You enter the job market, just another face in the crowd. If you’re just a normal-looking, average, everyday John Smith or Jane Doe the task seems daunting. The big, obvious question is how to get a job? How are you supposed to compete against those who may give a better first impression or may seem like the whole package at first glance?
Make it personal
“Many applications, CV’s and cover letters are ‘Copy & Paste’ and it shows,” says Conor Kenny, author and founder of Conor Kenny & Associates, the lead professional development company for the hospitality industry. “Nothing switches an interviewer off more than a ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ opening line. It sends out all the wrong signals about research, relevance and who you are talking to.”
Sell your brand
If you’re the right fit for the job, you’re every bit as entitled to it as anyone else who qualifies. The trouble is if you’re not selling yourself properly, then your skillset will go completely unnoticed in the deluge of CVs or online profiles that a hiring manager files through. Instead of being bland, you must stand out as a brand.
But standing out may not be quite what you think. It doesn’t mean you should be an oddball or an antihero; it means you should separate yourself from the pack in a positive way.
“‘Standing out from the crowd’ is, in my view, a complete misnomer and makes people think they need to be ‘different’,” Kenny adds. “It’s also stupid. Everyone is different yet industry invents dreadful clichés that stick. ‘Different’ is meaningless on its own. If that were the case, I’d hire someone because they dress like a clown, ride an Emu to work or claim to be the world’s tallest person.
No, the goal is to be a very clear alternative, full stop. That creates choice and that separates one candidate from the next.”
How can you be a clear alternative? You can do this by illustrating how you’ll benefit the prospective employer.
“Many applications inadvertently talk about themselves,” Kenny notes. “Great, but not necessarily relevant. For example – ‘I’m loyal, dynamic, energetic and trustworthy’ are clichés that face inwards. The goal is to face outwards, to the employer, with a clear message as to what you bring.”
7 Tip for developing your brand
We’ve devised seven tips for you to stand out and face outwards in this way by communicating a clear message. You are the director of your own destiny, so you must frame the shot.
Emphasize your know-how – “Write what you know.” Many writers have heard this advice, time and again. While this adage can grow old, it’s common advice for a reason. Writing what you know is not only easier to do – because you know the topic/story/information through and through – but when you are familiar with a topic, to your audience, you come across as more confident and well-informed. If you feel you don’t know anything that’s applicable to the post you’re applying to, you’re either applying to the wrong position, or you must be more creative when brainstorming about your knowledge and experience.
The skills you’ve learned at one or more of your previous jobs will likely apply to the position, even if indirectly. Think about the position and what it entails, and then relate your past experiences or skills to the job description in detail. Know and highlight your transferrable skills. Even if you have limited experience in your preferred field, any volunteer experience where you learned or utilized marketing, writing, or specialty skills may transfer. Don’t limit yourself to work experience. When you’re detailing your abilities, any experience counts.
Brand yourself – In order to sell yourself as the right fit for any company, you must know what you’re selling. Know yourself and be confident in your skills, experiences, and what you stand for. An accurate and authentic representation of who you are will serve you better than any fraudulent or fake profile ever could…but make sure it’s an accurate and authentic representation in heroic proportions. Create a brand image – a story or concept that represents who you are – and sell it to your potential employers through your LinkedIn and all other social media profiles.
In fact, include a real image, as well. Why? “It makes you a person rather than a CV,” Kenny suggests. “Watch this: ‘Bill, I just got 3 CVs in for that job.’ See what I mean? You are a CV rather than a person. When you use a photograph make sure it fits the ethos of the profession you are entering.”
Complete your branded profile with a knockout headshot and nail down your bio. Doing so will give you the edge you need to stand out in a crowded job market.
Cultivate your network – Don’t let your network go to waste. Your former colleagues, acquaintances, friends, family, classmates – they are your network, and they can supply you with the opportunities you need to land your dream job…or any job, for that matter. You just have to be willing to ask around. Utilize your network – that’s what they’re there for. Perhaps someday, you can return the favor.
Reconnect or stay connected with everyone in your network on Facebook or LinkedIn. And never be one of those who only asks a favor when they need it and then vanishes. If you get in touch with someone and ask for a referral or to use their connections, keep the line of communication open, filling your contact in on the progress you’ve made, all due to their help. Following up will let them know you’re grateful for receiving it.
Complete and be consistent with your social media accounts – If you are up and running on social media sites geared toward business networking, like LinkedIn, make sure your profiles are complete and consistent with each other. Don’t skim. List your contacts, interests, hobbies – use up all the white space. You could very well fall into favor with your hiring manager if you share their hobby. On the other hand, if they see lots of blank space or inconsistencies between profiles when they’re hunting you, you may be shuffled out.
Use social platforms to your advantage – According to 2015 research by the Society for Human Resource Management, a number of companies hire through social platforms: 8% from Twitter, 19% from Facebook, 57% from LinkedIn, and 65% used another form of social media.
With so much of the hiring these days being done via social platforms, you must ensure that all of your social media is clean, consistent, and positive. If your profile albums are filled with your weekend binges and your page full of political commentary, these faux pas might be the reason you’re not getting any callbacks for interviews. This same study also found that 24% of applicants lied about their qualifications, and the inconsistencies were discovered through their social media, while 50% of applicants posted salacious information or photos about themselves, likely ruining their chances of moving forward in the application process. Keep your page clean and error-free, and you’ll live to see another day out in the crowded job market
Research, take initiative & be grateful
Of course, all the usual advice comes into play regarding standing out during the application and interview process. Some mistakes that Kenny often sees made:
- The font, quality of paper, grammar, writing, clarity and message.
- Lack of research, lack of tailoring the application and a lack of personality.
- A dreary cover letter.
- A lack of highlighting who you are without the usual clichés (dynamic, energetic etc.).
- Leaving the next step to the employer not yourself (it’s your problem if you’re looking for a job).
- Lack of self-awareness and not knowing your own strengths and perhaps more importantly, your flaws.
- Not understanding how you benefit the company. Not asking enough questions.
Persistence beats out experience
For those just entering the job market, one of the main worries is whether or not you’ll have enough experience to compete. “‘Experience’ is one of those dreadful words scattered loosely by average everything,” Kenny says. “It’s like a catch-all filter designed to keep people out rather than welcome them in.”
Ignore this catch-all by being the right fit, regardless of the “requirements” set forth by potential employers.
“Focus on why you want it, why it fits who you are, why you’re interested and why you’d be really good at it,” Kenny advises. “In the end, those that show more enthusiasm for the job outrun those who don’t. If it was me, my first goal would be to remove the risk to them. My second would be to get in front of them. Remember, we always admire persistence even if you think we think you’re being a nuisance!”