Here’s a big assumption: “I Need a CV to get the Job”
…But what if you didn’t need a CV?
I have seen a few “hacks” for the job search that don’t work. Like creating a super colorful, elaborate CV design. The problem is, it’s easier for the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) system to screen out your CV if it doesn’t recognize the formatting. Almost always, it’s best to stick to something simple — 9 out of 10 recruiters agree.
Instead of changing the design of your CV, you could try something completely different.
Forget the resume for a moment. Let’s get down to the fundamental elements of applying for a job. The first principles.
As a former agency recruiter, I helped find and recruit candidates for companies like Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, and Spotify, amongst others. I never worked at these companies, but they were my clients. Because I had direct access to the hiring manager or internal recruiter (their email and sometimes phone number), I would often call them and get people interviews without the hiring manager ever seeing their resume.
The conversation would go something like this.
Me: Hey John, I have a great candidate for the Amazon Prime marketing position, Sarah L. She has 5 years of experience working at a consumer goods company, and 3 years doing b2c marketing at Hilton where she managed a $10m marketing budget. I just spoke with her and did a thorough screening on the Leadership Principles and role specific knowledge, and I think she’s a good fit. And she’s interested to talk to you about the role this week if you’re free.
Hiring manager: Sounds great, let’s setup a call.
What just happened? How did I get Sarah an interview so quick? This sort of conversation wasn’t a one-off — it happened all the time. Of course, as a recruiter it was my job to screen candidates. I built up reputation as a reliable recruiter so eventually hiring managers trusted my judgement.
The good news is that you can use the same principles that I used to get this person an interview.
You see, companies don’t have a problem with the number of applicants – tons of people apply. They have a problem screening them and finding the best out of the pack. And the reason hiring managers trusted me is because I knew what they were looking for. The nuances of their culture and specifics of the role.
You must show companies that you get this, too. That you are 1) A fit for this position and 2) A fit for the culture. That’s it. Unfortunately, a resume isn’t always the best way to do that. There are too many opportunities for misunderstandings.
To stand out, you have to do something that will make you stand out.
That way, you could bypass the 1st step of the process (application) and move straight to the recruiter or even hiring manager interview.
If you were applying to Amazon today and wanted to completely bypass the top of the funnel screening process, here’s how you could do it.
First off, switch your LinkedIn to actively looking for jobs.
Then, update your LinkedIn profile to include the most popular keywords that Amazon recruiters are looking for. This will increase your chances of standing out and being contacted by recruiters directly.
I analyzed over 200 resumes that are publicly available on LinkedIn to find out which keywords Amazon employees tend to use in describing their previous jobs and have viewed thousands of resumes and linkedin profiles over the years.
Specific keywords that Amazon loves to see in resumes:
· Go-to market strategy
· Go-to market
· Target vs. Actual
· Data analysis
· Process improvement
· P/L Management
Simply by including those words in your resume, you stand a much better chance of getting past the ATS software. You will still need your CV but this sets you up for inbound contact from companies, as well as makes screening easier if you do apply for a job.
Second, aggressively look for a referral within the company. The application to hire ratio is a lot higher for referrals, so when you’re referred you automatically start from a place of higher probabilities. According to Jobvite, 40% of a company’s hires came through referrals. And referrals are hired 55% faster than non-referred candidates!
You probably have a LI connection who works or worked at Amazon, or knows someone who did. Start reaching out to them now. Here are a few templates to help you out asking for referrals.
If you’re hard-pressed to find a referral, it’s common to use a site like TeamBlind and ask for a referral, too. One tip from Moriah, who received multiple FAANG offers, is to ask people who have worked in the same role or similar role that you’re applying for.
If you don’t have a referral, you could try cold reach out to several hiring managers and recruiters. In that case, do a quick search on Linkedin with the location and the keywords for your job. Click on their profile and send them a quick message with your resume. So if you’re applying for an operations role in finance, you can probably pinpoint who is in charge. Search for the company name, recruiter + department.
