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What Recruiters Don’t Tell You: And How You Can Get to the Front of the Line

Are you currently in the job market or know someone who is? Check out our webinar on the 5 Habits of Highly Effective Job Seekers, a StartWire exclusive presented by our CEO Chris Forman. Last week, we focused on Habit #1: “Don’t post and pray.”

This week we’re talking about Habit #2  – “Apply early.” It’s more important than you might think. A StartWire survey of over 6,600 successful job seekers across ten industries revealed a stat that startled me: A majority of job seekers who got hired applied early – 50% applied within a week of a job being listed, and 75% within three weeks. The earlier you apply, the better chance you have of getting full consideration for the position.

The importance of applying early is a dirty little secret you rarely hear discussed in job search forums – and by employers: Many companies don’t make a second review of job applications after they’ve made their first “short list” of who to interview for a job. The reason? Most recruiters at large companies hire for 20 or more jobs at one time. If you’ve got a short list of good applicants, you don’t spend time going back through the queue after you’ve got the interview process started. It’s second nature to recruiters and hiring managers to focus on the batch of applicants that have applied first – and the ones that have come recommended.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to land on this short list – you just need to apply early. Here are five easy ways to make sure you know about and respond to openings as soon as – or before – they are listed. (No inside track required.)

1. Find out about new jobs before they are listed. 

Pay attention to the business news in the location where you want to work. Economic development agencies, politicians, and your local Chamber of Commerce often tout new job openings and anticipated hiring by companies positioned to grow. Want to be among the first to know? Attend public meetings, pay attention to local news, and look for announcements that contain information about jobs, funding, and tax breaks – all are harbingers of potential job openings.

2. Talk to an Admissions officer for your local community college – even if you don’t have any intention of signing up for classes.

Why? Local companies that are growing fast and have specific hiring needs often partner with community colleges to create training programs and offer courses to potential and current employees. Admissions officers are generally knowledgeable about these opportunities – and can share with you names of companies who have training initiatives with the school. Once you know who’s hiring, you can follow up with the company and let them know how you learned about them. (Note: This works even if you don’t have the skills a company is training new employees for since most companies hire for multiple positions at any given time.)

3. Create a pathway for leads with friends and former colleagues.

Be specific about your skills but open to hearing about jobs from multiple organizations. If you say “I’m interested in Marketing Manager positions at these five companies,” you may not come “top of mind” if there’s an opening at a company not at your short list or a job with the same exact title. But if you share your interests and a success story or two of work you’ve enjoyed doing before, you may be at the “tip of the tongue” when someone you know is asked, “Do you know anyone who could?”

4. Sign up for job alerts to receive information about when new jobs are listed.

Many job sites have a feature that notifies you when new jobs that match your career interests and locations are posted to the site; StartWire now only lists jobs that have been posted within two weeks – and send job alerts on new listings.

5. Be ready to pounce when you hear of an opening.

Have an up-to-date resume with an opening summary that provides an overview of your experience.  When you see a listing, customize the bullets in your resume to show how your experience matches the job – then send the resume in and apply. Once your resume and cover letter are ready, you can apply for the job in approximately eight minutes. How easy is that? 

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