If you’re looking for a new job, you’ll want to use the application process to stand out from the crowd. Here are four ways to help you gain an edge and land an interview.
With so many pieces of conflicting pieces of advice coming from blogs, magazines, newspapers and other experts, the job hunt has become a bit of a puzzle these days. But there is one thing everyone agrees on: showing employers you’re truly interested in this job — as opposed to just any job — is the best way to secure an interview.
So how do you demonstrate your interest during the application process?
Tailoring your cover letter to each job and openly stating your interest are good ways to go of course, but according to a new study led by psychological scientist James A. Breaugh from the University of Missouri, the information on your application may be telling employers a lot more than you think.
The researchers compared the job turnover rate of 414 recently hired employees to their job application information and found that four particular pieces of information can tell employers whether you’re genuinely interested in working for their company, and can even predict how likely you are to quit.
“For job applicants, the results of this study show the importance of demonstrating that one is serious about working for the employer,” notes Breaugh. Additionally, he added that “Applying more than one time for a position and doing more than necessary in completing the job application are two ways to show a high level of interest in a position.”
So before you send off your next application, know that employers will likely be paying close attention to these four pieces of information, even if you aren’t. (Click here to tweet this list.)
Employers often try to gauge an applicant’s interest in their specific company by using direct questions like, “Why do you want to work for us?”
But since the answers to such questions aren’t always equally sincere, they also look for other ways to measure a person’s level of interest. Reapplications can speak volumes about whether someone is really as motivated as they claim to be.
In Breaugh’s study, only 19 percent of re-appliers quit after 240 days compared to 51 percent of first-time applicants.
Tip: Even if you don’t get an interview the first time you apply for a job, you should try to get some feedback if you think your qualifications and experience make you a good fit for the position or company. Be sure you understand the requirements, and then reapply.
2. Employee referrals
Applicants referred by current employees are significantly less likely to quit, and Breaugh’s research found that more than 50 percent of non-referrals quit after 240 days compared to only about 30 percent of referred applicants.
Employers know this and are increasingly relying on internal referrals. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed referred candidates are twice as likely to land an interview as other applicants.
Tip: Even if you don’t know anyone at the company you want to work for, you may still be able to get an employee referral if you’re prepared to do a bit of extra legwork. Use sites like LinkedIn to find current employees and try to establish a connection, or find out if any of your own connections know people there who could make introductions.
You may also be able to join LinkedIn groups made up of employees, former employees or others who are affiliated with the company you’re interested in working for.
3. Submitting optional information
The amount of time and effort you’re willing to put into an application is another indicator of how much you want the job, which is why many employers give applicants the opportunity to submit optional information.
Taking the time to answer additional questions or submit personal statements signals a higher level of interest, and Breaugh’s research confirms this by showing that applicants who submitted optional information had a 10 percent lower turnover rate.
Tip: As tedious as it may be, you should always take the time to fill out any extra forms, write a few lines about how your previous experience has prepared you for the job, or whatever else you may be asked to do that is considered optional. It’s this extra little step that could put you well ahead of the competition.
4. Employment status
Employers tend to view applicants who have done several short stints with different companies as riskier hires than those who have been with the same company for five or more years.
But since it’s not always possible to gauge person’s motivation based on their work history alone, employers also look at an applicant’s current employment status, as someone who is already employed will be more selective about the jobs they apply to.
Breaugh’s research shows that 66.7 percent of unemployed applicants quit after 240 days, while only 33.3 percent of employed applicants did the same.
Tip: Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about it if you are unemployed when you begin your job hunt, but it does emphasize the importance of not quitting your job prematurely. As much as you may hate your current job, having it will ultimately make it easier for you to find the right one — so if at all possible, try to begin your job search while you’re still employed.
Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading online education providers. She covers everything from lifehacks and career development to learning tips and the latest research in education. You can connect with her on Google+ and Twitter, or find her latest articles here.