Beat the Job Search Odds and Win that Part-time Job

31 August, 2015

A few years ago, after the Global Financial Crisis had done its damage to our economy, I advertised for a part-time admin/receptionist role. Clearly, there were lots of people out there desperately looking for part-time work. I was blown away by

the number of applicants – 398 to be precise.

And I was saddened by the number of people who were possibly/probably very fine candidates but who missed out – not necessarily because of their qualities as a prospective employee but because they didn’t navigate the application process very well.

Where can we hone Job Hunting skills?

Once we have left formal institutions such as school or University, we are generally on our own.  We might stumble and fumble, and make multiple mistakes in the world of work.  Usually, however, we survive these missteps.

The problem with errors in the job hunting arena (and I use the word “arena” deliberately) is that the consequences are so critical.  Missing out on a job affects so much - from our capacity to earn an income, to our satisfaction in the type of work we do and the type of workplace we end up in. Our confidence in ourselves and our worth is also often damaged.

Find that Astute Friend

In the absence of paid/formal career advisors, who can we turn to?

I probably talk too often about the “astute friend”.  Yet, they are the missing link in our job search technique. You know who I mean, the friend who just seems to have natural wisdom and judgement. Most of us have at least one in our life. 

So, next time you are thinking of applying for a new role, chat to them before you leap. Pick their brain, drive them crazy with your questions.  Make them your ally. 

Failing that, based on my experience as a recent hirer and as a career specialist, here are 10 tips to help you win that rare and coveted part-time role.

Stand out from the Crowd – for the RIGHT reasons

1. Phone, make yourself known and start the charm process.
In between Stage 1 and Stage 2 of my selection process, a new candidate phoned.  I had basically shut the job off. I was no longer looking at any new applicants and was more than comfortable with the short-listed candidates.  The woman who phoned had a beautiful voice and a lovely manner.  So charming was she that I slotted her into the process and even told her not to bother with an application letter. This presents interesting statistics.  398 applicants, 98% of whom did not make it to the first stage. 0.50% (2 people) who phoned, one of whom was then asked to attend the Stage 1 process. 

2. Attach your cover letter as a separate document.
Starting with the best intentions in the world, I soon got to the stage where I did not open any applications where it looked as though there was only a résumé attached. So, make it clear to the employer that you have bothered to write a letter.

3. Complete the cover letter as a Word document or a PDF.
Content in a text box is not fully visible on screen.  Even when I went to the effort of copying the content into Word, the text broke at odd places, making the letter unattractive and difficult to read.

4. Get your timing right, like Goldilocks.
Lots of applicants applied within hours of the ad appearing.  Clearly, they did not take the time to find out about our firm or write a strong application. On the other hand, I stopped looking at any new applications after 5 days, as I had so many quality applicants to choose from. It sounds harsh but “Those who snooze, lose.”

5. Write a Cover Letter that clearly addresses the role.
It is always easy to identify a stock standard, generic letter. Those applicants who did not make it clear that they were applying for OUR role were eliminated immediately. 

6. Convince the employer that you actually prefer part-time work.
Many applicants were clearly in a full-time role, raising doubt as to why they were applying for a part-time role. By the time I had enough strong applicants to short-list, subsequent applicants were eliminated if they did not address this issue.

7. Abide by the instructions.
Our ad clearly asked applicants to write to me to outline why they should be considered for the role.  The large majority of applicants addressed the letter to “Dear Sir/Madam”, “To whom it may concern” or, in one instance, “Dear Madem”.

8. Leave salary discussions till the end.
One applicant left a message asking me to call her back and let her know what salary we were paying.  I am the sort of person who will ALWAYS return a phone call but boy, it was hard to force myself to do it that time.

9. Obey the forms of a modern letter.
When there are so many applicants, this becomes a way of culling.  Very few of those applicants who wrote a proper letter were culled at the first stage, as they stood out from the crowd for the right reasons.

10. Sound like a real person in the letter.
Some of the letters were lovely.  Quite simple but portraying a genuine person behind the words.  These candidates also made it to the first short-list.

Common Sense is Available to All

The above tips could all be called common sense.  That is why I am comfortable that you can find someone astute in your life to help you out here.  So go ahead and ask them for help next time.  As the Nike ad goes, “Just do it!”

 

aBOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert.  She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au

 

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