I know a thing or two about what makes one candidate more desirable than another having headed up a new-hire recruiting team for over a decade at Procter & Gamble.
So I'm sharing the six things I most commonly saw top-notch candidates do that others didn't. I'll skip the usual on how to write a great resume or stand-out cover letter and bypass obvious advice like "do mock interviews" and "be patient."
Instead, here are six ways to help you land that job that your competition might miss.
1. Job number one is impression number one.
Job candidates often forget the importance of a strong start. Why not make yourself the gold-standard of first impressions? On interview days I'd see 12 candidates, back to back, so believe me, that first impression matters. It makes the interviewer favorably predisposed towards the candidate for the rest of the interview, which makes a longer, higher quality imprint--critical for standing out.
Making a great first impression is as simple as being confident and comfortable, making eye contact, smiling, a firm handshake, or adjusting your voice, gesture, posture, and words to the other person.
It's important to understand that you're selling yourself from the moment you and the interviewer greet each other.
2. Make yourself socially helpable.
Many get hired by activating their network which leads to referrals/testimonials that give the candidate an edge.
The smartest candidates leverage the network of those in their network.
They do so by asking influencers to post about their candidacy on LinkedIn and Facebook. When I do this for job seekers I know, I ask the candidate, "How shall I describe you? What attributes to highlight? How should I describe what you're looking for?" The point is, have your templated answers ready to give to any influencer you ask to reach out on your behalf.
3. Ask questions of information, initiative, and intent.
Don't waste the question-asking period with poor questions intended soley to make you look smart (No, I don't know our company's 20-year vision!). Be strategic about asking questions. Ask them in three categories:
Information: Absolutely ask questions to learn things you actually want to know, like "What's the culture like here?", "What do day to day responsibilities look like?", or "What do you like best about working here?" Questions like this told me the candidate was probing to ensure the role was a good fit--something that's good for everyone.
Initiative: Ask questions that subtly sell you and show you're a person with initiative who's interested in succeeding. Questions like, "What does success look like in this role?", "Are there professional development opportunities here?", or "What are the biggest challenges facing this division right now?" Such inquiries showcase your desire to win, contribute, and grow.
Intent: Reinforce how serious you are about the role by asking questions like, "Is there anything about my background/resume that makes you question whether I'm a good fit for this role?" I liked this as a closing question because I got to probe on any lingering doubts and it showed me the person really wanted the job.
4. Tell a story, not a synopsis.
The most memorable candidates didn't just give a synopsis of what they've done. They told me a story, painting a clear picture of who they are and what it would be like to work with him/her.
They did this by having engaging, specific stories that illuminated their key attributes. They knew what three things they wanted me to remember about them and skillfully wove answers that served a theme, even summarizing that story for me at the end.
After seeing many candidates for one job, it's the story, not the synopsis, of the winning candidate that sticks out.
5. Customize to catch their attention.
For each job you apply for, your resume and on-line profiles (like LinkedIn) should be tailored to mirror that job. Include hot button language used at the company and examples relevant to the company's purpose/vision. Echo important information you learn about the organization.
Doing so establishes hints of familiarity between you and the person reading the resume--a subtle advantage.
6. Research ain't wrong--send a thank you note.
It amazed me how few would. Recent research from the Universities of Texas and Chicago showed that people vastly underestimate just how appreciated showing gratitude via a thank you note is, while they overestimate how the thank you note might be criticized (be seen as insincere, etc.). Plain and simple, people who thanked me stuck with me.
Net, use these tips to get a leg up on competition--and more than just a foot in the door.