Standing out from the crowd has always been the key goal of the job seeker to get the role they really want. However, in times when more and more people are competing for the same roles, differentiating yourself to stand out from the crowd has become a necessity.
Here are a few tips on how to differentiate yourself during your job hunting and shine out like a bright beacon amongst the crowd!
First impressions really do count and how you present yourself in all your means of communicating with recruiters and potential employers is vitally important to giving you the edge over the competition. There are four key ways that you are likely to present yourself to recruiters and potential employers:
- Your CV
- Your Covering/Speculative Letter/Email
- Your Application Form
- Your Physical Appearance at Interview
The first three points are obviously written communications and there are some basic things you can do to ensure that they stand out:
- Be clear and concise: don’t waffle with long meandering sentences. Use short, bulleted sentences, with clear meanings and relevant subject matter.
- Be accurate: ensure that you do a spelling and grammar check on your written communications. You can use in-built spelling and grammar checkers, but be mindful that these are not always correct. Make sure to proof read your work before you send it out and if possible get someone else to read it through for you.
- Make it accessible: the way you layout and display your communications will make a great deal of difference. Clear, well laid out CVs, with good use of headings and white space will help your CV to be easier to read and stand out from the pile on a recruiter’s desk.
- Keep it simple: don’t use fancy fonts and garish colours, which are difficult to read. Keep in mind that many computers also won’t have as standard many fonts and so electronic communications may not look as you intend them to when viewed on another computer that doesn’t have the font file. Stick with font types such as Arial or Verdana. If you do want to use colour keep it simple and use muted rather than bright tones. A good use of colour is to have your headings in a different colour from your body text.
When it comes to your physical appearance at an interview it’s important to dress appropriately for the industry and job level that you are applying for. Your clothing will send a message to your interviewer about how you see and represent yourself professionally. So, for ladies make sure skirts aren’t too short and tops aren’t too low. I’d also go easy on the perfume and make up. Remember, it’s not a night out; this is your professional image that you want to project.
In terms of office/corporate work you can’t go wrong with the obligatory black or grey suit with a white shirt/blouse, which is clean and ironed. If you feel confident in different colours or types of clothing then that’s great, but remember whatever you wear you need to be able to “own it” to look and feel confident and comfortable (as much as is possible during an interview).
Personal grooming is also important, make sure you’ve bathed recently, wear a reliable deodorant (nothing like interview anxiety to cause you to sweat!), make sure your hair is tidy (ladies with long hair, wearing your hair up/tied back is a good idea to present a professional/tidy appearance), finger nails clean and trimmed and brush your teeth before you leave the house.
This is probably the most important subject to focus on if you want to stand out from the crowd. Tailoring your CV and associated communications is time consuming, but if you’re serious about getting the job of your dreams and/or getting a job as quickly as possible then it is a really important element of job hunting.
Tailoring isn’t as difficult as it might at first seem, the job description/outline you receive is your greatest tool and weapon. It gives you all the information you need to ensure that your CV, covering letter/email and application address the key skills and experience that the recruiter is looking for. Here are some basic tips:
- Make sure your CV clearly addresses the top 3 or 4 bullets of the skills and experience requirements – NB if it’s a long list of requirements this will need to be a higher number of bullets
- Populate a list of your “Key Achievements” at the top of your CV with examples of achievements that address the skills and experience requirements of the role
- Ensure that the most relevant skills and experience bullets for each of your previous roles are at the top of your bullet lists
- If you have trouble fitting your CV onto two pages I would suggest removing skills and experience bullets that are not relevant to the role from your previous roles
- Draw attention to your strongest relevant skills and experience in a covering letter and if appropriate express interest in learning more about requirements for which you are not as strong
- Where you have a name for the recruiter address your letters directly to the individual
Job seeking is definitely a lot easier these days with online recruitment websites and automated application systems. However, there is a drawback to this revolution – rather than perhaps 100 people submitting CVs/applying for a role now potentially anyone from anywhere in the country or world could be applying for the same role you are! As a result just doing the minimum won’t guarantee that you get very far.
Don’t assume that after you hit “send” or “submit” that the ball is now in the employer’s court. Most of the online recruitment websites have the name of the contact, an email address and if you’re lucky their telephone number on the job description/role profile. I recommend that when you submit an online application you follow it up with an email as an absolute minimum and would strongly suggest a call the following day if you have the details. By calling and personally speaking to a recruiter you are guaranteeing that they will look at your application!
More and more employers are choosing to use recruitment agencies to source talent and vet CVs for their vacancies. I would suggest that as well as signing up to recruitment websites you sign up with at least 5 reputable recruitment agencies that recruit at your skill/experience level and in your sector/background. When dealing with recruitment agencies always keep emails from the agents and keep their contact details in your address book, phone and computer for future reference.
If there aren’t any roles around at the time that you are job seeking it’s always a good idea to give recruitment agency contacts a call so they are aware that you are currently looking and what you are looking for. This achieves two things, firstly it establishes the sort of role you are looking for and avoids calls about roles that are not relevant and secondly and most importantly it puts you at the forefront of their mind should the right role land on their desk.
It’s always a good idea to have examples of your work that you can direct potential employers/recruiters to or bring along to show an interviewer. Graphic artists and Web designers always have a portfolio of their work, but why should it just be the preserve of the creative industry?
As a communicator and marketing consultant I direct recruiters/potential employers to view my website and blog and my various social media profiles and ensure that I have good recommendations on LinkedIn. At interviews I always bring examples of my templates, internal promotions, publications I have written for and tools and training that I have created. It doesn’t necessarily have to be people based in offices though that can show examples of their work, a builder could easily take pictures of the projects/buildings they’ve been working on and upload them to a photo sharing site like flickr, or a personal blog. Letters of endorsement from clients could be transcribed onto a blog. A printed portfolio of the pictures of work and example letters of endorsement could be taken to an interview.
Having examples can help you to demonstrate your skills in action and help recruiters/potential employers make the decision whether to interview you and for interviewer’s it can give them an understanding of the breadth and depth of your experience. Examples are excellent talking points and also opportunities to give you a moment to collect your thoughts while the interviewer is looking through them.
If you’re feeling very dedicated you could also create some bespoke materials for the company at which you are applying/interviewing that you’ve based on the research you completed. This is a very useful thing to do if you are perhaps coming in to work on a specific area/topic such as a project.
Standing out from the crowd does require extra effort, otherwise everyone would be doing it. However, if you are serious about getting a good job and the right package and benefits for you then you need to be serious about how you job hunt and that requires putting in the extra time and effort; but believe me it is well worth it!
I have written a series of articles about job seeking which you might find useful: