So try to put yourself in the shoes of the employer or recruiter. Then use these seven ways to differentiate yourself as the best candidate…
1. Research the Employer
Sure, this advice has become a cliche. But the reality is that there is so much information available on the Internet!
At a minimum, visit the company website to see what it says. Employers usually have the choice of very many applicants, and you can be the best candidate by being well-informed about the employer organization.
- This research will enable you to do a better job of customizing your resume and cover letter (next point below).
- You’ll be able to ask informed, intelligent questions during the interview, based on your research, which will impress the interviewer.
- Your research may also help you to avoid wasting time on a company that isn’t a good fit for you or that is in the midst of a declining market and potentially planning layoffs or job freezes.
Visit the company Web site. Information about publicly-traded companies is everywhere, from Google finance and LinkedIn Company Pages to AnnualReports.com and Hoover’s. Find the quarterly financial reports required by the U.S. government in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Edgar database.
2. Customize Your Resume
Because most employers and recruiters use some form of applicant tracking system (a database of job applications and/or resumes), customizing your resume for each opportunity is required today. For example, if the opportunity you want is in HR, emphasize the skills and experience you have related to HR. If the company is in the medical industry, highlight the experience you have in HR in medical or related industries.
To be seen as the best candidate, use your research!
Make a reference to their products or services, by name if possible, or to corporate officers. To be perceived as the best candidate, demonstrate that you know something about this employer and this opportunity.
Send out fewer resumes, and use your research to include proof that you’ve paid some attention to this specific opportunity. You and your message will stand out.
3. Explain What You Can Do for the Employer
Often an applicant’s cover letter will say something like “I need experience in a [whatever you need] company like yours.” Why should an employer care? They don’t!
When filling a job, most employers don’t care what they can do for you; they are interested in how you can help them be more successful. Don’t let them try to figure out how you can help them. Why? Because the best candidate consistently tells them how they can best help.
Present your skills and knowledge in terms of how hiring you will be a benefit for them. Don’t minimize your skills, but don’t over-inflate them either. Stick to the facts – selecting the ones most relevant to the opportunity you are are seeking and linking them to the employer’s specific needs.
4. Use E-Mail as Backup and/or Follow-Up
Use snail mail, FAX, the telephone, etc. to reach the employer or recruiter, unless directed to “use e-mail only” by the employer. Even then, try to network your way into the company to find out what’s going on and advance your search. See Job-Hunt’s “Tapping the Hidden Job Market” article for networking ideas.
E-mail has been killed as an effective “cold-call” communications medium. “Spam” (bulk, unsolicited, commercial e-mail) clogs company e-mail systems, reportedly more than 90% of e-mail in 2014.
Most companies use spam filters to eliminate junk e-mail before it ever reaches anyone’s Inbox. So, don’t assume that your e-mail will be read or even received by the addressee, and don’t assume that you will receive a notice from the “postmaster” when your message is blocked. Most spam filters just delete the messages without any notice to the senders.
5. Don’t Stop Looking!
No matter how perfect a job is for you, or, even, how great the interview went. Keep reminding yourself that you don’t have a job until you have a written job offer, with the right title, salary, and start date.
I’ve seen too many job seekers pause their job search waiting for that offer they knew they were going to receive – the offer that didn’t come from that employer. So they often lost both time and momentum.
Once your job search is rolling along, keep at it until you have that job offer in your hand!
6. Send a Thank You for Each Interview
A thank you is a simple courtesy that is so important, and so often ignored by job seekers that you will stand out as the best candidate if you send one!
- Thank them for their time and their consideration
- Include the job title and date and time of the interview to help them remember which interviewee you were
- Also, include something to remind them of who you are – maybe a former employer or project
It’s smart to also include a few additional snippets of information that help them see you as the best qualified applicant, particularly if you think something from the interview needs clarification. Or, to provide a better answer to a question they asked that you feel you mishandled.
But keep the thank you short. After all, one page (two or three short paragraphs) works best.
An e-mailed thank you is acceptable to most employers these days, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey. But, off-line is the most reliable. It’s a very nice touch to do it the old-fashioned way with real paper, envelopes, and stamps (a.k.a. “snail mail).
7. If You Receive a Rejection, Respond with a Thank You
A thank you for being turned down? Yes!
I’ve spoken with countless people who landed their job after initially being turned down for it. They followed up on the rejection, so were at the top of the list when something didn’t work out with the “winning” applicant or when the next opening appeared.
Want to present yourself as the best candidate? Follow this advice. In the end, your career will thank you for the extra effort.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Job-Hunt.org!
About the Author: Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.