By Vickie Elmer
Every time you apply for a job you have the chance to be a standout, a star, or at least a unique individual with a string of talents that may be a great match for the employer's needs.
But many don't see themselves that way or sell themselves that way. And they don't find the ways they can really shine before they send off their resume. They need to assess how their talents and traits could really benefit the person who's about to read their resume and hire someone crucial to their team.
So this year, give yourself enough time and many opportunities to stand out in your job search. This may mean cutting back on the number of resumes you send out a week or a month. But a few carefully crafted resumes and cover letters that connect the dots may do more to open doors than sending out hundreds of copycat CVs.
"It takes quite a bit of energy" to do some research and become a "standout candidate," said Elena Bajic, founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, which offers targeted career advice and jobs for members. She agrees candidates need to be selective in applying for jobs; "pick and choose those that are highly relevant" to their skills and expertise.
Then follow these five tips to make yourself a standout as you apply for work:
Know the traits that impress.
Some will be written right into the job posting. Others may be in your future employer's core values or mission statement. Sometimes they can be identified by reading a few blog posts or an in-depth profile of the CEO or senior executive in charge of the area where you hope to work. Look at industry trends and best practices, too. The American Management Association identified the four Cs as skills employers really want: critical thinking and problem solving; collaboration; communication and creativity / innovation.
Ensure your resume matches your job.
Anyone looking for a job in sales or marketing needs to promote themselves very effectively. An editor cannot afford misspellings or grammatical errors, Bajic said. A manager must show that they are organized and can engage people with their resume. An IT manager's resume needs a different structure and look than an interactive advertising manager. Different jobs and sectors require varied approaches. So each time you send out your resume, take just 10 minutes to adjust it so it's a closer match to the job posting.
Follow-up – twice.
After the resume's gone out, send an email or make a call to promote yourself again. Then another one week later. When one candidate did this with Bajic, she gave his resume a second look, which led to an interview. "I don't receive that many follow-ups," she said, "maybe 5 or 10 percent" of job seekers connect even once after applying.
Speed your replies.
When she's requesting an initial phone interview, Bajic sees those who respond to an email quickly, in a few minutes or so, as "a high energy person who's engaged." Someone who does not reply for two or three days may imply that they are less energetic and engaged or not all that interested in the job, she said. Other employment experts say it's important to show you're energetic and a quick study, especially if you're a mature job seeker or one who has been out of the workplace for a few years.
Prepare for phone interviews.
Take care with this and don't take it on the fly. When the HR manager calls for a phone screening interview, ask to schedule it the next day – and use those 24 hours to research the company and the job you're seeking. Take time to envision the job and what it entails, Bajic says. Ask yourself: What is the company trying to achieve here? That way your questions will be more in-depth and your impact better.
Remember too that what works to make you a standout with IBM may not be as impressive at Apple or a small start-up in Ann Arbor, Mich. Core traits that work for small entrepreneurial organizations may be miles apart from the ones that turn heads at a Fortune 500 corporation. The key is to draw on your list of strengths and best traits and bring up those that your future boss really values.
It's knowing what will stand out and shine in the galaxy where you're hoping to land next that could lead to success.
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