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Becoming Undeniable for Recruiters and Hiring Managers
You won't be seen until you learn how to see things from others' perspective
She opens her laptop and stares at her inbox with over a hundred unread emails. Among the memo chaos lies a message from the Talent Acquisition team demanding assistance reviewing job applications.
Being the Engineering Manager, Jennette acknowledges the urgency to backfill the Site Reliability Role in Video Processing Systems.
It is a critical role that requires someone with experience in orchestrating infrastructure at scale and managing high-throughput data in a hybrid cluster of CPUs and GPUs. It is worth noting the importance of working experience with video processing systems.
She must focus on finding candidates with significant knowledge and team fit overlap among thousands of applications and sourced candidates.
And there is where your problem lies. You have less than thirty seconds to capture a hiring manager's attention suffering from a high cognitive load. The only way to achieve it is by eliminating all the clutter and creating focus.
But before we dive into how you solve the problem above, we must understand how recruiters and hiring managers find qualified candidates.
In the search for the best-fitting candidate
People in leadership positions often optimize for candidates requiring them to make the minimum effort possible to achieve success and ultimately create more capacity for themselves. In other words, someone with the skills, experience, and track record of successful projects.
Starting with the experience, they look into the hard skills required for the job and how long the candidates have been doing it. They also look into which context candidates have used those skills, matching it to their team or domain. Lastly, they verify candidates' level of responsibility to infer their seniority.
Let’s dive into a concrete example
Our fictional character, Jannette, would search for candidates with Terraform, Kubernetes, Cloud Computing, and other infrastructure-related skills. She would also prefer candidates who had worked in teams that enabled video processing, encoding, and computing or in companies where they would have experienced it as part of the business critical path. Lastly, since that was a backfill for the only video processing engineer in her team, she would prefer candidates with similar scope that have interacted with and served other technical organizations within their company, so they have the chops with technical stakeholder management. Since this is not a remote role, she would prefer candidates based in San Francisco.
Jannette would talk to talent researchers to prioritize that candidate profile and adjust her search criteria to follow suit. She would also use it to triage candidate applications.
What if there are no candidates that perfectly match the criteria?
Only if she cannot find candidates with all the above qualifications would she consider relaxing some of those requirements. Usually in the inverse order, starting by broadening the search regarding location, then relaxing team context requirements, and lastly, some of the hard skills or required experience.
Each relaxed requirement will demand additional coaching and investment from the hiring manager. Thus, they will always prioritize someone that completely fits the job description above others.
Now that you and I understand how recruiters and hiring managers search for and triage candidates' applications, we will dive into why most people apply to hundreds of roles and can't get a single interview.
Let's tackle the main problem on profiles and resumes: lack of focus.
Creating focus means saying MORE with LESS
Acknowledging managers' and recruiters' cognitive overload and how they search for the best candidate, the only way to become visible is to clearly show that you are the perfect fit for the role and only THAT role.
Everyone has a set of skills. These are the bedrock to work in the capacity of a desired job. But despite your numerous achievements and crafts, you cannot stack up everything you have ever worked with. Aim to deliver ONE single message.
Here is an excellent example of a resume focusing on solving one problem and conveying ONE message.
Software Engineer with 2+ years of professional experience designing, developing, and deploying scalable and secure cloud-based data applications and ETL pipelines with Java, Python, Spark, Airflow, and Cassandra. Proficient in Linux, Amazon Web Services, Oracle Cloud, and OpenStack architectures. Hold a Master's degree in Computer Science focused on Distributed Systems.
By reading it, I know this is an entry-level candidate with solid experience that would be additive to data teams searching for candidates with hands-on development experience in data pipelines and infrastructure — a great fit for entry-level Data Engineer roles.
Here is another example that hiring managers often gloss over and discard in less than thirty seconds.
I interact with clinicians, employees, and other organization leaders to understand perspectives and/or share findings. Among my responsibilities, I advise on multiple initiatives, such as workforce optimization and recommending solutions to complex employee relations and HR issues. I deployed and executed strategic HR programs by partnering with other HR functions. Also, as an engineer, I worked on projects related to generating Market Risk Reports for a banking client of TCS. My most significant contribution was developing a Risk Reporting and Financial Data Management system.
Both excerpts are from real-life examples — both requests I received for referrals for Data Engineering roles. One has a great fit, and the other is the classic handyman example.
Now that you've seen two examples, I want you to drive this home: Instead of piling all your qualifications, focus on essential aspects of the roles you apply for and enrich it with context.
Why is context important?
Remember how Jannette prioritizes people in her search for the best candidate? This is what will make you stand out among other candidates. After all, many candidates will likely possess similar skills as you, but not necessarily in the context of the job.
I like how my friend Kaveri put it while we discussed how to use domain expertise as context for job applications.
If you have the skills, the experience in the same context, and the right level of responsibility, you will be undeniably the best fit for the role.
Wrapping up with the following steps
Remember, recruiters and managers have a very short attention span. Success means making it easy for them to find you while panning gold in an endless river of candidates.
Set aside time this week to review your resume and LinkedIn profile. After scanning, see where you can improve:
Reducing information: less is more.
Focus on one message for one job.
Highlight the context of your work.
Always answer the three questions: Which skills? For what? In which capacity?
Make these changes and tell me in the comments how this helped you get more messages from recruiters.
Next week, we will explore how to increase your marketability by exploring roles that fit your skills and domain experience.
Thank you for reading this edition, and I will see you in the next one!