Jamie's Blog

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Use these “unfair advantages” when applying for a job

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Sometimes you might be lucky enough to be in such high demand that you don’t need any unfair advantages when applying for a job—but even if you’re well qualified, it’s worth making sure you do all you can to get the job you want.

This is especially true for remote jobs which regularly get hundred or thousands of applicants. You’ll need to do something to stand out from the crowds of people applying minimal effort to their job hunt.

Here’s a few “unfair” advantages you can give yourself that I’ve seen work…

To be clear, it’s entirely possible to get a job without employing any of these ideas but you should be aware that other candidates will use them to their advantage.

Make a personal connection

I know, I know, not the “Old boys club” again you’re thinking. Well, not quite. All I mean is that you should, if possible in your application, make known any connection you’ve had with anyone in the company.

  • “Oh, yes, I met Jason last year at RailsConf”
  • “I used to work with Andrew”
  • “I saw the job on Twitter when Jamie posted it”

And, if possible, elaborate on that in a positive way.

  • “And he seemed really smart”
  • “And he said how much he is enjoying working at Podia“
  • “And I really liked what he said about React”

I was even offering calls to anyone that wanted to find out more about the job/company and I they gave me a great initial connection with some of the eventual candidates.

Anything like that helps me understand that you know something about the company, something about the people, and something about who we are. And after knowing that, you still want to work with us!

Use the product

It such a trivial thing but if you can demonstrate that you’ve looked at the product website or, even better, tried it out then it shows a level of interest that’s extremely uncommon. When we get down to making a choice among the last few candidates, you can bet we check the user database to see who has played with the product 😉

Make a video

This is a bit of stretch for most of us but a quick intro video or screencast gives you a huge advantage. It creates that personal connection, letting me hear your voice and thinking and personality which most candidates don’t get to show off until the interview.

One of the most common ways candidates have done this is a screencast to walkthrough some improvement they’ve recognised in the product. It needs to be done subtly and with some humbleness (you never know why it hasn’t already been done) but it’s a great way to demonstrate your thinking.

Making a job-specific landing page

Along the same lines, creating a job-specific landing page with a personal blurb, link to your CV etc is a good way to demonstrate that you’re serious about the job. Just don’t make it too easy to see the other 12 landing pages you’ve created for other companies 😬 (yes, it’s happened)

Show your personality

Are you funny? Are you quirky? Do you have an odd hobby? Been a katana-wielding stunt double? Do you have an obsession with raccoons? Been binging on the Tiger King? Have a favourite GIF collection?

At the slightest opportunity you express yourself! Give the reviewer a chance to say “yeah, I really like this candidate”. In a sea of applications from competent, qualified people, the reviewers will look for anything to distinguish people and your love of cats might just do it.

Don’t be afraid to express who you are. A sterile business-like tone is a losing strategy.

Answer the questions asked

This is seemingly trivial but actually answering the questions that are asked in the application form probably puts you in the top 50% of applicants. Read the question, then spend as long as needed to answer it. Don’t rush, invest the time a new job deserves, and give the best answer you can.

If there’s an open text area, write more. Always write more. The more you write, the more material you’re giving the reviewer to like you and move onto the next stage. You need to distinguish yourself from the hordes of people that are just applying for every job they see.

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash