How to Rise to the Top During Your Job Search

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Whenever you apply for a job, you can assume there’s an army of other qualified candidates trying to beat you. In a competitive job market, you have to know what hiring managers look for and how to outshine your competitors. Do you have what it takes to land that new job? Let’s take a look at how you can improve your chances. Having trouble getting an interview for a new job? Consult our career coaches

What do hiring managers look for?

Knowing what recruiters look for will help you become a standout candidate, but it takes hard work and careful consideration. Moreover, you have to tailor your resume and cover letter to each individual job. 

1. An impressive cover letter

Hiring managers may receive hundreds of resumes for a single job opening, so they’re looking for anything that gives them a reason to reject an applicant. It starts with your cover letter. This is the first impression a recruiter gets of you, so make it the best it can be. Your cover letter should express your deep interest in working for the company and explain how you can produce the results it wants. If you don’t prove your value in your cover letter, the hiring manager may never even look at your resume. 

After you’ve written your cover letter, check it for mistakes. Consider hiring a professional proofreader to give it a final look because a busy hiring manager would certainly take grammatical or spelling errors as an excuse to throw out your application.

Nowadays, cover letters aren’t as common as they used to be, but that doesn’t mean you should skip this step. Even if a job posting doesn’t require a cover letter, include one—this shows the hiring manager that you’re willing to go the extra mile and puts you above all those peers who have opted not to send a cover letter. 

2. A well-structured resume

Your resume is the star of the show. It should be filled with keywords from the job description and highlight the value you can bring to the company. Including the same keywords from the job description is paramount: Failure to do so could result in the company’s applicant tracking system (ATS) automatically throwing out your application since the program uses keywords to gauge an application’s relevance to the position. 

If you get past the ATS, you then have to impress the human recruiter, so you can’t just arbitrarily sprinkle keywords throughout your resume. It shouldn’t just describe what you do and who you are but also demonstrate your value. This is how the hiring manager can judge whether you’re a good fit for their company.

3. A professional interview

After your impressive cover letter and well-structured resume land you an interview, you must find ways to strike a chord with the hiring manager, beginning with your attire. Dress to impress and be professional. Also, be personable in your demeanor. Of course, the hiring manager will suspect you’re nervous, but don’t confirm that with your body language. Take a deep breath before you go in and stay calm during the interview. 

Be ready to answer any questions they may have about your resume, which requires remembering what you wrote there. Don’t just recite what’s already included, either—aim to complement your resume with additional information. 

After the interview, send the hiring manager a thank-you note. It can go a long way—this simple gesture could persuade them to hire you, while failing to make it could have the opposite effect. Don’t turn it into a sales pitch, but do use it to distinguish yourself from the other applicants. 

How can you stand out from the crowd?

When you focus on what hiring managers want, you’ll already have a strong lead over other candidates, but there are also other ways in which you can stand out. 

1. Never stop learning

One difference between a mediocre and an excellent employee is the willingness to learn. You should never stop gaining knowledge. There’s always more to learn, even if you’re already an expert. While you apply for jobs, keep acquiring new skills and sharpening the ones you already have. As you learn new skills, add them to your resume to increase your chances of getting a job. 

For the best results, try to find joy in learning since this will not only strengthen your motivation but also help you retain what you learn. 

2. Spend time networking

Networking is a vital part of getting a job. Whether in person or digitally, strive to make connections that will advance your career. One of the best ways to network digitally is through LinkedIn, a social media platform designed to help professionals connect with people in the same field or with employees of a company they’re interested in. 

The more connections you have, the more opportunities will open up for you. Just make sure you have something to offer in return. One-sided relationships won’t get you far—you need to make them mutually beneficial.

3. Gain more work experience

Work experience doesn’t come just from paid posts, so you can always gain more. Even during your job search, you can accept volunteer positions and internships in your field and include that experience in your resume. You can also engage in freelance work or run your own small business on the side. This shows hiring managers that your passion overrides your paycheck considerations. When they see you’re truly passionate about your work, they’ll be more likely to hire you.

4. Consider other opportunities

You may have a fixed plan in mind, but don’t be afraid to evaluate other possibilities. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and explore other options. You never know what could come your way. You may stumble across opportunities you never thought possible. In short, deviating from your plans could end up being the best decision you’ve ever made.

5. Be patient 

A job search can be frustrating, especially if rejections start to pile up. Don’t let that panic you, and resist the temptation to start applying for every job that has the slightest connection to your area of expertise—since you’re likely to be rejected for such jobs, you’ll stress yourself out even more. Just focus on outshining your rivals and getting the job you truly want. 

The race may be tough, but you’re not a quitter. Knowing what hiring managers want and how to stand out from other candidates are your secret weapons. Your success is in your hands: Don’t let others control it. Need help outshining your competitors? Our career coaches are ready to help!

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