Over the past few months, over 200 spouses (mostly women) approached us seeking help in landing a job in Europe. They were mostly young mothers that were well qualified, running small families, and seeking to practise their skills in Europe. Almost everybody was applying to jobs for at least 6 months. Some were even trying for over 2 years with little success. Some had applied to over 200 openings with the same result.
Here’s a brief list of their qualifications:
- An overwhelming majority of these spouses were pursuing software testing, marketing or HR roles back in India
- A little over 5% had Masters degrees
- Almost every candidate had B1 level proficiency in German
- The application to interview conversion rates were way under 2%
- Every candidate was de-motivated and frustrated by the poor turn out
- Almost every candidate I spoke to cited their German proficiency as the showstopper
- The average age of this group was around 25 years
- Almost every candidate was seeking an opportunity in their city, within a 10 km radius
From reviewing their qualifications and application documents, it was obvious why their applications weren’t leading to interviews and job offers. Though the cited reason was linguistic skills, many were totally oblivious that their application strategies were disconnected from marketplace’s expectations. Over 50,000 jobs in Germany are unfilled, mainly because the companies aren’t able to source skilled candidates. Given this disconnect, one should expect the companies to staff these highly qualified candidates. After all, they are qualified and highly motivated to pursue gainful employment. So, why aren’t these spouses landing job offers? Though advising such candidates requires individual evaluation, I’ll be presenting some common denominators from reviewing these 200+ applications, which I feel will help them and others in a similar situation.
A solid application is the precursor for the subsequent stages, namely the application shortlisting, telephone interviews, face-to-face interviews, and finally, a job offer. From looking at the application documents, I observed that almost all the candidates were using some form of CV template (most common was the EuroPASS CV format) and were presenting the same set of skills. From a company’s perspective, the applications and skill sets are very similar, hard to differentiate in format and content (read commodity skills).
Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring organisation and think about this.
- Why should the company hire you when they could find native professionals with similar qualifications?
- What special skills do you bring to the table that others do not?
- How will you benefit the company from an economic standpoint?
From reviewing these hundreds of applications, the following commonalities stand out:
- Almost all the candidates were using boilerplate Europass CV and Cover letter templates
- None of these spouses presented a compelling argument why they should be hired
- The candidates lacked any application strategies. They were sending out tons and tons of applications, but without any game plan
- Many knew and used a CV and/or Cover letter, but an overwhelming majority had no idea how to write an impactful one
- Many had no pedigree (academics or work experience in Europe) and were unaware of volunteer or other non-paid positions that could have at least given them some experience they lacked in Europe
- Almost everybody that had B1-level language certificate lacked the conversational skills in that language
In short, their applications fell short of several factors that are critical to the recruitment / hiring process.
A recruiter spend utmost 3 minutes reviewing your application & if they don’t clearly see the fit or your argument, they’ll simply reject your application and move on. A job posting at a popular job board attracts over 250 applicants within the first 10 minutes of its publication. Over the course of the next 10 days, the number of applications a company gets grows exponentially. At leading European organisations, the ratio of the number of applicants to the number of open positions exceeds 4000:1. Under these circumstances, an applicant cannot allow any errors, however slight they are.
Therefore, it is extremely important that your application documents are solid and you present compelling reasons why you are a strong candidate. In other words, your applications should ‘stick’. You have to structure your documents in such a manner that would compel the recruiter or hiring manager to make that call or send that email soliciting an interview. But, this happens only after the Application Tracking System (ATS) shortlists your application. The technical qualifications are necessary, but hardly sufficient conditions to land you a job offer. An application package that the ATS and the human recruiters love is a pre-requisite. Almost everybody could fill in a standard template with data and use it as a CV. However, it takes reflection to create one that makes you stand out.