An intimidating aspect of a job search is going up against other candidates competing for the same position. The good news is that there are some things you can do to differentiate yourself from the rest. Here are some tips on how to stand out as a job candidate:
Do a self-assessment
You not only want to excel in your job but also derive happiness from it. This is possible if it fits your skills profile and career aspirations.
Go through the job description and understand the role you’re applying for. Also think about whether you have the skills for the job and that the job itself aligns with your career goals. Staffing agencies and recruiting managers will also be looking to match open positions to compatible candidates.
As part of your self-assessment, consider the following:
- Short-term career goals
- Long-term career
Apart from the job role, evaluate if working for that company fits well with your work style and career goals. If you aren’t excited or enthusiastic about the prospect of being their employee, you may struggle to put on a convincing front during interviews. So, researching the company you’re applying to is well worth your time.
Get to know a potential employer
What is the company’s culture like? What kind of candidates does the company desire and recruit? Much of this should be discernible on the company’s website and social media. Also go through the LinkedIn profiles of their employees. You can narrow the search by division or function.
Reach out to people in your inner and outer circles who previously worked for the company or know someone who works there. Their insights and ‘inside information’ will give you a sense of how you match up to the company’s talent expectations.
Establish a positive personal brand and online presence
To stand out as a job candidate you want to avoid any negative impressions. For example, most employers check candidates’ online profiles. If you haven’t already, update your LinkedIn profile. Ask for positive testimonials from a current or a previous colleague, based on the position you’re applying for. Applying for a managerial role? Include recommendations from higher-ups and direct reports. For a job that doesn’t indicate seniority, recommendations from team members/peers can position you as a good team player.
Review and refresh your online portfolio. To be on the safe side, scan your public social media accounts for photos and comments that may be perceived as controversial.
Tailor your resume to the job description and industry
Matching your resume to the job description will help single you out as a suitable candidate for the job. Check for the following:
- The qualifications the company seeks (education, experience, skills and personal qualities)
- Job responsibilities (which ones are mentioned first and what is less important?)
- Repetitive themes (strong technical skills, leadership ability, ability to multi-task, handle tight deadlines…)
Does your industry follow a particular resume format? Based on whether you work in a technical or creative field, customize your resume to your industry.
Submit a well-written cover letter
The cover letter is yet another opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates. A powerful cover letter contains the following elements:
- A strong opening statement about why you want the job and how you’re qualified for it
- A story about your career that shows what you bring to the table
- An achievement that indicates your ability to solve the challenges the company (prospective employer) is facing
Needless to say, the skills and experiences you share should relate to the role you are applying for. Keep your story and accomplishment succinct. If applying to different jobs, customize your cover letter to the specific job.
Thoroughly prepare for each interview
A common interview question relates to what you can contribute to the company in your individual capacity. Your efforts to research the company, understand the job and objectively acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses will pay off here. You will be able to provide a convincing answer and feel more confident as the interview progresses. Some other things you can expect to discuss:
- Career progression
- Reasons for leaving your current role
- Salary expectations
- The training or extra support you may need
- Your key qualifications
If the interview questions for the role are available online, include them in your preparation.
You can impress prospective employers at every leg of your job search. Finding the right job for your profile, creating a strong resume, readying a positive online brand, and practicing answering interview questions, will help you stand out as a job candidate. And ultimately outperform the competition.
Check out our previous post What Employers Look for in Job Candidates.