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How Job Seekers Can Craft the Ideal Application — and How Employers Can Create a Job Listing That Attracts the Right Candidates Are you a small business looking for a new hire, or a job seeker who's not getting any callbacks? Here are some tips to get you through the door as a candidate, and get the right applicants through your door as a company looking to hire.

By Lesley Pyle

Key Takeaways

  • In the world of hiring and seeking employment, job seekers need to be sure to carefully read through job descriptions and tailor their application materials while companies need to write succinct descriptions that communicate clearly the job requirements and application process.
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I recently sat down to chat with one of my customers. She runs a small business and listed an open job position with my company, HireMyMom. I asked her for feedback on the hiring process, and she shared with me that her company had received lots of applications. However, not a single one of those applicants was allowed onto the next stage which would have been a phone interview. I, of course, asked her why. The reason?

Job candidates were not following the directions.

This company had listed a very niche job with specific requirements, and to ensure that candidates had all the skills needed, the company had a handful of things listed in the job description that candidates needed to provide upon submitting their application materials. Additionally, one of the skills required for the job was attention to detail … which was demonstrated from the start to be missing for many who did not read the entire listing.

I think this brings up important points for both job seekers and companies looking for new hires, so I would like to address both sides.

Related: 3 Things Small Business Can Do to Compete with Big Business for Talent

Tips for job seekers

The obvious thing to say here is to carefully read each job description. This is even more important when you look at some hiring statistics from employers according to LegalJobs: only 2% of applicants will make it to the interview stage, and out of all those that apply, 75% of them are unqualified. Take that and combine it with the fact that 52% of companies that are hiring believe wading through applications is the most time-consuming part of the process, citing that it can take as much as 23 total hours to go through all the applications. That's a lot of information to go through for most of it to be thrown out because it does not meet the requirements!

I recommend skimming through job listings and saving the few that stand out to you. Then, go back and re-read the entire thing in-depth to determine if you believe you are a correct fit. You then need to customize your application materials — this means tailoring your résumé and cover letter for each company. On your résumé, list specific skills and jobs that line up with the one you are applying for, and in your cover letter, tell a brief story of how you came to gain those skills and how you would like to apply those for this new company.

If you are submitting the same materials en masse, it is very obvious to employers who are looking for candidates who are truly interested in the position they are offering; many companies feel that job seekers are not dedicated or truly interested in the job if they receive nonspecific application materials.

Customize your résumé and cover letter, and use keywords from the job listing in your materials. This shows that you read the listing and that you are truly interested in the position, and if the company is using software to sort through applicants, then your materials will be flagged for a human to look at because they contain important keywords.

Related: Finding Talent Remains the Single-Biggest Issue Facing Small Businesses. These Tips Can Help Find Your Next Great Employee

Tips for businesses

For companies, sometimes job seekers miss important details because the listing you have provided is too long or the process too complex. In fact, according to SHRM, 60% of job seekers state that if the application process becomes too time-consuming or complicated they will walk away and not finish their application. You need to also keep in mind that 86% of job seekers are applying mobile devices, so your application process should be mobile-friendly.

Just as you do not want to read a cover letter that is several pages long, job seekers do not want to wade through an extremely long description to get to the details they need. I have seen some companies spend paragraphs talking about their history, their goals and what they accomplished thus far, and then the actual job will be at the bottom of all that information with just a few sentences.

Keep things short and organized. Limit yourself to a few sentences about your company's history and goals. Clearly label those sections with headers that say "Company History" or "Goals We Strive Towards." Be sure to also clearly label your other sections with job information, skills needed, required application materials, etc. Try to keep this information in bullet points so that it is easy for job seekers to immediately see if they are a good fit or not.

Sometimes when a listing is too long, unqualified candidates will apply because they are unable to see if they are unqualified due to the amount of information provided. Additionally, be sure to provide very clear instructions on how to apply for the position. Even if it is as simple as "click apply now below," this ensures that job seekers know what is needed out of them. It is also a good idea to put in possible timeframes that job seekers will hear back from you — you can also include whether or not you want applicants to send follow-up emails. Some companies love the check-ins while others do not want to be contacted past the initial information being submitted.

Related: This Is Why Your Hiring Process Isn't Working

Let job seekers know up front what is expected of them and what the company will provide in return. More often than not, companies get overwhelmed with applicants and do not respond to all of them. This leaves many job seekers feeling ghosted and left out in the cold; it can be helpful to include in your listing that if applicants have not heard back by a certain date that means they were not selected for the next step.

At the end of the day, job seekers need to be sure to carefully read through job descriptions and tailor their application materials while companies need to write succinct descriptions that communicate the job requirements and application process clearly.

Lesley Pyle

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder & CEO of

Lesley Pyle began her work-at-home career in 1996 with the launch of her first website "Home-Based Working Moms." She has continued her passion of helping moms and small businesses for over 25 years now. Pyle was named one of “50 Women Entrepreneurs Who Inspire Us” by Self-Made magazine.

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