Do you often ask yourself what goes on behind the scenes of the job application process? HR managers look for very specific characteristics and follow clearly defined strategies and procedures. And since knowledge is power, as we well know, in this post we will explain the most important stages your application will be going through in the HR department. This way, you’ll be even better prepared in the competition for your dream job.
How HR managers approach your application
1. Receiving your application documents
The most important factor that ensures that your application is considered is, quite obviously, that the HR managers receive your application documents in the first place. Email applications should not be too big and documents should not be sent individually or in a confusing jumble. Online applications via standardised forms must be filled in their entirety. HR managers only consider complete applications and either first put them to one side so as to decide on a pre-selection after the deadline has passed or they arrange job interviews straight after receiving the first applications. Companies often opt for the latter option when they are under particular time pressure and are keen to appoint a new member of staff in a particular position as quickly as possible.
Pre-selection means filtering out the candidates that do not fulfil the basic criteria. Possible basic criteria might include a complete application, a degree, relevant keywords in the cover letter and CV, or knowledge of a certain language. Pre-selection is done either manually or using a HR management system. That leaves a group of promising potential candidates. If you are certain that a company is working with recruiting software you should optimise your CV for the automatic pre-selection.
3. Document evaluation
Your CV and your cover letter are analysed before and after a job interview and should complement each other. The CV should be clearly laid out and not be too lengthy while still containing all the relevant key information. Studies have shown that your CV is scanned for 6 seconds on average and is analysed in particular detail at very specific points.
Your cover letter should conform to the usual layout criteria and ideally stand out from the other covers letters in terms of content. You should reveal a little of your personality in your cover letter. Of course, when we say ‘personality’ we don’t mean that you should reveal what your favourite meal is – just some relevant information that has something to do with the job and the company. HR managers read an enormous number of cover letters and most of these are remarkably similar. What information would show you in a positive light and make you stand out from the crowd? We often hear that HR managers like it when applicants refer to the company’s slogan or include an intelligent comment on a successful campaign or new product. You need to prove that you have done more than just superficially research the company and show that you are truly interested and motivated. The cover letter is not just simply a repetition of your CV, which the HR managers will already have a copy of.
4. The short list
In larger companies and at companies that use external support to organise their recruitment procedures, your documents might only be read by the people who make the final decision if you make it onto the short list. At smaller firms it is almost certain that a direct selection will be made. Either way, the number of potential candidates is reduced further. Only a few will make it onto the short list and be invited for interview.
5. Assessment, job interview or telephone interview
The next round will involve a personality test, telephone interview, online assessment or a face-to-face job interview. If you are invited for an interview or an aptitude test then you’ve already come through the pre-selection and are on the short list! Congratulations! They must have found your cover letter and your CV interesting. You will now really be put through your paces. Your personality, social and cognitive intelligence, values and your behavioural characteristics will be tested. In short, they’ll be looking to see what else you have to offer. You can take it for granted that all the other candidates are just as well qualified as you are. So at this point you should try to stand out from the crowd of similarly qualified candidates – and to do so in as many ways as possible.
6. After the job interview
After the job interview, you should make a note of the most important issues and then relax. You will usually be told during the interview when you can expect to hear from them. If they forget to mention this, you can certainly ask about it in a friendly way, but you should definitely not inquire about the status of your application after only a few days. The appraisal and decision will take a few weeks and yes, the successful candidate is always contacted first. If the chosen one accepts the job, rejection letters are drafted and sent to the other candidates.