There is no question the interview process is a tough one. Although the unemployment rate has dropped slightly, 6.6 percent of the country is still struggling to find a job. Competition for the best jobs is fierce, and separating yourself from the pack can be difficult. With a little creativity and preparation, however, you can stand out to employers and kill it in your interview!
Network Until You Drop
There is no “right” or “best” way to land an interview. Most candidates flood the market with their resume and wait. This is about as efficient as tossing a bucket of bait into a pond and hoping some of the fish are hungry.
Set yourself up to stand out in an interview by making an impression through networking. According to some estimates, as many as 80 percent of landed jobs come from savvy networking. Leverage all personal connections to your targeted companies. Ask to be introduced to hiring managers. At the very least, a personal recommendation from someone who already works in the company is an invaluable way to set yourself apart from the pack.
Using social media and industry-targeted websites is another efficient way to “be seen” by hiring managers if you lack a personal connection. By posting your resume on huge job websites, you risk being ignored or passed over. Aim for the smaller, focused sites hiring managers are more likely to frequent in their candidate search process. However you decide to approach it, successful networking means you will stand out before you even enter the room.
Do Your Homework
During an interview, many candidates know a great deal about the job description. They may even have ample experience in that particular job, and will spend the interview impressing hiring managers with their accomplishments. Although related experience is important, it creates a one-sided image — a personification of the resume.
To stand out, you should become an expert on every company you interview with. Know the company history and place in the market. Leverage connections to find out as much as you can about company culture. Instead of reciting your skills and experience, explain how your skills could be of value to your prospective employer and give examples of ways you could use your experience to the benefit of the company. Go beyond the humble brag to let the hiring manager know you could be an asset.
A candidate who demonstrates knowledge of the industry will also be a stand-out. Hiring managers interview multiple candidates for a position, but the individual who demonstrates a level of expertise and passion is likely to be productive immediately without suffering from a learning curve — a rare quality!
Engage the Interviewer
Most candidates wait to be engaged. They sit back and politely wait for questions, always responding and never actively participating in interviews. This smile-and-nod approach allows the candidate to fade into the background of the interview process.
Make the interview process interesting for the hiring manager. You should obviously allow them to run the show, but don’t be afraid to ask a few questions of your own. Respond to things you find interesting and ask for clarification when they ask a tough question. Expand on issues the interviewing seems to emphasize.
For example, does the interviewer mention building PowerPoint presentations are an important skill for the job? Find out why. Ask how this has made an impact on the company in the past, propose new and exciting ways to use these presentations, and illustrate your mastery over all things PowerPoint.
Finally, do not be afraid to make a personal connection with the interviewer. If the interviewer mentions being an avid runner and so are you, share this! You will be elevated from Joe Candidate to Joe Runner, and will immediately stand out in the interviewer’s mind during the decision-making process.
There are many paths to landing the job of your dreams. Unfortunately, there are lots of other people on those paths, all hoping for the same thing. This is why standing out from the rest of the candidate pool is imperative for your success. Leverage your networks, become an expert on each company you interview with, and keep the interviewer engaged during your interview. Instead of being one of many “walking resumes” who are so easily forgotten, you will be a top contender!
What do you think? What are some ways to stand out from the crowd to land a great job?
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.