Tips For Your Next Job Application


Like many people, you may not frequently search for a new job. Your goal is to land your new dream job that provides you with a lot of meaning and growth. Your first hurdle is passing the resume review, followed by receiving a screening call invitation, and finally, securing a full interview.

My goal as a hiring manager is to find the best candidates for the role. I have seen thousands of resumes, many of which were difficult to understand quickly. I have been in hundreds of interviews[1], most of them an enjoyable experience. And I could hire dozens of people, after completing this thorough process.

Through this post, you’ll understand how I review resumes, prioritize candidates, and conduct a hiring manager screening call before inviting you to a full panel interview. You can increase your chances of success if you improve your application with my tips.

A sankey diagram of the job application pipeline for a hiring manager process. Not to scale
Figure 1. The application review process up to an interview invitation.

One note: This is my personal recruiting process up to the point where you can get an invitation for a full interview. I will not cover possible edge cases. Many times I did not have a recruiter that was screening candidates for me. The experience that I share applies to my background in tech start-up environments.

Who Is the Best Candidate?

You are the best candidate, if you excel in the following three areas:

You have the potential to be successful in the job

The key point here is the potential. If you think that the job you are applying to is a bit of a stretch it will likely be the next meaningful step in your career.

You fit the company’s values

I usually frame this as "hire for value fit and culture add." If you can relate your own personal values to the organization, you’ll have a much better chance of personal success there.

You increase the team’s diversity

I believe that a diverse team will deliver the best outcomes. Remember, diversity encompasses more that just gender or race.

The Job Posting

Your first point of contact with a recruiting process will be the job posting[2]. In it I try to minimize the required skills and experience while also avoiding biased language. This is more inclusive and I’ll attract a larger, more diverse candidate pipeline.

Two examples
  • You won’t find anything like "skill X is a plus." These are on an internal score-card and the interview team will probe them in later stages.

  • When I write that "2+ years of people management experience" are required, I mean it. Don’t apply to this role if you have never managed people before.

Tip for your application

Identify the key criteria in the job description and demonstrate how they align with your profile in your resume.

The Resume Review

The application review is a first filter to down-select a list of candidates. You can only make it through this filter if your resume is convincing.

For an initial resume review I prepare a list of three key pieces of job-relevant information. I want to be able to find at least two of them on your resume in less than 30 seconds. If I fail I will archive your application and you’ll get a polite thank you email.

If you match two or three of the key criteria, I’ll read more to see if you have the potential to be a great candidate for the role I want to fill. Potential is hard to turn into a system, for now it is based on my gut feel which is one of the flaws of typical interview proceses. I focus on what you have achieved rather than where you have achieved it.

Tips for your application
  • Make your resume 2 pages or less. You can demonstrate your ability to focus and make the document very readable for the people it’s addressed to.

  • Match your resume to the job description. You can highlight key points from your experience and use similar language.

  • Understand what is important for the company you are applying to right now: Time, quality, or cost? If I’m hiring for a startup I don’t care about how much money you saved in previous roles. Show me how fast you could build and scale new things based on your own initiative.

  • For a manager position: Write clearly how many people you managed in the past. I often do not know if a manager has managed no one or hundreds of people in their last role.

  • Don’t open your objective statement with "I want to build a career in Oil&Gas"[3] when you apply to a renewable energy company that wants to replace your target industry.

I recently had one resume in front of me that I commented on: "Limited experience but resume is well-tailored to job description." We hired that candidate after going through the whole process.

If you made it so far, your application will land in the next stage.

Prioritizing Candidates

Now I might still have 10% to 20% of candidates left and limited time to talk to everyone. To prioritize the list of candidates I look beyond the resume into the cover letter and other information you provided.

  • How well did you demonstrate the three core criteria?

  • How well does your resume fit all the other requirements for the role?

  • Did you provide more information about your motivation in the cover letter?

Quite often a few interesting resumes made it here, too. Your profile might be a bit odd for the job you applied to. Examples are if you’re overqualified or the role is a clear pivot in your career. You can explain the reason why in the cover letter that I expect in these cases.

The Hiring Manager Screen

Next I’ll reach out to the top of the list through email and you can schedule a call.

My typical screening call is 30 minutes. I’ll ask all the candidates exactly the same questions to make this call as unbiased as possible. I always use the following structure that I am tweaking all the time:

  1. What type of work inspires you?

  2. How do you want to grow professionally? What are the next steps in your career?

  3. A few questions on your fit for the specific job. At this stage these are about exactly the same three themes that I was looking for. Even if I didn’t find one in the resume, now, you’ll have a chance to explain.

  4. Some quick logistical questions

  5. 5 minutes time for your questions

Within these questions I’ll try to get a feel if you fit the company’s values.

I’ll end up with written notes that I will turn into a score for each answer.

Tips for your application
  • Just be your authentic self because there is no right answer.

  • You will impress me if you answer with specific examples and lessons learned.

  • Practice the interview with other people. You might just have one shot at your dream job.

Next Steps

After I have talked to a few people, I make the decision who to invite for a full panel interview. I want to end the article at this point. Once you made it this far, you are in the top few percent for this role.

Remember that this is my personal way of finding the best people to interview. Every hiring manager, recruiter, and organization is different.

How This Process Might Change

Right now I am still not satisfied with how unbiased I can be. I would love to see fully redacted resumes that have no names, companies, and universities but the tool that I am bound to at the moment does not allow it.

I’ll encourage my team to try structured interviews. Maybe we can add more demonstrations of skills into the process to rely less on your rhetoric abilities. These could be mini ad-hoc exercises with data that are aligned with the role.

You might wonder how I did not mention AI once in this article. I would love to try a system that is proven to have no bias and can find candidates with potential and not just those that can do the job.

Good luck with your next application wherever it may be.

1. I was in over 500 interview related events during the last 3 years. These include screens, presentations, interviews, and debriefs
2. I intentionally do not include speculative applications here. They take a different path until they land in front of a hiring manager
3. Yes, I have seen this and did not invite the person due to a clear misalingment with the company mission