How to stand out in the competitive job market today

For recruiters, finding the best-matched candidate for an open position is like finding a needle in a haystack – we sift through hundreds and hundreds of resumes to find that one resume that appears to be IT!How can you make sure that you are seen as THE ONE?

I recently served as a panelist at the NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Master’s Alumni Networking event focused on how job seekers can stand out in the overcrowded sea of candidates. My fellow panelists included a non-profit recruiter and a Peace Corps recruiter. We agreed on many of the points, but also got into some heated discussions as well.

To recap the important points, here are 5 ways to maximize your job search results and ways for you to become the needle that your dream employer has been searching for:

1.    Build and maintain a consistent/cohesive personal brand across all touch points: This is a blog post within itself, but to sum this up, you want to have your marketing materials in check and tailor them to each job you apply to as any proper marketer would market a product or service. This means your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and any other website you’re affiliated with is a cohesive and accurate representation of you, one that you are proud of, and can help you to stand out.

2.    KISS…your resume: Keep it simple sweetie – make sure your resume has a simple design so that when employers take a 6.25 second glance at it they are drawn in and want to move on to the cover letter increasing your chances of getting a call. A few quick formatting tips to keep it simple and easy to read: use bold, italics, and underlines to delineate the companies, job titles, and dates of previous employment. Use bullets, versus paragraphs- unless you are applying for a government job since there are other preferred formats- and finally, keywords are crucial to make it through to the next point.

3.    Work that network: Referrals are your best bet to getting noticed by employers.  This will take your resume to the top of the pile, eliminating the risk you take when you only submit online – it’s like winning the lotto if your resume gets seen from an online submission. It’s also important to keep your professional contacts warm over the years, checking in from time to time, not only when you want something from them, but also to check in to see how they’re doing. Birthdays, holidays, and any exciting company updates/life updates are a great opportunity to reach out and catch up. Again, this is a much broader discussion, but the bottom line is if you’re trying to get noticed – referrals are the way to go!

4.    Acing the interview: Once you get that call for an interview, realize this is your one shot to impress and hopefully move on to the next round or get hired. What are recruiters/hiring managers looking for? Beyond the fact that you have the skills to even qualify for the position, what we’re looking for is the right attitude. With an increased focus on company culture and companies working hard to cultivate a unique environment it’s imperative for candidates to give off a positive and up-beat vibe with a can-do attitude- no task will be to little or too big! Companies want to bring employees on who are easy to get along with, friendly, have a strong work ethic, are quick to adapt, and have a passion for what the company does. How can you sense passion? Ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate that you truly get what the company does and are up to speed on what’s going on in the industry. Study up!

5.    Staying top of mind: It’s all in the follow up! You may be 1 of 10 candidates that are interviewing for the same job. Each of you may have all the qualifications needed, a well-matched attitude for their culture, but what’s going to help you to stand out and get the job in the end? A memorable follow up. It’s important to send a thank you note to your interviewer(s) within 24-48 hours of your interview. Email works, but a handwritten note can also help you stand out since it’s uncommon these days. To give you an extra edge, not only thank your interviewers, but ask an engaging follow up question that may help to keep the conversation going and give you an opportunity to further build the relationship with your interviewer, which will help you to stay top of mind.

Each of these points deserves its own blog post, but these 5 tips are a start to helping you differentiate yourself from the competition. These practices take time, but it’s worth putting in the extra effort for a few opportunities that you are super interested in versus haphazardly applying to tons of jobs without a clear strategy. Now go out there and show the world what you have to offer!