How to get a job interview with Middlestone on Indeed.com
Here are the lessons we learned from analysing 1,192 job applications.
We have just been through a recruitment drive to find a new business analyst to join our team. And here are the lessons we learned from analysing 1,192 job applications. I’d like to share what we learned to help future Middlestone applicants, but I’m sure it will help you with any role you apply for. Good luck.
1. Remember the recruiter
My first tip is this; think about the person reading your job application. Remember that the decision to hire you will be made by a human, or a committee of humans. Whatever technology the recruiters use, their personal judgement will make the final decision. So think about what that person (or group of people) will want and need to help them make a decision.
Set aside time for your job search
2. Give yourself enough time
Job search when you know you’ll have the time do each application justice.
Applying for jobs on the bus home will not give you the best chance of success. It’s harder to type and it’s easier to make mistakes. Recruiters will see that you haven’t put in the effort.
3. Avoid distractions
Apply when you know you won’t be distracted or interrupted.
We use Indeed.com’s skills assessments. If there are assessments as part of the application, you will put yourself at a disadvantage if you try to take these while you are distracted. Indeed’s skills assessments take between 10 minutes and 30 minutes to complete, on average. So if you choose to apply for a role, choose a time of day to fill in the application when you’ll be uninterrupted for at least that long.
Think about your CV
Spend time getting your CV right. Your CV should include:
- Your work experience
- Your education
- If you are applying on Indeed.com, then your contact details are not necessary. But they will be if you’re applying offline.
If you want to, you could also include a personal statement. But recruiters may skip over this section—especially if they're screening a lot of candidates.
4. Work history
Include all your work history. Start with the most recent. For each role, include your job title, the name of your employer, at least the year that you started and left, and bullet points of your duties. It is not clear from your job title what you do, so always include a list of the things you did. Recruiters will be looking to see that you have actual experience of doing the work, not that you had a certain title. We know that working in a large organisation can be a very different experience from working in a small or mid-sized business. So giving some indication of this can be helpful. For each role, you could include the company turnover figure, or number of colleagues, or some other indicator of size. Including the industry you worked in for each role is useful too.
Include all your education, even if it was some time ago. Include the grades you got for each one. If you don’t include a grade, the recruiter could assume it is awful. Go right back to GCSEs or O Levels. For GCSEs, you don’t have to list every single one. Summarising your results is best—for example, “11 GCSEs A* to B”. Your GCSE subjects might not be relevant for the role, but they show your intelligence and ability to learn. Don’t include any other certificates you earned in school before your GCSEs. It is unlikely that the recruiter will want to know that you got a 25-metre swimming badge in primary school.
If you choose to include a separate skills section, keep this brief. What skills you claim on your CV can be so subjective, that recruiters do tend to take these with a large pinch of salt. In fact, I tend to skip over them entirely. Instead, highlight your relevant skills within your description of each role. This shows how you have used the skill and tells the recruiter how long you’ve been practising using this skill.
Don’t include the names of your referees. The recruiter doesn’t need them at this stage, and will assume that you will be able to provide references. You don’t need to mention references at all. If you want to mention them though, just saying “References are available on request.” at the bottom of the CV is enough.
8. Perhaps a photo
Think about whether including a photo of yourself would be appropriate—if you’re comfortable with this. This may not always be appropriate; this is a controversial point. Opinion is split on whether it’s appropriate to include a photo on your CV. Novoresume advises not to include a photo when applying for jobs in the UK, Ireland and US. They sight “anti-discrimination and labour laws” as the reason for this. Jobscan—a US-based firm—suggests 4 reasons why you shouldn’t include a photo. These include discrimination concerns, being “too informal”, being distracting, and not working with applicant tracking systems (ATS).
