3 tips to set yourself apart from other job seekers
Job seeking is not unlike other aspects of life. It is the small things that count. As someone who hires, a pool of job applicants can be classified into three broad categories: definitely interview, maybe interview and just not a good fit. In the “definitely interview” pool, in most cases, the difference between the job seekers on paper is small if non-existent. Similarly, how one moves from high up on the maybe interview pool to the definitely interview pool is quite small. What moves a job applicant from one pool to another or higher in a pool comes down to the small things.
Here are three to think about if you are looking for a job.
Customize your application. Word macros now make it very easy to insert a wide variety of potential employers’ details in the same cover letter. Generally, avoid doing this since it is easy for an employer to pick these out. For example, I once hired for an administrative position and received a resume that kept highlighting customer service skills.
Effective cover letters are customized, speaking to both the employer’s business and the position being sought. For example, if you apply for a sales position in an IT company, highlight your technical skills and your success in previous sales positions. If you do not have a large amount of experience, re-characterize your experience in an honest manner. The above-referenced customer service applicant could have told me about all the paperwork they had to process or they had to deal with their book-keeping and accounting department.
The interview begins before the formal interview. Assistants and receptionist tend to be good judges of character having to greet so many people every day. They also tend to have the ear of the boss (never ever under-estimate the worth of a good administrative assistant- they are not “mere” secretaries). How an interviewee treats the office staff has a critical bearing to an employer especially if an employer is finding any reason to cut a deep pool of qualified applicants.
For example, when I worked for a larger company that regularly hired summer students, an applicant showed some attitude to the person giving them a tour of the office. They were cut the second the employer was told about this incident. The morale of the story is be nice to everyone.
Follow up. In the last ten interviews I have conducted, two applicants actually followed up thanking me for my time, indicating they were interested in the position and they were a good fit. Think about that for a second. 80% of the “definitely interview” pile failed to take that one extra step to move one step closer to getting a job (or they were all not interested which I can confirm is not true). As an interesting observation, the two who did follow-up were both younger applicants which seems to dis-spell the myth that younger workers are apathetic job seekers.
Job seeking is like working your way up to the top of a pyramid. You begin at the bottom with lots of other people and other job seekers keep getting cut as one moves up to the next level. Where there are equal candidates on paper, it is often the small things that get you ahead.