In this episode of Motley Fool Answers, hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are focused on helping us all get healthier, wealthier, and happier. And one of the largest parts of that equation starts with where you work. A position with right company -- or the wrong one -- will deeply affect your mental and physical well-being, and, of course, your salary. So they've recruited Annie Healy and Cheryl Palting, who are in charge of recruiting and hiring at The Motley Fool, to provide some tips to boost the odds that your next job hunt will be successful.
In this segment, they discuss a host of dos and don'ts around the application process -- and you'll be surprised at some of the ways that companies can tell you've been cutting corners on your effort.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Jan. 23, 2018.
Alison Southwick: So, I've gone through the process. I've cleaned up my LinkedIn profile. I've started telling my friends I'm looking for a new job. I know that I'm an operator who is an extrovert that likes to... I don't know. I'm trying to throw out some personality test stuff that I know about myself. And now it is time to apply for some specific jobs and write my cover letter, and make that resume really sparkle. What's some of your advice in terms of applying for a job?
Cheryl Palting: I don't think we can stress this enough, but really proofreading that resume and cover letter. Make sure there are no errors there. Let your friends and family read it. Go through it again, and again, and again.
Annie Healy: And don't use the quick tricks of find and replace, because that shows in an application system.
Palting: Yes, absolutely.
Healy: It always shows when you bold a company and you're just replacing it in an applicant tracking system.
Southwick: Oh, really?
Palting: Take the time to delete the company. Even if you use the same cover letter, delete the company...
Southwick: So, you'll get a letter and it will say, "I am so excited to work at The Motley Fool because you are a really cool company that..."
Palting: In this location. In this industry.
Healy: And sometimes the applicant tracking system won't accept the formatting that someone has done. It will say, "Insert company." You're like, "Oh, God!"
Southwick: I guess that's like a shotgun approach, right?
Southwick: Does that ever work?
Healy: Not here. It may other places. But we also make our applicants jump through a bunch of different hoops. Some of where we list our jobs do have some one-click applies, which we don't do. We turn that feature off, just because we want to get to know you, and I think that's part of the cover letter and getting prepared for that. That's your chance to show us who you are outside of just the skills that are listed on your resume. What are your interests? Why do you want to work here? What are you going to bring to the table for us? And what's going to bring the team to the next level that you're going to join?
Southwick: What's an example of a really great cover letter that you've received?
Palting: So many. People are so creative these days. I'll say one that comes to mind. We had someone who now works here, Julie. She was applying for the Member Services Representative role. It's very customer-service based. She created a comic that showed her as a superhero helping our members solve their tech issues. Reset their password. It was in color. It was on nice paper. She drew it from scratch on her own. Then she gave it to us personally, as well as uploaded it in PDF form to our online application.
It was incredible, because we know that it took a lot of time. It took planning to execute it. And in it, it helped us to understand that she understood what the role was, and that was super helpful. That's what a cover letter is for.
Robert Brokamp: We're The Motley Fool, so I can see how that would impress people like us. What about other places? I don't know how plugged in you guys are to the general HR world, but does something like that fall flat with some employers?
Healy: I think some places, yes. Particularly in the D.C. area you have a lot of government contracting and I think that's a little bit more of a serious place to work.
Southwick: The FBI is not going to love your comic.
Brokamp: FBI, man!
Healy: They might have more fun if they did. But even in the cover letter, you still get a chance to show why you want to work at that specific place, vs. just doing a cover letter. I think in the past, cover letters were just this thing that you did. It was to talk about yourself.
I think when on the cover letter you demonstrate that you really researched the company and the job -- and you're really plugging in the skill sets that you have that you can bring over to that company and how that comes over -- that's your chance to do that. And that goes over anywhere -- you really taking the time to show that you want that specific job and not just a job.
Palting: Which is exactly what Annie did. You researched the culture blog. You researched the company. You made sure you knew the company inside out when you applied, so that you could showcase your interest.
Southwick: Only Annie did that?
Palting: No, no, no, no, no.
Brokamp: So, Cheryl. Tell us your story.
Palting: I hate the story. It's a little embarrassing.
Southwick: No, it's not embarrassing. We'll let Annie tell it.
Healy: Cheryl came to us as a customer service representative and then moved over to the recruiting team. But when she interviewed for the customer service team, she memorized the website in and out; like more than I think anyone within these walls might ever know.
Southwick: Oh, if anyone's listening who's actually been to Fool.com -- I assume you have -- you know that our website is just elaborate and you can't escape.
Healy: She knew everything. On our former pricing page, she knew every single advisor on every single newsletter. She knew what the price was at that point in time. She knew any of the deals that we were running, or specials. So much so that during her interview, the hiring manager did a little bit of a role play, and so she called in to pretend to be one of our members calling customer service and Cheryl was supposed to be the representative. She walked out of the interview and I think she knew things more than our own full-time people did.
Southwick: Did you do like flash cards? I don't even know all the advisors on all our services.
Palting: I knew I wanted the role. I had already chatted with Annie and I was like, "Oh, God, I want this role," so I did exactly what Annie did. I researched. I just looked at the website and I took the time...
Healy: And she stalked everyone's LinkedIn profile.
Palting: Oh, yeah. It came over real stalk-ery. It was like, "Emily, I know you just got married this past summer. How was it? Your dress looked beautiful."
Healy: No, not really. She did. She really demonstrated that she wanted that position. And I think that's an interesting thing, too. We have a lot of people who want to work at The Motley Fool, but they don't necessarily want that role. They just want to get their foot in the door. And I think, particularly, when you're applying to the position, we want to hear you want this position, and why you want this position, and hearing that. And Cheryl really demonstrated that in her interview.
Palting: Thank you.
Southwick: And we love Cheryl so much.
Palting: Oh, my goodness!
Southwick: So, doing your homework. Proofreading everything a million times. Make sure you do that before you apply.