We feel differently. Taking Jobscan’s 4 points in order: Firstly, at Middlestone we find all forms of unfair discrimination absolutely abhorrent. Our candidate scoring system leaves no place for such bias. But sadly a very small minority of employers don’t feel the same way. In all cases, at some point, the recruiter will see what you look like. They can look you up online before the interview, or they’ll certainly see you at the interview. Removing your photo from your CV is not the answer to avoiding discrimination. Jobscan suggested that including a picture would be too informal, or somehow distracting. When we saw a CV that included a photo, our experience was entirely positive. We found that a photo created an immediate connection with the candidate. Like meeting a person for the first time, it made us smile, it put a face to the life history we were reading, and made the CV somehow more real and relatable. Far from being distracting, we were more likely to spend longer reading those CVs that included photos.
Jobscan’s final point was that a photo may not work with an ATS. We don’t use an ATS (preferring to screen candidates ourselves), so Jobscan’s final point was never a concern.
Our advice then for candidates applying to Middlestone; if you want to, then go for it. But make sure to invest in a good-quality professional-looking headshot. Don’t use any filters or effects. Crop the photo close to your face, and make sure you’re smiling. This is just enough to create a connection with the recruiter, without including anything else in the picture that might be distracting. It’s up to you if you want to try this when applying to other companies too.
9. Keep it concise
In your CV, keep your sentences clear and concise. Use bullet points where you can. We have a lot of CVs to look through, so being presented with a large wall of text may dishearten the recruiter. Even if the recruiter reads it all (which is not guaranteed!), you may have already given them a negative first impression of you and your CV. Instead you want each of your individual skills or experiences to jump off the page.
10. Use appropriate language
Use everyday language where possible. Again this point may not apply to all employers. Written communication skills are an important part of our work here at Middlestone, so we’re on the lookout for these in everything the candidate gives us. When we’re looking at CVs we’re not looking for “Process characterisation of critical processes to create a data-driven culture of continuous improvement”, for example, we’d prefer to see that as “Talked to people about their business processes so that we could help improve them.”.
However—and this is why this could be controversial—some other firms might be scanning your CV for the terms “Continuous Improvement” or “Data-driven” etc, so they may expect you to talk like that. This leads us nicely to the next point:
11. Customise your CV content
Be prepared to customise the wording of your CV. This doesn’t mean lying on your CV, it means highlighting different facets of your role to meet the employer’s requirements. If the role is for a management position, then highlighting how many direct reports you had would be advantageous. Whereas if the role is more hands-on, then this may not work to your advantage. This may also mean adjusting the tone of your CV to match the potential employer (more about tone below).
12. Customise your CV layout
Be prepared to re-order the sections of your CV. If the role emphasises qualifications, then list these first. If the role asks for experience, then include this section first. This will help the recruiter to find what they’re looking for quickly.
Don’t be tempted to highlight your education first if you feel you haven’t got the experience—or the other way around. The recruiter will see right through that, and will just scroll past the irrelevant section until they come to the section they want to look at.
If your experience or education is not a strong match for the role, don’t try to hide this, instead counter this in your covering letter (more about covering letters below).
13. Don't limit yourself
You don’t need to limit your CV to two pages anymore.
Back when CVs were printed, it was a good rule to limit your CV to two sides of paper. But we’ve moved on from then. We’ll be reviewing your CV online, so scrolling down a few extra rows won’t tire us out. Just make it as long as it needs to be to list all your roles and the responsibilities within each of these that are relevant. As long as the content is relevant to the recruiter, easy to digest, and well presented (following the tips above!), then it won’t matter how many pages it takes up. So don’t waffle, but don’t worry that you’ll run out of space.
14. Uploaded your CV as a PDF
On Indeed.com, uploaded your CV as a PDF. This makes it visible online, whereas Word documents need to be downloaded by the recruiter and opened outside the platform. This makes it more difficult and slightly more time-consuming for the recruiter—and you really want to make it easy to showcase your suitability for the role.
15. Format your CV for easy reading
Avoid adding repeating headers or footers to each page of your CV. When viewed online, the recruiter will scroll through your CV as one continuous document. Any text in your headers and footers break up the flow of text in the body of your CV and can make them more confusing to read.
Take your time with your application
Recruiters are worn down by the large volume of candidates who will apply for everything, hoping that something will stick. It is just too easy to click Apply and move on to the next job advert.
