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How to succeed as a candidate - Decoding your journey as a candidate

In my previous post, we looked at how to identify the right employer. In this post, let’s look at your journey as a candidate and things that you need to do be successful.

Tell me about a time when you thought you had a fantastic interview only to be bamboozled by the feedback. I am sure most of us would have lived that moment at least once in our life.

There is no one size fits all solution that will help you find a job. However, decoding every step in your job search journey could help you address some of the challenges that you think could be the show stopper.

Basically, there are 3 broad stages in your journey to finding a job.

Stage1: Awareness

Stage 2: Evaluation

Stage 3: Decision


This is the stage where you are probably searching for jobs online or looking at some of your dream employer’s careers site for the right opportunity that fits you. Recruiters are also searching for suitable candidates.

You need to make yourself visible in a way that you catch the attention of the recruiter.

How recruiters search?

A recruiter handles about 10 – 15 roles on an average depending on the market and type of position. This means they are constantly juggling between requirements. While the number of applicants per job could vary depending on the market and industry, the average number of applicants could be around 100 – 150 per requirement.

Recruiters search for resumes using keywords usually picked up from the job description or resumes of candidates who were successful in the past.

So here is what you need to do to keep appearing on top always.

1. When you write your resume, you need to think from a recruiters’ shoes. Use a language that a non-technical person can understand. Use keywords frequently but don’t overkill. Keywords could be your skills or technology that you have used or anything that you think is your selling point

2. Recruiters often search based on recency of resume. So it is vital to keep your resume updated.

3. An average recruiter spends about 10 – 15 secs reviewing your resume before making a decision. Your resume must be able to grab their attention within this time.

Your Resume

There is no one size fits all resume; writing your resume can take time, and you need to be careful.

Here is what you need to do

1. Keep it simple. Use a language that everyone can understand

2. Keep it concise. You could have 30+ years of experience but doesn’t mean that you need to have a 10-page resume. You probably don’t have to go into the details of every organisation beyond 15 – 20 years. Ideally, try and keep it to a 3 – 4-page resume,

3. Keep it clean. A cluttered resume is as good as junk. Using an infographic resume hoping to dump a lot of information doesn’t help the cause.

4. Write your experience in chronological order starting from the lastest. One common mistake you can do is writing a list of responsibilities first followed by another list of organisations you have worked for. Every organisation and the associated responsibility should be grouped together.

5. While writing your responsibilities, write about what made you successful in the role.

6. Highlight career gaps, particularly if for more than 6 months.

7. Add or provide links to your portfolio if you have one. Any presentation of real work is always a good value add.

8. Proofread. Ask your friend or anyone you trust to read your resume. This will help you remove any errors.

Tailor your resume

Every role is different. Either the skill set is different, or the role is different. Don’t mimic the responsibilities as stated in the job description.

You can tweak your summary to fit the role you are applying for. A cover letter would help, but it really depends on the bandwidth of the recruiter. It is an excellent tool if you are sending your application straight to the recruiter or asking for someone to recommend you for the role.

An “All-Star” LinkedIn profile

Have a good LinkedIn profile always helps. Having some recommendations boosts your profile visibility. Here is how you build a great LinkedIn profile

A great LinkedIn profile helps you connect and network with people. People tend to accept invites if your profile looks credible.

The black hole called “Job Ads.”

This is another classic situation everyone would have faced at least once in your career. You see a fantastic job, you know you satisfy all the requirements, and you apply.

That is all.

You never hear back at all.

This is probably due to a few factors. One, the job has received many applications that the recruiter does not have the tool to respond to every single resume. Two, the focus on candidate experience is non-existent. Three, your resume has failed you.

Leverage your network. One way to solve this issue is by connecting with someone in the organisation. Ask them to refer you for the role. Approaching a senior leader can help too; they could be from HR, business or the TA team.

Experience matters

You just completed your AWS DevOps certification just now, and you want it on your resume ASAP. You want to move to a DevOps role that is hot in the market now. You are working as a Technical Support Analyst with no prior experience in DevOps.

The chances are you are not going to land that job. What recruiters mostly look for is the real experience.

Remember, “Your certifications should augment your experience.”

If you are looking to switch, the best chances are with your current employer.


This is probably the stage where your potential employer is evaluating you through multiple rounds of interviews.

This is probably a stage which requires you to practice and prepare for a few things.

Dress up

Hiring managers form unconscious bias in the first 10 minutes of the interview. So everything matters.

Ask the recruiter about the dress code. Be 10 minutes earlier for the interview and touch up, you could have a tired look, especially if your interview is scheduled around the close of day.

Self-presentation is essential. This doesn’t mean you have to dress up formally for a client-facing sales role. However, appearing clean and organised is vital.

Body language

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” - Peter F. Drucker.

Communication is not always verbal. In fact, the non-verbal queues are as important if not more.

Body language is so unconscious; hence you need to practice this form of communication. A firm handshake and a great smile is a sign that you are confident and interested in the role.

Articulation defines articulation as the shape or manner in which things come together, and a connection is made.

It is not your vocabulary, but your ability to articulate that will win your interview. Two broad factors that probably influence articulation are one, your subject knowledge and two, your fluency.

Listen, listen actively.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

A big let-off for any interviewer is when you give answers that are not at the question. Sometimes you rush to answer even before the question is complete.

If you don’t understand the question, restate the question and ask if you have got it right. It is ok to probe the interviewer to understand the problem better than giving a vague or a longwinded answer.

Active listening is a hard skill to master; however, if you do, it can do wonders. Learn how to practice active listening

A long read already?. In the next part, we'll look at how to succeed a face-to-face or a virtual interview, how to prepare for an interview and also the "Decision" stage where you will negotiate and accept an offer.

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