You’ve just applied for your dream job and you know you’re the right fit. You’re passionate about the role, have the right experience, and your skills are just what the employer needs.
But there’s one small problem.
The hiring manager’s email inbox is flooded with applications from dozens of other candidates who feel the same way.
Some studies show that, on an average, every publicly listed job receives 100+ applications. But only 20% of them qualify for an interview.
So what makes you stand out?
Without a convincing answer to this question, you’ll find it hard to land many job offers even if you make it to the interview stage.
If you feel stuck and unsure about the best way to move forward, here are a few tips to get you moving.
1. Think Like an Employer
Hiring is an investment that an employer makes to solve a problem that’s hindering business growth or to benefit from an opportunity to accelerate growth. Before designing your resume or writing your first cover letter, you need to understand this fact.
Think from your prospective employer’s point of view and understand what they’re trying to achieve by hiring you. Focus on their problems during the hiring process instead of creating a job application solely based on your needs.
This would help you understand the value you can offer and craft a much more convincing sales pitch to catch the employer’s eye.
For example, applicants who think about themselves first usually focus on highlighting their technical skills and achievements.
Applicants who think like employers, on the other hand, go one step ahead and translate their skills into benefits for their employer. Like an effective marketing campaign, they focus on the benefits instead of the features.
2. Demonstrate Your Industry Knowledge and Expertise
Did you know that almost 80% of the jobs are never advertised? But they’re still filled pretty fast. Even when companies are not actively hiring, they keep an eye on competent professionals with the right skills and experience so they don’t have to look for them once the hiring starts.
One of the best ways to stay on your prospective employer’s radar is by actively demonstrating your industry knowledge and expertise using public forums. You can do that by
- Blogging about relevant industry issues.
- Answering questions related to your field on sites like Quora and other public forums.
- Actively participating in relevant social media discussions and sharing your knowledge.
- Share personal accounts and case studies of how you managed similar situations or problems.
Doing this regularly will also help you stand out during job interviews and create a strong impression on the interviewer.
3. Build an Impeccable Online Brand Image
Your chances of getting an interview call and landing a job offer depend heavily on how positively the hiring manager perceives you. Which is why personal branding is so important for modern day job seekers.
Your personal brand tells the world how you’re different. Unlike a resume, that mostly lists your skills and achievements, branding helps you connect with your prospective employer on a personal level. It turns you from just another candidate into a reliable service provider who can be trusted with important organizational responsibilities.
Thankfully, with so many tools and online platforms, building a stellar personal brand is much easier as compared to the previous years.
Have your own blog where you regularly publish valuable and high quality content related to your industry. Write for bigger publications as a guest author to really differentiate and brand yourself as a thought leader.
You never know when a prospective employer might read your thoughts and be compelled to connect with you.
4. Build Relationships With the Right People
“The fastest way to an interview is when someone I know makes a referral or recommendation,” says Raj Aggarwal, founder and CEO of tech startup Localytics.
Whether you like it or not, knowing the right people in your target organization makes it significantly easier to get an interview call and make your first impression on the hiring manager.
Thanks to social media, building new relationships and expanding your professional network has never been easier. Studies show that more than 93% recruiters use social media for hiring.
Use social media to build relationships instead of posting random content that might hurt your brand image.
Before applying to your dream job, find the public profiles of the hiring manager, the technical leads, and anyone else who could be a part of the hiring process. Connect with them, join the social media groups where they’re active and start conversations. Find mutual interests, causes or local events and conferences where you can find them.
Building relationships is a much more effective way to find new opportunities than asking someone directly for a job. And even if it doesn’t pay off immediately, your professional network is an asset that’ll always come handy in your career.
5. Gather Recommendations and Testimonials
A recommendation letter from your ex-boss or a testimonial from a satisfied client can go a long way in helping you secure your next big career breakthrough.
A recommendation is basically someone else publicly showing confidence in your abilities. And it does make a difference, especially if the person recommending you is a high level decision maker or someone with a successful track record.
Ask your co-workers, former colleagues, clients and managers to write brief recommendations for you. To make it easier for them, mention the points that you want them to highlight in their recommendations, for example, your leadership qualities or your research skills.
Recommendations that are precise, to the point, and include numbers usually make a stronger impression than general words of praise.
6. Highlight Your Achievements With Data and Case Studies
Whether it’s your cover letter, professional summary or the details of your previous jobs, avoid writing large blocks of text that are hard to skim over.
Make the recruiter’s life easier and increase your chances of getting hired by writing short paragraphs, using headlines to categorize different segments of your resume, and by using numbers to quantify your achievements.
For example, writing “I led a team of SEOs that secured page 1 rankings for 100+ highly competitive keywords and increased the client’s website traffic by 473% in 8 months” is much more powerful than “I helped increased a client’s website traffic.”
Use bold, italic and underline to highlight important information and make your content easily scannable.
7. Exceed the Interviewer’s Expectations With Thorough Preparation
Companies want job candidates to show energy, passion and willingness to work for them. How well a candidate prepares for an interview is often a good indication of their interest in the job.
According to studies, more than 47% managers have eliminated candidates after an interview because of their lack of knowledge about the company.
It’s easy to avoid this mistake because every company has a website and a publicly available corporate profile these days. Before going for an interview, spend a few hours researching the company, it’s recent projects, it’s top employees and their publicly listed projects.
Do your homework, identify improvement areas, and prepare solutions even if they haven’t asked you for it. For example, if you’ve applied as a website designer or a front-end developer, create your own version of the company’s website (or at least the homepage), list down reasons why you think its better, and share recommendations to improve the current web page.
Such initiatives not only help you stand out but also provide a practical demonstration of your work. And it’s the kind of extra work that most job candidates never do.
8. Keep Upgrading Your Skills and Professional Qualification
No matter what industry you’re in, if you regularly upgrade your skills and have relevant professional qualification it’s hard for any recruiter to ignore you.
Thanks to online learning platforms like Udemy, Coursera, edX etc. you don’t need to quit your job and go back to school to learn new skills. These platforms, and many others like them, allow you to learn from the best instructors in the world remotely.
If your target job requires a particular certification or skill, you can simply use any of the available online learning platforms to acquire it.
Several studies show that applicants with higher qualification have a distinct advantage over other candidates who’ve applied for the same job. This is also backed by the fact that most jobs in the U.S now require more education than before.
To give you some perspective, Facebook hires 95%, Google 80%, and Microsoft hires 60% of its employees from the top 200 schools.
So enhancing your skills and improving your qualification is still a pretty good way to stand out in a competitive job market.
–Jawad Khan, is contributing writer for careers and jobs.