Insider Tips: What do recruiters look for and how can you stand out in this competitive job market?
Are you considering a career change or looking for a new role? Wondering what it takes to stand out in the competitive job market? In this blog, we share insights from our Talent Acquisition Partner, Alex Morrell who offers his thoughts about what recruiters look for and the most important things to keep in mind when applying for jobs.
Question: What are some the top qualities that recruiters look for in candidates?
Alex: During the screening process, we initially tend to look for soft skills:
- Communication: Effective communication skills are crucial for any role you apply to. Your ability to articulate your thoughts and ideas is essential to help you collaborate with colleagues and customers successfully. Being able to share knowledge, solutions, and expertise is fundamental. Strong communicators are better equipped to handle client interactions and build lasting relationships.
- Teamwork: Collaboration and teamwork are important, no matter the role. The ability to work well with others and contribute to a positive, productive environment is very valuable to an employer.
- Willingness to Learn & Adapt: Fast-paced companies always want candidates who can adapt to new challenges and embrace learning opportunities. As a recruiter, when I talk to potential candidates, I always look for people who show coachability and can learn quickly.
- Problem-solving: Effective problem-solving skills enable an employee to identify and resolve complex issue, so I always look for candidates who can demonstrate that. They can do so by providing examples from their earlier work experience or even their university days.
- Taking Ownership: In any successful business, it’s the employees who take ownership of their behaviours, decisions, and actions, recognising that they impact the team and the company. We look for people who have that sense of ownership.
- Passion & Enthusiasm: Any organisation, whether they are an SME or a large enterprise, value passionate and enthusiastic individuals who will go the extra mile to achieve their goals. So, we always look for people who are passionate and enthusiastic about their work, keen on bringing new ideas to the table, ready to try something new and not afraid to take on new projects.
Question: How do recruiters determine whether a candidate is a good fit for a particular role?
Alex: Beyond the soft skills I just mentioned, we try to understand what specific benefits a candidate can bring to the position we’re looking to fill. We assess that based on the following criteria:
- Skillset: We evaluate both technical and soft skills in relation to the job because they can determine the candidate’s ability to perform the required tasks and start contributing to the team more quickly and effectively. Certain skills, especially soft ones like communication, leadership, or teamwork, can indicate how well a candidate will fit into the company culture.
- Previous Experience: For roles that require a certain amount of work experience, the candidate’s past positions are always taken into account. Recruiters will evaluate if you have worked in similar roles and responsibilities in the past and what you learned in those positions. We also try to assess how you could implement those learnings in the position you have applied for.
- Motivations: Understanding a candidate’s motivations always helps me determine how the candidate will thrive in the organisation. Motivated candidates tend to be more engaged and committed to their roles, leading to higher job satisfaction, improved work quality, and lower turnover rates. Recruiters always like to know about your ambitions, what drives you and how you would like to grow in your career.
Question: What mistakes do candidates make in their application?
Alex: You’d be surprised at how common some mistakes are. For example:
- Not attaching the correct or updated CV: Candidates sometimes send us the wrong CV or an outdated version. Recruiters may perceive you as not serious about the application, which can harm your chances of moving forward in the selection process. Also, a wrong CV will not highlight the relevant skills, qualifications, and experiences that align with the job you’re applying for, causing recruiters to overlook your application.
- Including a cover letter for a different role or a generic cover letter: A cover letter is a space where you can demonstrate your skills. I suggest always utilising this opportunity. It allows you to personalize your application and convey why you’re a perfect fit for the role.
- Not reading the job description correctly before applying: We often come across candidates who haven’t read the job description entirely, and their skillset does not match the role, or they might have inaccurate expectations.
- Not researching the company before a screening call: Without proper research, you may not understand the company’s products, services, culture, or mission well enough. This can leave you unprepared for interviews. Additionally, without proper research, you might miss chances to emphasise how your skills and experiences align with what’s required.
Question: How can candidate stand out?
Alex: To stand out in the hiring process, my tips are:
- Research the company beyond the first page of the website. This demonstrates your genuine interest in the organisation and the role you’re applying for. It boosts your application to a great extent. Also, once you know more about the company you are applying to, you might come up with role-specific questions which can impress hiring managers. Asking company-specific questions demonstrates your proactivity, organizational skills, and commitment to thorough research, which can boost your odds of securing the job offer. You can also research the awards that your prospective employer has won, or what industry accolades they might have gotten.
- Write a strong cover letter that effectively aligns your skills with the job role. Resumes are typically brief and don’t offer much room for explanations or storytelling. Like I mentioned earlier, a good cover letter allows you to go into the detail about specific experiences or skills that make you a strong candidate for the role you are applying for.
- Have a look at the company’s values. See if it’s something you would personally believe in. Do those values resonate with your work ethic? How would you align yourself with them? Prepare some example questions and answers beforehand.
- Follow the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result). The STAR technique offers a structured approach to answering behavioural interview questions, allowing you to showcase your skills and problem-solving ability. This will enable the recruiter to learn more about your previous experience and how you can handle challenges in the future.
Question: How do you evaluate candidates during the screening process?
Alex: I normally setup a 20–30-minute call to help me get to know a candidate, their development goals and motivations for the role.
Recruiters use this conversation to evaluate an applicant’s skills and experience against the role they are hiring for, or the company values and behaviours like I described above.
Question: What channels do you use to source candidates (e.g., job boards, social media, employee referrals, etc.)?
Alex: We leverage a mix of channels, including various job boards, LinkedIn, or agency partners. Additionally, we have an employee referral scheme, rewarding our Sonovate colleagues for successful recommendations. In today’s recruiting landscape, LinkedIn is the main tool recruiters use to find the best talent. For applicants, my recommendation is to optimise your profile on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job boards, incorporating a well-crafted CV and cover letter to enhance your visibility and set yourself apart from the competition.
Question: What role does technology play? Do recruiters use applicant tracking systems (ATS) or software to streamline the process?
Alex: Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are very helpful, the one we use at Sonovate is called Workable. It enables us to track candidates, share CVs with hiring managers, and keep applicant profiles organised in a pipeline. ATS packages offer us visibility on the information that we need to make recruiting decisions. Lever, Greenhouse, Jobvite are some of the similar ATS platforms that can help with job posting, interview scheduling, and candidate search.
Question: How do you collaborate with hiring managers and other stakeholders?
Alex: I feel it’s important to sit down with the hiring managers to make sure we have the same understanding of the job requirements, the qualifications needed, and the expectations for the ideal candidate. This helps to give candidates the best possible experience because we’re clear on what we are looking for.
I usually setup weekly meetings with the hiring managers to go through interviews we had that week, talk about the pipeline coming through, and flag any blockers and solutions.
Such meetings are important to discuss new recruitment approaches, or to give a chance to candidates who might not meet all the requirements at that point in time but have the potential to grow in the role.
I also try to spend as much time as I can with different teams in the business. This gives me an excellent opportunity to better understand their day-to-day tasks and how they work. If you are a recruiter, you can always learn about the team culture this way, which helps me confidently talk to candidates when I am hiring for those teams.
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