1. You must be qualified for the job (meet at least 50% of the requirements).
2. You must have a solid online reputation that an employer can easily find via Google.
View your job search as a sales job — you are “selling” your work as an employee, and the employer is “buying” your work based on your “features” (skills, knowledge, experience, and accomplishments).
Check out these 10 ways to differentiate yourself from other job seekers:
1. Leverage Your Network
Job candidates who are referred by a current employee are hired most often — MUCH more often than someone who simply applies online.
Referred candidates are, in fact, the top source of new hires.
To encourage employees to make referrals, employers often financially reward those employees who refer successful job candidates if that candidate is hired and works well for at least three months.
So, before you apply for that next job, check your friends, family, and LinkedIn connections to see if you know someone who currently works there.
2. Leverage LinkedIn
For most jobs, employers usually do a quick search of the Internet to see what they find. Are you qualified? Did you tell the truth in your application or resume? Will you fit into their organization — or not?
If you cannot be found in a Google search, nearly half of employers will ignore you — either you are out of date or you are hiding something. Neither reason is something an employer would want in an employee.
The best professional visibility you can have for most jobs is a solid, complete, accurate LinkedIn Profile which includes references written and endorsements. Google trusts LinkedIn, and LinkedIn is often near the top of the first page of search results.
Being intelligently and carefully active on LinkedIn, focused on your field of expertise, is excellent marketing.
3. Use Personal SEO
If you are not referred, the next best option is to be found by a recruiter.
To be easily found, pay attention to the terms you use in your resumes and online profiles. This is particularly true of your LinkedIn profile. After all, over 90% of recruiters search LinkedIn to find qualified candidates.
When applying for a job, use the terms the employer uses to describe the job in your application or resume. For example, when they use the term “Microsoft Office” in their job description, you should be sure to include that term in your application (assuming you know how to use Microsoft Office). If they use the term “Microsoft Word” instead of Microsoft Office, again, use their term.
The same applies to LinkedIn profiles. Different employers require different skills, which may be described in many different ways. Perhaps the job title used by your target employer for administrative assistants is “Admin Ninja.” You must find a way to include that term in your LinkedIn profile so your profile appears in search results.
4. Research the Employer
It’s hard to make a “sale” when you don’t understand your “customer” or what they need and want. Researching the employer will help you avoid wasting time (and compromising your privacy) by being fooled by a scam job.
Fortunately, much information is available on the Internet! At a minimum, visit the company Web site to see what it says. Employers usually have the choice of very many applicants, and you will stand out by being well-informed about the employer’s organization.
Visit the employer’s Web site. What do they do? Where are they located? Who works there?
5. Customize Your Resume
Think of your resume and cover letter as your “sales flyer.” Few sales result from a generic flyer. Make it clear to the employer that you want to work for THEM by customizing your resume and other documents to the specific employer.
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. Read Optimize Your Resume for Recruiters and How Top ATS Systems Analyze Resumes to understand how to meet the requirements today.
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.
6. Why Do They Need You
Would you buy a service from a company that said the reason you should buy from them is that they need the business? Nope. 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! I’m sure they’d be glad if you benefited from working for them, but they aren’t in business to make job seekers happy.
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 – tell them.
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 seeking and linking them to the employer’s specific needs.
7. Use E-mail as Back-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.
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.
Do assume that every potential employer uses spam filters.
8. 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 from the crowd if you send one!
- Thank them for their time and consideration.
- Include the job title and date and time of the interview to help them remember which interviewee you were.
- Include something to remind them of who you are — maybe a former employer, project, or school.
An e-mailed thank you is acceptable to most employers these days, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey. But, your e-mail may not get through the company spam filters, so your nice gesture (and great follow up!) may be lost.
9. Send a Thank You Anyway
The interview was great, and you were expecting a job offer. Instead, you received a rejection letter. Major disappointment, but not necessarily the end of an opportunity to work for that employer.
If you really liked the people and want to work for this organization, send a thank you after you receive the rejection.
A thank you for being turned down? Yes! They work!
I’ve spoken with countless job seekers who landed their job after initially being turned down for it. They followed up on the rejection and were at the top of the list when something didn’t work out with the “winning” applicant or when the next opening appeared.
10. 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.
Employers can take months to fill a job, with several rounds of interviews, reference checks, and more. As many as 30% of jobs are NEVER filled. So, once your job search is rolling along, keep at it until you have that job offer in your hand! Don’t lose momentum!
The Bottom Line for Job Seekers
Unfortunately, the hiring process is not perfect, and people on both sides of the process are imperfect, too. The technology added during the past few years has only made the process more challenging for everyone. Job seekers can improve the probability of success by taking care during the application and follow up by focusing on being easy to hire.
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. She 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+.