Recruiters are looking to quickly reject these time-wasters. You’ve got to make it obvious to the recruiter that you are not a time waster, but that your application is worth their time. Here is how:
16. Read the job advert carefully
Read the job advert carefully. While reading the job advert, look for clues that will tell you what the employer is looking for in their next hire. Some will be spelt out in the job advert, others may be more subtle. For example, the style of writing may give a clue to the type of person that would fit in to the organisation well.
17. Research the employer
Trying to identify who will be making the recruitment decision may be useful, so that you can address your covering letter to an individual. But more useful is finding out about the company’s values. Look them up on LinkedIn. Look at their website. Look for their values. Look at their products or services. This will tell you what sort of person they may be looking for.
18. Match the tone of the company
Match the tone of your application to the job advert and to the company’s other written materials. Is their writing formal or informal? Friendly? Cheeky? Are they looking for someone who would fit into this environment?
19. Complete your application in full sentences
When filling in your application, complete all questions in full sentences. Include more than the minimum relevant information. Treat each question as an invitation to impress the recruiter.
In our last recruitment drive, we included the question “Do you have a safe and comfortable space to work from home?”. Many candidates wasted this opportunity by just answering “Yes”. Other candidates took advantage of this question to point out that their workspace was a home office, or that it was secure, quiet, or free from distractions. This showed that they understood the importance of the question and what we’d be looking for. Other candidates used this opportunity to show their personality. My favourite response was “Yes, I have a great desk, comfortable chair and wonderful view through the window with city centre panoramas!”. This entirely unnecessary detail really warmed me to the candidate.
20. Include a covering letter
Always include a covering letter, whether you're asked for one or not.
If there is space for a covering letter (as there is on Indeed.com) then use it.
Treat this as a proper letter; start it with “Dear recruiting manager” and end it with “Yours faithfully”. If you know the name of the recruiter (from your research), then start with “Dear «Name»” and end with “Yours sincerely”. This will show you are willing to put in the effort and will showcase the hard work you put in to research the company.
If applying offline, still type up your letter, and include your address at the top like a proper business letter. Unless you’re applying for the role of Calligrapher, no one is going to need to see your handwriting.
Your covering letter is not a rehash of your CV. It is an opportunity to say why you applied for this specific job and point out requirements of the job that don’t appear on your CV. If you have customised your CV, then you won’t need to point out your relevant experience or skills—because these will all be included. So instead the covering letter is an opportunity to highlight personal qualities that match the job advert. These could be the parts of the role that you enjoy, what gives you job satisfaction, your motivation, your values and ethics.
Don’t be tempted to copy and paste the same covering letter for each application. Choose something that stood out to you about the specific company or the job advert. Express why the role would suit you, and why you’re excited at the chance to work there.
Respond to correspondence
Recruiters will not treat your application in isolation. Recruiters are consciously or subconsciously looking for clues to your suitability right up to the moment they present you with a job offer. Send out the right message all the way through the selection process.
21. Reply to messages—important
Respond to all correspondence you receive from the employer unless they are obviously auto-generated notifications or come from a “no-reply” email address. Even a quick thank you message shows that you are still there, you’re still interested, and that you’re willing to put in the effort.
22. Match the employer’s tone
If you receive a message addressed to “Dear Mr X”, don’t reply with a “Heya”—or the other way around.
23. Reply in full sentences
Again, this is another opportunity to make your application stand out.
Read the employer’s message carefully and see if there are any opportunities to show your enthusiasm, your suitability for the role, or just to show that you would be a nice person to work with.
We specifically prioritise applicants that have taken the time to respond to us in a friendly yet polite way. Other employers may consciously or subconsciously do the same.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful. And I wish you all the best with your job search.
Get more small-business insights in your inbox
Subscribe to our blog for more practical articles to help you build a smarter business.
About the author
Middlestone Business Analysis helps small businesses achieve more with their existing resources. We help reorganise operations, automate tasks and install customised processes and systems to keep small businesses organised and to speed up administrative work. To learn more, visit our services page.
If you would like a free initial consultation, or you are interested in an independent business review, please use our contact form.