Looking for a job? The good news is, if you have the right experience and the skills, the job you want is probably attainable. The bad news is, competition is fierce. So how do you stand out in a never-ending pile of applicants? In addition to having a strong résumé and meeting the job requirements, simple things like wearing the right colors to the interview and sending a thank-you note can help more than you might realize.
Before you send out your application or go on an interview, read these five proven ways to land your next job.
Perfect your LinkedIn presence
You can't apply to your dream job if you don't even know it's available, so your first step should be to perfect your LinkedIn presence. It may seem like a place to just put your résumé online, but LinkedIn is also a powerful tool used by employers and recruiters to find new hires. Without LinkedIn, you could be missing crucial job postings, and hiring managers might disregard your application if you don't have a profile or aren't active on the site.
According to research from Jobvite, 94 percent of recruiters are active on LinkedIn, but only 36 percent of job seekers are — meaning the majority of job seekers are not taking advantage of the network. Job seekers who aren't using LinkedIn could be missing out on many opportunities, seeing as 92 percent of recruiters on LinkedIn use the site to post jobs, 93 percent use the network to vet candidates before an interview and keep tabs on potential candidates, and 95 percent use it to both search for and contact candidates, according to additional research from Jobvite.
Jobvite also found that 73 percent of recruiters have hired a candidate through social media, and of that group, 79 percent of them hired a candidate through LinkedIn. And it's not just a matter of simply being on LinkedIn — your profile needs to be filled out properly and fully, and you should be using it regularly and appropriately as well. Not doing so could turn off employers — in fact, 55 percent of recruiters said they have reconsidered a candidate based on their social profile, and 61 percent of those reconsiderations were negative.
Focus on the company (not yourself)
Although hiring managers want to hear about your skills and experience, they care more about what you can do for them and the company than what you want from the job. This means that when you write your cover letter, you need to focus less on talking about yourself (let your résumé do that) and more on how your skills can come in handy on the job. The Guardian suggests downplaying phrases like "I have" and instead using "you want" to connect your skills with what the employer is actually looking for.
This is even more important if you're younger and just starting out in your career. Richard Dukas, CEO of Dukas Public Relations, told Business Insider why rambling on about yourself is such a problem, especially for millennials.
"Recently, I received what was generally a good cover letter, except the applicant started off every paragraph with either 'I' or 'My,'" Dukas said. "Many employers already see today's youth as very self-indulgent and me-oriented. Break the mold."
In fact, talking about yourself or just talking too much in general — both in your cover letter and in an interview — can deter hiring managers. According to the Wall Street Journal, nervous job applicants often go on about irrelevant information in interviews, which takes time away from the interviewer's other questions and leaves a bad impression.
Annie Stevens, a managing partner at executive-coaching and outplacement company ClearRock, told the Wall Street Journal that "oversharing in an interview is the most dangerous thing you can do."
Make a good first impression
Scored an interview? Great — now you have to focus on making the best possible first impression and making yourself memorable. This means focusing a lot on your body language and the way you speak. [20 Ways to Make a Terrible First Impression ]
First, you'll have to perfect your handshake — this is the first physical interaction you'll have with a potential employer, and studies show that having a good handshake can make you seem much more approachable and positive. You'll also want to work on maintaining eye contact with your interviewer, which can be especially difficult if you're nervous. Not making eye contact can make you seem shy, rude or disinterested, but a study in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that making eye contact can actually make people see you as more intelligent.
Another trick is to watch your tone of voice. A study from the University of Glasgow in Scotland found that different vocal inflections reflected different personality traits, such as dominance, trustworthiness and warmth to listeners. You can find more tips for making a good first impression here.
Wear the right colors
You already know you're supposed to dress to impress, but did you know that you should be mindful of the colors you choose to wear to an interview, too? As it turns out, the colors you wear can have an effect on the way you're perceived by your interviewer, so you should really think about what you want to convey about yourself before you put on your power suit.
A CareerBuilder survey found that HR professionals and hiring managers think basics like blue and black are the best colors to wear to a job interview overall, Business Insider reported. Orange, on the other hand, was considered the worst.
So what do all the colors mean for you? According to Business Insider, black signifies leadership and can show you're sophisticated, and even glamorous, if you wear it right. Blue shows that you're a team player and inspires confidence, and gray shows that you're independent, logical and analytical. Brown is associated with dependability, and white and beige with organization.
On the other hand, red indicates power and persuasion — so it's best to keep this one as an accent color — and green, yellow, purple and orange all indicate creativity and fun, but aren't associated with trust or commitment and therefore should be avoided during interviews, Business Insider reported.
Send a thank-you note
It may seem like a silly formality, but sending a thank-you note really can mean the difference between getting your dream job and losing your spot to another — more grateful — applicant.
Allison Doyle, a job interviewing expert at About.com, told Recruiter that many applicants don't send thank-you notes to their interviewers but that doing so can set them apart.
"It's important to note that about half of applicants don't send a thank-you note after an interview," Doyle said. "So if you're one of those applicants who does spend a few minutes taking the time to send a thank-you note to your interviewers, it will be worth the effort."
And according to a CareerBuilder survey, 22 percent of employers are less likely to hire a candidate if he or she doesn't send a thank-you note after a job interview. That may seem like a small percentage, but consider that it also leaves a bad impression for the vast majority of employers. In fact, 86 percent of employers said not sending a thank-you note shows a lack of follow-through, and 56 percent said not sending one indicates that the candidate isn't serious about the position he or she has interviewed for.
You don't have to send a handwritten note — although many hiring managers will appreciate the effort — as CareerBuilder also found that 89 percent of employers find a thank-you email sufficient, but Recruiter noted that you should send an individual note to each person you've interacted with in the interview process. You should also be sure to follow these tips for an effective thank-you note.