Finding a job can be one of life’s most difficult, disheartening and demanding challenges, especially in a profession where competition is stiff. Sending hundreds of resumes, waiting to hear from prospective employers and navigating through multiple job interviews is exhausting, particularly when these efforts result in a pile of rejections. This struggle is even more difficult when many advertised positions are already filled in the minds of the hiring agents, but a formal candidate search is conducted for various reasons.
There is no magic bullet for finding that wonderful job; it is simply a test of perseverance and character. Maintaining that eager, enthusiastic attitude that employers love is a daunting task when financial pressures increase while hope, self-confidence and energy decrease. The key to a successful job search is to snag that job before your savings and self-dignity are depleted. Therefore, a pro-active game plan for landing that job is critical for being hired.
Top Five Ways to Stand out in Your Job Search
1. Create your own job website.
2. Include less than more in your resume.
3. Craft a brilliant cover letter.
4. Take charge of the interview.
5. Follow up with a thoughtful thank-you letter.
The Top Five Explained
Most job applicants don’t think about creating a website to aid in their job search, so having a job a website places you at a distinct advantage. A simple three-page website costs little time or money to develop but would be a wise investment for your career. A home page could include introductory information and the type of job you are seeking. A second page would feature a resume and a third page would display samples of your work, including writing samples, case studies, graphs of sales performance or descriptions of handling difficult customers.
When possible, it is best to keep the resume to one page. This can be accomplished by avoiding redundancies and including only information relevant to the specific position of interest. Extensive lists of awards, training certificates and publications can be placed on your job website which would be listed prominently on the resume. Write concisely and include only items that help you to stand out in the job search. If writing is not your strength, consult with a career services office or writing center at your local community college.
Perhaps the most important tool for standing out in your job search is a well-crafted cover letter. A typical format consists of four paragraphs: 1) list the exact job title of the job for which you are applying and how you learned of the opening 2) explain why you stand out 3) describe why the company stands out 4) request an interview. It is critically important to comb carefully through the hiring company’s website to garner clues about buzz words, desirable employee traits, and future trends. Then match these items to your experience and training. Let the hiring agent know that you are impressed with the information found on the website by mentioning it in your letter.
When you are lucky enough to land an interview, spend a lot of time preparing. Visit the company and note the dress code. Then study the company website, the job description and (ironically) your own resume as if you were preparing for an exam. Start the interview by handing the hiring agent your portfolio; a black glossy two-pocket folder containing your resume, cover letter, work samples, reference list, unofficial transcripts and anything else that could be relevant to the employer. Hiring agents will favor a candidate who has already done a lot of the verification work for them. Show enthusiasm, listen carefully, speak briefly, ask a couple of smart questions, and answer every interview question with the goal of making yourself stand out in your job search.
Perhaps the interview went great, but an important item was forgotten, or an answer was fumbled a bit. The follow-up thank-you letter is a great opportunity to fix these flaws and remind the hiring agent why you should be hired. Send the letter as a Word file attachment to an email by the end of the day of your interview. This will let the hiring agent know that you finish work in a timely manner.
Here is an important tidbit to remember about the job-search process. Effective hiring agents are not making judgments about your value as a person; they are making judgments about how you fit with the specific job for which they are hiring at that time. Overselling yourself for a job, especially if it is a poor fit, will only land you back on the job-search pavement all over again. Remind yourself that the right job will come along at the right time and take your best steps to stand out then.