of the best hires I’ve made have been totally ‘outside the box’. But I’m also realistic.
For example: if it’s a field-based role and you don’t have a driving license, don’t try and convince me that your friend will drive you around the country all day! Most job markets are competitive, so that’s not to say don’t apply in the first place. Supply and demand is variable and every client of mine is different; some have more flex on experience than others. But if I say that you’ve not got the right experience then you can take that as the truth. After all it’s in my interest to help you out!
5. Be different
I recently saw a CV that really stood out from the crowd. It was in an infographic style and really got her personality across; so much so that we’ve been raving about her in the office ever since, and I’m actually interviewing her for my new company to join as an intern. Stand out and be different, especially if you’re going for a creative role. If all else fails, do something crazy like rent a billboard.
How to apply these tips
A good example of someone applying these rules for career change success was a management consultant from Sweden who wanted to break into the UK FMCG industry with no prior experience. Firstly she called me to explain who she was and ask whether I could help. Immediately I got a sense that she was bright and capable, but her background wasn’t ideally suited to my client base. She sent her CV in as per my request. Upon first glance, she didn't have any relevant industry experience so I thought it was unlikely that any of my clients would take a risk on seeing her. Rather than risk submitting the CV to any clients she suggested we met up in London to discuss what she was looking for and why she wanted to switch careers. I agreed, despite my busy schedule. From that meeting I uncovered a number of synergies between her current position that directly related to some of the challenges being faced of one of my larger FMCG corporate clients. I recommended her for a Business Analyst position, which utilized her analytical ability from her previous career. Despite being up against other candidates with FMCG industry backgrounds, she not only secured the role but was also able to add value to her new employer immediately.
To summarise, she successfully built the relationship first before sending the CV so she got noticed. In our meeting she gave me enough information to accurately match her to a specific challenge in one of my client’s businesses. She was realistic in her expectations in a new role, recognizing that moving country and industries was tough enough to choose a function that had synergies with her work history.
What your CV doesn’t tell an employer is what you’re like as a person. Cultural matching is becoming more and more prominent in the world of recruitment. These days, a good CV simply isn’t enough. Recruiters will be checking out your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook profiles to see what kind of person you are and seeing if that will fit the culture we’re hiring for, so it’s essential that you keep them up to date.
Do you have any tips of your own for getting recruiters on your side?Leave a comment below.
Chris Platts is the founder of Talent Rocket, an app that connects people to inspiring places to work. He’s a former executive recruiter and current recruitment advisor to many UK companies. Chris shares charming stuff on the topics of career optimisation, hiring talent, HR, social media, start-ups and technology. Follow him on twitter here.