From a young age, we’re groomed to believe that job applications are meant to be expertly curated, paper versions of ourselves. But, in reality, these “ideal” applications often leave recruiters with a distant, impersonal snapshot of the applicant. That’s why, when candidates ask me for application advice, I share one tip: Don’t be afraid to be “more human.”
Authenticity is what will garner your application more attention, even if it means sharing the unrefined, authentic parts of yourself you’d rather hide away. Be more vulnerable, more transparent, more open to revealing what you want, why you want it, and what you are doing to get there. It’s this kind of candor that will catch your recruiter’s eye and make her linger a few moments longer. Here’s how to get a head start on being a more human applicant.
Be more vulnerable
As humans, we’re averse to publically disclosing our failures. But, as recruiters, that’s just what we’re itching to see! We believe that innovation is founded on failure and that moments of failure often present the best growth opportunities. In fact, HubSpot hosts an annual “Failure Forum,” in which employees can share stories of recent failures and learn how their colleagues turned failures into teachable moments.
Failure articulates the level of complexity you were solving for, your drive, your creativity, your grit, and your stubbornness. That’s why, if a company is using behavioral interviewing, you will almost certainly be asked some variation of the question, “Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with this situation?”
So, why not be more proactive about it? Why not get ahead of the curve and produce an entire CV of failures or dedicate a section of your application to highlighting your missteps? By doing so, the power is in your hands to explain how you approach and react to difficult situations and how you apply the lessons you learn to solving future problems. Or, as Samuel Beckett’s said, how you learn to “fail better.”
Pitch your own role
Have you ever been in a situation where someone has preemptively brought you a glass of water before you even realized you were thirsty? It’s refreshing, right? And not just in the literal sense. Companies want to hire employees who are going to solve a challenge before they even know it needs solving. We call this being remarkably helpful, and one way to do so is by pitching a net new role to a company and then pitching yourself as the ideal candidate for that role.
To do this right, however, you really need to do your due diligence: carefully study what the company is doing, research the team organization and the content employees share, and identify what their potential pain points might be. Then, make a business case quantifying the benefits of implementing the role, such as increased revenue, time savings, or reduced costs. Once the case is made, sell yourself and the skills you bring to the table that prove you are the perfect fit. The more personal you can make this pitch, the better. Personalizing his outreach helped one HubSpot employee stand out from 437 other applicants to land his dream job!
Be transparent about your skills AND your deficits
Employers know you’re not perfect and that there is always more to learn. So instead of trying to hide the skills and experiences you don’t have, own them. Share in your application or interview previous feedback you’ve received from a supervisor about where you have room for improvement. Be open about what the feedback was, how you digested it, and what steps you are taking to develop skills or gain experiences you currently lack. This could be as simple as explaining how you are coaching kids’ soccer to enhance your coaching skills as a manager, or how you joined Toastmasters to improve your public speaking. Demonstrating your self-awareness and autonomy, as well as the velocity at which you adapt and learn, will certainly help you stand out from other applicants.
Show your true colors
Most recruiters are looking to hire candidates that will be a good “culture fit,” or more importantly, culturally additive. We want candidates that hold the same values as our company but also bring their own authentic selves and unique flare to the organization. This flare, however, can be hard to gather from the short list of keywords relegated to the “interests” section at the very bottom of the CV― and that’s assuming the recruiter even makes it to the end of the page.
Instead, don’t be afraid to express in your CV what topics you are truly passionate about or what hobbies you’re obsessed with. Including interests is not taboo. You don’t have to write an essay, but make the details count. Instead of just listing “running” as a hobby, write, “I train three times a week in preparation for a 10km I’m doing in March.” Or, if you are sharing your passion for education, say, “For over 8 years now, I’ve been involved in the girl scouts and love helping teenagers navigate adolescence.” These details help paint a better picture of the authentic you and shed light on your commitment to personal development
Applying for a new job is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be impersonal. Tell more about what makes you you, be more open, be more transparent, be more human. Trust me, recruiters will notice.
Still looking for tips to prepare for your job search? Check out these interview prep tips from a HubSpotter.