I often hear about how hard it is for job candidates to stand out and get noticed in this market. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As someone who scours resumes and conducts interviews regularly, I can tell you firsthand that it is ridiculously easy to stand out from the pack.
Why do I say this?
Because 9 out of 10 job applicants are only going to do the bare minimum, if that, to get noticed. Employers really want that elusive 10% that’s going to go beyond the status quo and make an impression.
How do you become that elusive 10%?
I’m glad you asked.
Here are 6 really easy tips to help you stand out and from the competition. Keep in mind that these tips only really apply if you are qualified for the position. If you and the next candidate have very similar resumes and experience, these tips can help give you the edge.
This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised at how many people do not follow simple instructions. If the job posting asks for you to submit a cover letter, resume and salary history, do not just submit a resume. I’ve had to eliminate countless people who could very well have been exceptional at the position because they did not follow the instructions of the job posting.
When in Doubt, Submit a Cover Letter
If the job posting does not request a cover letter, send one anyway. The fact that you took the initiative and sent more than what was required will score you major points. Remember a cover letter is not a summation of your resume. Use it to highlight why you are interested in the position and what value you can bring to the company. Do not simply state what you hope to get from the company. There’s a big difference between the two. If it is not clear from your resume why you are qualified for the position, use the cover letter to highlight your transferrable skills and explain why you make sense for the role. Avoid “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern” language. If you cannot tell who the hiring person will be, do some due diligence and find out. Hardly anybody actually does it and it is a really easy way to impress the interviewer.
Make it easy to communicate with you by responding quickly to emails. This gives the impression that you are on top of things and eager to get the position. A quick way to turn off an interviewer is by taking days to respond.
Make a Great First Impression
This goes without saying, but it needs to be said. First impressions are everything. A lot of times the interview is lost due to not what you say, but how you say it and how you present yourself. Given two candidates with the same resume and experience, the person that speaks and projects with confidence will get the position every single time. Dress in attire like you are going to an interview and put some effort in how you look. Regardless of how strong of a candidate you are, it will turn the interviewer off if it looks like you just threw some clothes on and did not put much effort into your appearance. Practice your handshake if it’s on the weak side. The strength of the handshake is another way to project confidence.
Do your Research
Show that you know about the firm and come ready with ideas of how you can hit the ground running and contribute to making it even better. Too many candidates are worried about salary, benefits and what they’re going to get out of the position and few offer solutions that would be valuable to the company. It’s a surefire way to stand out.
Follow-up with a Thank You Note
I’m always amazed at how many candidates fail to do this step. It makes no sense to have done all of this work to apply and go through the interview process, just to drop the ball at the very end. The after-interview follow-up is your last chance to leave the interviewer with a great impression of you. An hour or two after the interview send a thank you email expressing your gratitude and highlight what was discussed in the interview and restate your interest. To really drive it home, send a handwritten thank-you note as well. I recall when I was offered a position at a firm, I was told that I was the only person who sent a thank you note and it was greatly appreciated. It goes a long way.
These are just a few tips on how you can stand out from sea of candidates in your job search. If you have any other tips, please let me know in the comments below.