As a jobseeker, you might think you know how the hiring process works, but there’s more to it than you think. In an informative U.S. News & World Report story titled “5 Little-Known Secrets About Job Searching,” Ask a Manager blogger Alison Green pulls back the curtain to reveal some insider tidbits on how companies actually go about filling positions.
Green’s first revelation: Application deadlines are often meaningless. A lot of times, she says, job websites simply require companies to include dates with their listings, and as such, they’re not always set in stone. Also, since a lot of companies hire on a rolling basis, it’s not always smart to assume you have until the deadline to submit your application. The firm might be looking at candidates as they apply, and hesitating could mean missing out to someone else.
Green’s next secret pertains to online jobseekers: It’s OK to “fudge answers” on automated forms. She gives a great example as to why. Let’s say you a form asks whether you have a bachelor’s degree in economics, and you don’t, but you do have a master’s in that discipline. If you answer “no,” you’ll miss out on an opportunity you’re qualified for, and that you’d certainly be considered for were an actual human being doing the screening.
The next secret has to do with references: “Employers call references who aren’t on your official reference list.” The reason for doing so is obvious: Anyone you include on your list is bound to sing your praises, so a potential employer might want to get solicit an opinion from a more neutral person.
On a related note, Green says that company policies regarding references are often broken. While a lot of companies have written policies against giving references and instead simply verify dates of employment, this is mostly an HR thing. If a manager really likes you, Green says, he or she will probably vouch for you. Conversely, if some old boss didn’t like your work, don’t assume company guidelines will protect you from his or her harsh words.
Green’s final insider tip should make jobseekers feel good: Don’t worry about applying for positions you’re not “perfectly qualified for.” If you have most of the specs covered, give it a shot. Employers get inundated with applications from people with none of the right skills, so if you’re most of the way there, you might get an interview.
“Many times, job qualifications are more like wish lists,” Green writes, “and the employer will end up hiring someone who doesn’t perfectly match the job posting.”