The number one secret to getting shortlisted for job interviews

The number one secret to getting shortlisted for job interviews | Photo courtesy of Victor1558

Last night my sister called me with some great news.

She had been looking to change jobs for a while to develop her management skills and because she knew exactly what outcome she wanted to achieve, she had been applying to several carefully-selected roles over the past few months.

Each time she made it to the interview shortlist but yesterday it went further than that – this time she got the job!

I congratulated her and then I said, “You know what, come to think of it you always get shortlisted for all the jobs you apply for so you must be doing something right on your applications; what’s your secret?”

She laughed and said it was no secret at all; it was actually something very simple that she did each time – something so simple that most jobseekers ignore it.

Something…………that I will share with you in just a moment!

But first I’d like to tell you this: before you even think about applying the secret to getting shortlisted for every job you apply for, there’s one rule that precedes this secret and that rule is this…

Make sure you actually want the job!

Applying for jobs is hard work and here’s the truth, if you don’t fully want the job, you’re going to really struggle to find the energy and motivation necessary to put in an application that’s worthy of being shortlisted.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – don’t just fling out CVs and applications willy-nilly, select one our two jobs at a time that you actually want to apply for (and that you’re sure you have some of the skills and experience specified in the job advert), then set aside a good chunk of time – I’d recommend at least two hours per application – to get the job done.

Once you do this you’re ready for the secret that will get you shortlisted for interview in pretty much every job you apply for.

This secret is so simple that you may even doubt it works, but I tell you that it does. It worked for my sister, it’s worked for me in the past, and it’s worked for every job seeker who has ever correctly applied it.

The simple secret…….revealed

So are you ready for the secret? Okay here it is – address the job requirements!

Yep, that’s it; it really is that simple but it requires special effort, dedication and determination to get it right.

Making sure to address as many of the points in the JD and person specification as possible – with examples – might be a painstaking process, but it’s the only way to really give yourself the best chance of landing not just the interview but the job also.

You don’t have to address all the points (in fact, if you can look at a prospective job and confidently tick off every element of the job description and person specification, you shouldn’t bother applying for it because you’ll only die of boredom for lack of challenge when you’re in the role) – just all of the main ones totalling up to at least 80%.

How exactly does this work in practice? Allow me to demonstrate…

Applying the secret to a real job…

Imagine you’re applying for this job here (please note the company name has been changed and this is only a small part of the JD):

JD - Grocery Service Team Member

Job Description: Grocery Service Team Member (click to enlarge)

If you were going to use the secret to put yourself in the running, you would first make sure that you’re capable of carrying out (and/or learning) the duties listed.

Then you would set about addressing the requirements section one by one (using each criteria as a heading) and providing examples, like this:

  • Previous Grocery experience preferred

Your response: I have previous grocery experience from working in Asda as a Till Assistant for nine months. In this role, I learnt a lot about how to receive and prepare products, how to maintain the grocery floor and displays, and how to sell products according to Asda’s standards. I am confident I can make use of this knowledge in your own grocery store.

[Note: did you notice how I weaved in the summary of the job into my answer here? Feel free to do this if it helps to support your point, but try not to copy it word for word - rephrase it into your own words.]

  • Excellent communication skills and willingness to work as part of a team; ability to communicate effectively with customers.

Your response: I believe that achieving success at any level is a team sport therefore I am always happy to work as part of a team to contribute my skills and to learn from others. My communication skills are excellent – in fact, it would have been impossible to succeed in my previous role as a Till Assistant without having good communication skills as the job required me to communicate with customers on a regular basis in order to make their shopping experience as pleasant and as easy and straightforward as possible.

[Note: Look for opportunities to communicate your values, particularly where they line up with that of the organisation (e.g. 'success is a team sport'), and tie this in with your response.]

  • Ability to follow instructions and procedures

Your response: At Asda, I reported directly to a Team Supervisor who would give me instructions for that day/week that I would comply with. When I first started the role, it was particularly important for me to be able to follow instructions and procedures given to me during staff training so that I would be able to perform well in my role and contribute to the high standards of the organisation. Following instructions and procedures is something I think is very important.

[Note: Even though I used the Till Assistant role for all the examples, you don't have to limit your examples to your current or last job. You can pull from any work experience you have - you can even pull from your academic studies or your extracurricular activities. It doesn't matter where the examples come from (as long as they're genuine), it only matters that you have them.]

This is just a fictional example of how you can go about addressing the job requirements step-by-step. It took me about five minutes to think about each of the points and jot something down in response – it would have taken at least an hour if I had tackled the other nine requirements also!

Don’t short-change yourself – put aside enough time to get the job done properly!

This method is best for tackling the “Supporting Statement” section of application forms where you’re asked to describe how your skills, abilities, knowledge and experience make you a suitable candidate for the job, but you can also use it – in a milder form – to craft your cover letter where it’s a CV/cover application. Either way, the point is to make sure that you use it if you want to get shortlisted.

So now that you have the secret, what’re you waiting for? Go forth and land that interview! :-)

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photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc


  1. I reckon you’re onto a winner! I’ve been told about addressing the job requirements before, but I appreciate you taking the time to provide a practical example. Shortlists here I come :p

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