The search for a new job is not easy. Hundreds, if not thousands of other qualified candidates are competing for the attention of recruiters and hiring managers in your field. This makes it imperative to find ways to stand out above the crowd.
The most successful candidates are those who differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. Standing out in the sea of applicants is no small challenge, but with the right strategies, you can bring your resume to the top of a hiring manager's pile. Here are four ways to do just that.
Pay close attention to your social profiles
Unsurprisingly, social media has become the go-to tool for today's recruiters. The majority of candidates have profiles on at least one major networking site, so it makes sense that hiring managers would research potential employees at those locations. You probably know to keep your social presence free of questionable content, but if you haven't taken the time to actively enhance your profiles' SEO for your job search, you might want to think about doing so now.
"Be sure to constantly update your social profiles with buzzwords, and keep experience and information relevant," said Kimberley Kasper, former CMO of recruiting platform Jobvite (currently co-founder of Osmosy). "On LinkedIn, recruiters look for professional experience, length of professional tenure and specific hard skills. If you want to catch the attention of recruiters, keep this information current."
Kasper noted that social media can also be a great place to show off your portfolio of work. A Jobvite survey on social recruiting found that about a quarter of recruiters will check out personal blogs and Facebook to view candidates' writing or design work. [See Related Story: Social Media Success: A Guide for Job Seekers]
Keep your resume with you on the go
While mobile job applications may not be standard across the board yet, they are becoming more popular. In 2014, LinkedIn reported that 45 percent of active job seekers have used a mobile device to apply for a job, and that number has likely increased since then. Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer of applicant-tracking system iCIMS, advised keeping an accessible version of your resume on your mobile device through Google Drive or Dropbox so you can apply to jobs as soon as you see them, before someone else does.
"Recruiters are looking to fill jobs yesterday," Vitale told Business News Daily. "They don't want to have [positions] posted forever. Apply as soon as possible — if you see it on the go [and you have your resume handy], you can apply right away."
Because recruiters are increasingly using mobile devices to review job applications, it's even more important to make sure your resume looks great on any screen. Kasper recommended emailing your resume to yourself and opening the PDF attachment on your phone to check and correct any formatting issues.
Be prepared for video interviews
Another emerging recruitment trend is the use of video applications and interviews. Today's employers are speaking with potential employees via Skype and reviewing candidate-created video content, seeing this as a time- and cost-effective screening method. So it's wise to get comfortable in front of the camera.
"Video is going to give people the opportunity to make themselves stand out," said Jack Hill, director of talent-acquisition solutions at PeopleFluent, which makes software for human-capital management. "It all dovetails into understanding the company and the role you're trying to get, and then relating your skills and expertise to that role and the ultimate goal of the organization. This can be done in written form, but it can also be done quite well in video."
"[Recruiters] are starting to leverage video to pre-screen candidates," Vitale added. "[They may] send video requests for candidates to answer one or two questions. It really gives job seekers a leg up and shows off their creativity, skills and professionalism."
Network with potential employers online
Career fairs and in-person networking events are great for making connections with potential employers, but don't underestimate the power of joining in online conversations and communities. Vitale encouraged both active and passive job seekers to connect on social media with companies they might want to work for, especially if the person and the company have a mutual connection.
"Stay in touch early and often," Vitale said. "It helps your chances of being hired later on. If you're a referral from someone [associated with the company], note who referred you [so you can] leverage that."
Industry-related Twitter chats and LinkedIn groups can also be great places to get introduced to individuals who can help you get the job you want. Start engaging on professional websites or discussion boards in communities that are relevant to the job or industry you're interested in, Kasper said.
Finally, be sure to stay on top of a company's news through its most frequently updated channels.
"Get to know the company you want to work for," Kasper said. "Check out their career site, follow them on Twitter and keep up to speed on their recent news. This will help you to showcase your own personality based on how it aligns with that company's values and culture in the application process."
Be unique (but not distracting)
A bold and daring approach to your job application may catch a hiring manager's attention, but not always in the way you intended. A 2015 survey by CareerBuilder found that some job seekers used strange tactics and ended up standing out for the wrong reasons. Those methods included answering a call during an interview and pretending it was another job offer, using props to answer interview questions and sending the hiring manager a coupon for a free meal.
Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, reminded candidates that when they try too hard to set themselves apart, it often distracts hiring managers from seeing the applicant's skills and qualifications, both of which will ultimately determine if the person gets the job.
"Job seekers [who] do want to try something a bit different during the hiring process must remember to tie it back to their skills and why they're qualified for the position," Haefner said.
Additional reporting by Marci Martin.