The competition for good jobs is fierce. With dozens, and often hundreds of applicants submitting their resumes for a specific job opening, you MUST set yourself apart from all the other candidates who have similar qualifications. The secret to differentiation in job search is communicating your potential to deliver results. By relating your past accomplishments and contributions to the needs, problems, and objectives of the potential employer, you will be perceived as a problem solver. Your successes are unique to you. No one has the exact same story as you.
Consider effective strategies for using job search tools to set yourself apart:
Your letter of introduction can be a very persuasive document by personalizing it for each job application. Generic cover letters are a waste of time and do not represent a serious candidate to the prospective employer. They imply laziness, lack of initiative, and lack of concern for the employer.
Five tips to make your cover letter stand out:
- Format the cover letter with the exact same header as your resume to present a consistent professional brand image.
- Include the Company name and address in the letter heading. Use the corporate address unless a different address is listed on the job announcement. It is typically easy to locate a corporate address online.
- Address the letter to the hiring manager’s name. Not always easy to get the name, but do your best through research: LinkedIn, calling the company, checking the company website, or whatever creative means you can think of.
- Reference at least three requirements from the job announcement and state your related qualifications or accomplishments.
- Identify with the organization in some way: Problems they need solved, recent successes covered in the media or their website, their corporate mission or vision statement, or identifying with their corporate culture.
Your resume is a marketing piece designed to sell your best and relevant professional capabilities. Its appearance, content, grammar/spelling, organization, and completeness will be judged by the reader. How do you want to be perceived by the employer? It’s your first impression, make it a good one.
Five tips to make your resume stand out:
- Communicate your professional brand clearly – what you bring and your promise of value.
- Match the language in the job announcement to clearly show you are qualified and have what they are looking for.
- Incorporate powerful accomplishment statements to showcase your abilities to add value to the organization. Include metrics (dollars, numbers, percentages) to provide context to your contributions.
- Do NOT bore the reader with a list of job description bullets in your professional history. Tell them about the value your work brings.
- Show your professional progression—prove that you embrace growth and challenge.
The more people that know what type of job you are looking for increases your chances of being found. Tell everyone in your personal and professional network specifically what you would like to do in your next job. Be clear about what you have to offer an organization.
Five tips for networking that will make you stand out:
- Be visible online: complete your LinkedIn profile with a great headline, photo, branding summary, and job histories that showcase your skills and achievements.
- Participate in online groups where your colleagues hangout. Get noticed by contributing more and asking for little.
- Go to business meetings and professional association events, and participate.
- Be generous, share information with others including job opportunities you come across that fit associates you know who are considering their next career move.
- Talk to people in person: informational interviews, meet for coffee, get social offline too.
Being prepared for the interview is a huge advantage. So many candidates wing it and fall flat. It’s amazing how many people go into an interview and barely know anything about the company. They think they understand the job description but don’t have a clue about the problems the company needs to solve.
Five tips for standing out in an interview:
- Know your elevator pitch and make it relevant to the position you are interviewing for. Your last statement should convey the value you will bring.
- Be prepared and rehearsed to answer the ten most common interview questions.
- Prepare to discuss clearly and concisely at least five examples of your past performance, initiatives, and problem solving successes; with metrics for context.
- Show your interest in the employer by asking thoughtful questions that indicate you know something about the company, and confirm you are interested in their particular challenges.
- Identify with the hiring manager and relate to the problems and priorities that are revealed with a clear understanding and a friendly attitude.
Bottom line: When employers are aware of your value, they pay attention. But they are not going to do the digging. You must present your strengths, abilities, and success stories clearly and concisely. Employers are looking for that special candidate, the one that is not packaged exactly like the majority of applicants. Your differentiation is your promise of value, it’s what makes you unique, and makes you stand out. So make it obvious, make it relevant, and make it your signature across all platforms you play on.