How to Get Your Job Application Shortlisted


Have you ever applied for a job which you thought you were perfect for, only to find you’ve not been called for an interview? Perhaps you dealt with your disappointment by rationalising that the competition was simply too great, or by fuming at the employer’s failure to recognise your capabilities.

It’s certainly true that it’s an exceptionally tough recruitment market and that recruitment processes are rarely faultless. However, when I talk to individuals in this situation, I usually find that there are two other reasons which explain why they have been rejected.

Either their application simply failed to demonstrate sufficiently why they were such a great candidate. Or they misunderstood the job, and they weren’t as good a fit as they thought they were.

Here are some tips on how to avoid this by uncovering what an employer is really looking for when they post that vacancy — and how to prove you are their ideal candidate.

Matching the job requirements

First, print off the advert and use a highlighter pen to underline all the candidate selection criteria. This forces you to consider whether you meet every requirement rather than ignoring any gaps.

Once you are sure you meet the main criteria, drill down into the detail of the job. Most employers will supply a job description and a list of essential skills and competences for the role. Go through each selection criteria to check if you have good examples to show how you match their requirements. For instance, if they are looking for someone with people management experience, you will need to be able to show how many staff you have line-managed in different roles, the different teams you have worked with, performance management activities, and other issues.

Your examples should detail not simply that you did these things, but that as a result of doing them there were benefits for the organisation. It’s not enough to assume that just because your job title has the word manager in it that this will be considered sufficient evidence of your people management skills.

Uncovering the hidden requirements

Occasionally, employers offer a named contact you can talk to in order to find out more about the job before you apply. Always take this opportunity if it is offered. If it’s not, try to find someone you know who works in your target organisation, or is one of their suppliers or competitors. You need to find out more about what it is like to work there and how it operates.

Look closely at any information you have been sent by the company as well as their website and marketing material. How does the organisation talk about itself? Does it see itself as traditional, creative, entrepreneurial, ethical or as a centre of excellence? Is the language it uses very formal, relaxed or full of jargon?

If you can pick up clues about the culture and self-perception of the organisation, then you can use language that is reflective of this within your application, making you seem more of a natural fit. For instance, if the organisation seems very dynamic and fast-paced, then describing achievements that talk about multi-tasking against tight deadlines or which showcase your initiative and energy may be particularly helpful.