It can be tough to stand out from the crowd during your job search. So many people are in the market for work right now, and that means employers are often flooded with hundreds of resumes for any open position.
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One entry-level job seeker recently asked me: How do I stand out from everyone else?
Our discussion was lengthy, but here are the seven main points that you can use to improve your job search performance:
1. Be Honest
A white lie here, some resume padding there – it can't hurt, right?
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Recruitment processes are getting more sophisticated every day, and hiring managers check the facts. If you get caught in a little white lie, no matter how innocent, your credibility will be destroyed and you will lose your shot at that job.
2. Respond Quickly and Professionally
If your cover letter and resume are beautifully crafted documents, great! That is the first step, but you need to make sure all of your communications are perfect. Don't let yourself down with a sloppy email. Return calls and emails promptly. If you are asked to complete an assessment or provide further information, do so as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours. If you know you can not commit the time, send a quick email or call to let the hiring manager know when the assignment will be completed by.
3. Send Thank-You Letters
So many candidates forget this. Send a thank-you letter as soon as you possibly can after an interview! Send one to everyone with whom you interviewed. If you are using a template thank-you email, please go and delete it now. A robotic thank-you email is not going to help you stand out – but a customized one will.
4. Ask Questions
An interview is a conversation. Do your job and keep it going. Asking questions is not only a perfect opportunity to find out more about the role and company, but it also shows that you are interested and have put some thought into the job.
5. Show Enthusiasm for This Particular Role and Company
Enthusiasm (not desperation) is key to the recruitment process. Do your research and find out why this particular company and role are right for you. Find things that you are excited about that don't relate to the paycheck. Hiring managers want candidates who want to work for them; job seekers who simply want a job are at higher risk of turnover.
6. Tailor Your Cover Letter and Resume
Your resume is not a list of job descriptions. When someone reads your resume, they should be able to learn what you achieved in each role. Generic resumes have no real power to help you stand out. They don't tell a recruiter much at all. Remember: We don't just want to know what you did – we want to know how well you did it.
Your cover letter should be customized for every single role. Sure, it will take time, but it will improve your chances of moving forward in the recruitment process.
Don't make subjective statements in either document. Avoid terms like "Strong attention to detail" or "Excellent communication skills" or "Creative leader." These mean nothing to the person reading your application. They don't know you well enough to determine whether these statements are true or wildly inaccurate.
7. Demonstrate Your Fit, Not Just Your Experience
There is a huge emphasis on cultural fit in the recruitment process, and rightly so. The majority of turnover in the first six months is due to a poor fit rather than the inability to do the job.
Take the time to research the culture. Ask about it and understand how it suits your working style. Being able to articulate why you are a good fit for the company is going to help you stand out from the crowd.
Stacey Gleeson is the founder and job search/interview coach at Primed Interviews. If you have a question about your job search, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.