The process of job hunting can be quite overwhelming. Whether you are trying to get back into the workforce or looking for a career change, its not easy to know exactly how to go about doing it. Where do you find the jobs, how do you apply, how do you get selected, etc. Those are important questions you should be asking when on the search, but the most important one to ponder is ‘how do you make yourself stand out?’ For every job you see, there are probably hundreds of applicants for it, so how, in the sea of countless job seekers, can you catch an employer’s eye? You have the obvious answer, which is a strong resume. A good resume is key and you can read more about how to build an impressive resume here. However, that is not what I’m talking about. Besides the obvious ways of how to get an employer’s attention, you need to go above and beyond to set yourself apart from the rest. You have to let it be known that you are the right person for this job and no other candidate will do. You have to go the extra mile and be relentless in your pursuit of the position you want, almost to the point of obnoxiousness (I said ALMOST, so don’t get to that obnoxious point). So how do you go that extra mile? There are many ways you can achieve this, but I’ve put together the list below of the best things you can do to add value to your candidacy. Some of these are small gestures, but I guarantee they go a long way.
- Email the hiring manager – Don’t just apply online. Most times, employers want you to just go online and fill out the application and will contact you if they choose to interview you. They prefer not to get hundreds of phone calls and emails from candidates. Call or email anyway. Most people won’t bother to do this. Remember or at least tell yourself that you are not “most people.” A quick online search of the company may even get you the name of the hiring manager for the department of the open position. Once you have the name, go to the company website or even google to find a contact work email. I realize that its a bit of detective work, but it pays off to make the extra effort. Even if the person you email turns out to be the wrong hiring manager, they will likely forward it to the correct person. I would go so far as to also find out a direct email for the HR department and email them, as well. Prior to sending any emails, complete your online application first. You want to show that you have already gone through the proper steps, but just going a step further. You want to reiterate your strong interest in the position in the email and attach your cover letter and resume. For example, “Mr. Smith, I am writing to express my strong interest in the open Corporate Accountant position in your department. I have already applied online, but wanted to reach out to you directly to reiterate my strong interest in the position and in the company. As you can see in my attached resume, I have a strong background in this area and I truly feel like it is well aligned with this position. [insert a summary of skills here].” You get the idea. This is a great way to make yourself stand out and if anything to get you on their radar.
- Interview preparation – If you are chosen as part of the select few of candidates to be interviewed for the job, you MUST prepare. The more prepared the better. I will be writing a whole other article about the interviewing process because there is so much to discuss about this. For the sake of brevity, I will mention the following for now about interviewing. Prior to going on the interview, research research research. Research the company you are interviewing for. Show them that you are knowledgeable about the company and what they do, not just about the job. If they see that you are truly vested in the company, that shows your level of commitment to it. This speaks volumes to employers, especially if the position has had high turnover. Be prepared to ask questions to show that you are genuinely interested. In an interview, you are usually given the opportunity to ask questions. Don’t just stay “no, I think you’ve covered everything.” Show that you care by asking them questions like “What is the company culture like”, “What is the day to day like for someone in this position?” “Do you enjoy working here?” “Why is the position open?” These are just examples, but good ways to show your interest.
- Be early! – Always arrive to the interview early. I mean, if you are there 10 minutes before the interview, then you’re already late. Be there 15-20 minutes ahead of time to show that not only are you punctual, but you arrived early because you are that anxious and excited about the job. Also, you want to avoid any unforeseen obstacles like traffic or road construction that could make you late and ruin your chances at landing the job. Research the route ahead of time and know exactly how to get there and even an alternate route just in case.
- Don’t ask about pay – This one is tricky because you do need to know how much a position pays, but if it is not listed in the job posting and they don’t openly mention the salary in the interview, do.not.ask. Even if it’s not the case, it will make it seem as though that is all you care about. Reserve any salary talk and negotiations for when you are further down the process, like during a second interview or if and when they select you. Most companies try to stay competitive with salary, so you can research online for an average salary range for that type of position. It will most definitely be discussed at some point in the hiring process, but it shouldn’t be a main topic right off the bat.
- Dress for success – No matter what type of job you are interviewing for, ALWAYS dress to the nines. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one. If you don’t have a suit or nice dress, then rent one or go to a thrift or discount store and buy one. Dressing and grooming for that first meeting is essential. It shows how much you care about the job. I don’t care if you are interviewing for a waitress position at your local BBQ restaurant or interviewing for a broker position on Wall Street. Dress as if your job depended on it. Oh wait a minute…it does.
- Make eye contact – This one is a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people won’t make eye contact during an initial meeting or interview. Perhaps it is nervousness or just shyness. Either way, get over it and make direct eye contact with anyone you meet and steady eye contact during the interview. Looking around the room too much as you’re talking can make you seem disingenuous or not fully committed to the job you are interviewing for.
- References – Have strong references, and mostly professional. You might have some personal references, but the ones that make the biggest impact are your professional references, such as any of your former managers or team leaders, or other colleagues that you’ve worked with before. Make sure that any names you give will provide the employer with a strong reference. The worst thing that could happen is you giving a reference name of someone who doesn’t have strong feedback about you and worse, gives negative feedback. So please take the time to talk to your references beforehand and make them aware that you are listing them and ask them to please only give positive feedback. Bring your list of references with you to the interview. Also bring extra copies of your resume to the interview. Many times the manager will forget to bring it. This shows that you are prepared even if they are not.
- Follow up – Always follow up after an interview. Make sure you know the names and emails of everyone you met with, even if you have to write it down while you are there or just simply ask for everyone’s business card. Send a thank you email after the interview to thank them all for meeting with you and to reiterate your interest with something like…”after meeting with the team today, I’m even more excited about the prospect of joining the company and feel strongly that my career goals are closely aligned with this position and the company.” So many candidates don’t bother to do this, but this small gesture goes a long way. You could even go so far as to write handwritten thank you notes to mail each interviewer. Either way, it sends a big message to them that you are truly interested and willing to go the extra mile for this position.
Good luck on the job search and I hope these tips help you land your dream job. Even if they don’t guarantee the job, they will surely get you that much closer to it. Happy Hunting!