Recruitment agencies, the epitome of the middle-man, are a common interface between employer and talent pool. They serve a purpose which can be useful to both employer and candidate… though it might not always feel that way.
If you get it right, recruitment agencies can be instrumental in matchmaking you with a company and role that’s the perfect fit. But if you miss the mark by even a nanometre, the process can feel like a terminal sacrifice of the precious marbles of sanity. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid the latter – here are eight pieces of advice on how to apply for jobs via recruiters in way that boosts your chance of breaking through the barrier.
1. Only apply for roles that you are obviously suitable for
There’s no point applying for a vacancy through a recruitment agency if that position doesn’t harmonize flawlessly with your previous experience or qualifications. This is sad but true. Recruiters work for the employer and, as such, don’t have the remotest interest in helping you achieve your goals – either by taking a chance on a candidate who is enthusiastic but potentially unsuitable, or by providing useful feedback. Be ruthlessly objective: put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if you fit the specified requirements.
2. Be the hare, not the tortoise
Time is very much of the essence for recruiters as employers sometimes uses more than one agency to try to fill a vacancy, effectively pitting the agencies against one another and resulting in a competitive scramble and a race against the clock. Job sites usually tell you how long an advert has been live for – if it’s been longer than two weeks, taking the time to apply probably isn’t worth the bother.
3. Passion will get you nowhere
Again, tragic but true. Recruiters tend to protect the identity of their client – this means all the lovely company-specific passion and enthusiasm that can be injected into a direct application, which may go a long way to compensating for your lack of relevant skills or experience, is null and void in this case.
The solution: save yourself the pain and the hurt by adopting a chafingly dry approach, where you lay your cards on the table by stating your skills and experience and substantiating your claims with facts and figures.
4. Stuff your CV with the right keywords
Some recruiters use keywords to filter candidates before they even lay their eyes on any applications. If you’re applying for a digital marketing role, make sure your CV is overflowing with helpful signifiers such as “analytics/SEM/SEO/email campaign/conversion rate” and so on. Take the words present in the job description as a starting point. Only if you truly have this knowledge, of course.
5. Three years means three years
If a job description stipulates that the successful candidate must have three years’ experience in a similar role, this is generally non-negotiable. It seems grossly unfair that someone who has scraped along by the skin of their lazy teeth in a particular position for a long time has a better chance of getting an interview than you, the outstandingly excellent specimen with only a year’s experience. But that’s life, dammit.
6. Stand out quickly
Wading through hundreds of CVs isn’t exactly easy on the eyes. There’s a general rule about keeping your CV to a maximum of two pages; in this case, that number is unceremoniously cut in half. You have one page to get the message across.
1) Don’t waffle. Needlessly long sentences are a no-go.
2) Get creative with the formatting (fiddle with line spacing and margins, use columns and boxes to utilise the entire width of the page, experiment with different fonts).
3) Leave out the ancient and/or irrelevant stuff. The fact that you babysat for your neighbour a decade ago won’t help you get a job as a digital marketer.
7. Following up on your application might work…
…Then again, it might not. This depends on myriad factors – the most significant of which being the disposition of the person responsible for that role, who may either be mightily impressed or irritated beyond belief by a phone call.
Whereas a proactive and persistent approach can go a long way when you apply directly to the company of your dreams, when it comes to recruitment agencies, there really is no reliable formula. Worth a shot if you have some spare time on your hands.
8. If all else fails, pester them for advice
If, despite sticking to the above measures to the letter, you find you’re still going nowhere fast – it’s time to pick up the phone for a chat. Recruitment agencies aren’t a bunch of bad eggs, after all; they just have a very specific job to do, with very specific targets to meet.
Ask to speak to the person responsible for the most recent role you applied for and ask them, in the very nicest way possible, pretty please with a cherry on the top, if they could perhaps spare a few minutes of their time to help you understand what’s going wrong. They might be able to cast a glance over your CV and tell you straight up why you’re not getting put forward for the kind of jobs you’re after.
P.S. You’ll be glad to know that all roles on enternships.com have been posted directly by the company looking to hire, which means no middle man – and not a marble lost.
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By Corissa Nunn, European Development at Enternships