Here’s a good template you can use for cold outreach.
I hope this message finds you well! My name is Moriah, and I’m a full-stack software engineer looking for new opportunities in <city>. I saw that you have an opening for the <position name> role, and want to reach out. <1–2 sentences about why this company is awesome>
I have experience with <skills I have that relate to their tech stack>; I think I would be a great fit for your team. Would you be available to chat a bit more about this opportunity next week, either Monday or Tuesday?
Thanks so much for your time — talk to you soon!
The Third Door approach
Once you have the referrer, you could simply share your resume/CV and LinkedIn profile to apply for the job. Prepare to wait several weeks or months, as it can take time to push you through the system.
However, there’s another way you can stand out. A third door that most people don’t take. It requires a bit of effort, but hear me out.
Part of the Amazon interview process requires a Writing Sample. Usually this comes before or during your final round of interviews. They give you an option to answer one of two questions like “tell me about a time you had to make a decision with limited information” or “tell me about a time you had improved a process.” Check this one that is filled out by a candidate who got the job.
Even though this is not required nor expected until later in the interview process, here’s the crazy idea: you’re going to put in the work to fill it out to answer one of the above questions in STAR format. Here are some tips on how to fill out the writing sample.
Once you finish this you are going to send it to the hiring manager. You could send it via your friend or ask who the hiring manager is and reach out via LinkedIn/ and/or the recruiter you reached out to.
But why? Why put in all this effort before you’ve even got the first interview as part of your application when nobody asked for it?
Effectively what you’ve done is bypass the resume screening process and said, “I am going to go ahead and put in the work to write this 1,000 word document a la Amazon memo style because I’m serious and that excited about this role.”
You’re showcasing your skills, specific knowledge for the role, and motivation. You are going above and beyond. And most of all, you are standing out.
A hiring manager could very well choose to ignore you. That’s a risk you take. However, if you’ve put in the effort, it’s likely that you’ve painted a better picture of your culture fit and fit for the role. Maybe you even hit some major pain points that you could solve for the company/team/hiring manager with. And that gets them even more excited to talk to you.
Google used to use hacking challenges/hackathons to identify great talent. You know, “crack this code and get a job” type questions. This is sort of the same – you are SHOWING them your skills, not just talking about them.
Interestingly, as part of the hiring process for any tech company you will typically get a test. A coding test, presentation, pitch deck, writing test, etc. Your mission is to find out WHAT THAT IS before even applying to the job. Then put in the work and send it to the right person.
Some roles either don’t have a test or you can’t find it online, but it’s going to apply to most cases, especially large tech companies. You might have to do some digging or ask in your network. This should at least give you a starting point.
Add Value + Show Your Personality = Eyeballs
This seems like a lot of work, because it is. But we’re going for quality here. And you’re not just any applicant, you’re taking a smart approach. Everyone else is using the 2 most common doors: the door of online applications or networking. You’re taking the third door.
I have seen variations of this technique play out for several job seekers with a lot of success. You don’t necessarily have to follow the above format of submitting a test/presentation before it’s due. It can simply be something that adds value to the company which shows them who you are.
Like the growth hacker who landed a job at Facebook by creating witty Facebook ads targeting FB employees.
The other examples I have seen that led to an interview request:
- A marketing manager sending a list of awesome marketing ideas to Uber that landed him an interview
- The community manager who created a Pinterest-board outlining her personal philosophy and ideas on how to grow certain niche communities
- The marketer who made a Lego-version of herself and landed the job at Lego
- The translator who proactively translated a blog post for a Language Specialist role for Salesforce and got the interview
- The business development manager who landed a job at Amazon sending his sales/partnership ideas in a pitch deck for a new department
Who is willing to spend time on creative job applications? Not many people, I promise, but if you do you’ll be way ahead of the competition.
And remember: Quality trumps quantity.
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