What really happens after you submit your application??

I always envisioned this dark room where a squat older bespectacled lady took pleasure in ripping my resume apart at the seams. Perhaps you think it goes into a black hole or in the bin. No matter what your vision is – you need to have a strategy when applying to jobs because you really never know who will be reviewing the applications.

The Situation

At my site – we are, sadly for us, losing our registrar to a promotion at the district office. This change has already started her phasing into the new job and leaves us a little short handed in the office. Naturally – we want to find a well-qualified replacement ASAP. We posted the position on the CA education job board (www.edjoin.org) and it was listed as Until Filled (more on this in a bit). The position is a classified, hourly position that requires some tech skills and knowledge of how to disaggregate data.

The Process

The job advert was posted and within just 3-4 days, we had 28 applicants. Because we are filling an increasingly vacant position, we started the review process immediately. With only 28 applicants (which seems like many when reviewing applications, but many jobs will have 50-100+), we had about an hour and a half to make our selections to move onto the next step. That breaks down to 3-5 minutes per application.
Most employers will have an HR-generated form that the reviewers use for the paper screen, interview, and  final selection that help rate the applicant on attributes. Our rating sheet had boxes to rate the applicant’s education, experience, skills, two spots for optional ratings. There was also a box for notes, which was important, and a final box to recommend an interview or not. As someone who has submitted well over 100 applications for positions, let me tell you — the people reading and reviewing those applications have a hard job!
With those 3-5 minutes per app, they are getting to the bare bones of your information. Some of the major things we were looking for was a history with Excel or data, someone educated to at least an associates degree, experience with high school students, and speaking Spanish as a bonus. We read through the 28 applications one at a time and quickly discussed the strengths and weaknesses. One of the main areas that indicated if we looked further at an application was the job history. After reviewing each applicant, we narrowed the field down by about half and moved them onto the second step of the process…which was not an interview!
Because the data piece was so vital to the success and smooth functioning of the office, we constructed a short test to evaluate the applicants’ skills with Excel and using the Department of Education website to find school data. This was another step that the applicant had to prove themselves, with several dropping out of the race because they did not know how to complete the evaluation. After correcting and rating the test – applicants and moved on to the interview stage (which you can read more about in another episode of the Interview Series).

Some Tips on Distinguishing Yourself

Some of these may seem obvious, but I was thoroughly surprised by the applications and wide variety of information we received (or did not receive).
  1. Always, always, always submit a professional resume. I do not care if it is a job for $100,000 or $10, unless they specifically ask you not to turn in a resume — prepare one and submit it. We had several applicants that did not attach a resume and it was an immediate distaste in our mouths. Any professional position will expect to see a resume and a cover letter is highly recommended.
  2. Follow all directions on the application. There is usually a reason why application ask for references, a resume, work sample, or essay — because they want to use that to help select their applicant. They also may want to see if you can follow directions. I cannot stress this enough.
  3. Use the job description in your resume, cover letter, and filling out employment duties. We use a lot of the lingo in the job and try to match it up to what you have done. Does the job description ask for someone who has experience with collating papers and maintaining confidential files? Don’t list office paperwork. Use the wording because either a computer program or human being will notice.
  4. Use every opportunity to show your stuff. Do not think that just because you worked at the local coffee shop as a barista that you do not bring transferable skills. Be creative with how you present yourself.
  5. Last but not least, be professional. When submitting a resume, use a common format. A non-formatted notepad file is not very appealing. My recommendation: write it up on Word and ALWAYS submit any form in .PDF format. That saves your formatting the way you created it and it opens much faster on our ancient school district computers. We may open your Word document, or God forbid – your Mac OS document – and it will be spaced funny in Comic San Serif. PDF’s will open the same on any computer – every time.
  6. If a posting is listed Until Filled try to turn in your application as soon as you can. In some cases, the opening will open and close within a week due to the number of apps. If you wait – you may miss out.

Wrapping it up

While the job market is tough – especially for Professional School Counselors – there is hope and you can definitely increase your chances by being careful, thorough, and thoughtful. If you can make your resume/application stand out in a good way, that increases your odds of really being able to prove your value through an interview. Reviewers really cannot learn a whole lot about YOU from a resume or cover letter — what you have done, yes — but your personality, how you work as a team, and your creativity cannot come out clearly on paper.
I wish you good luck on your applications and if this helps you out – I would love to hear about it. If anyone has tips to add, please do comment below.

Interview Series: The Dreaded Paper Screen…

time to read: 5 min

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