As 30+ million people enter the U.S. job market this quarter (and are doing it from their home), online applications just won’t make the cut anymore. It’s important to stand out as an applicant—and if plenty of job seekers are qualified, then doing things differently, rather than better, is going to make you the best candidate.
The Briefcase Coach is highlighting five job seekers who are doing things differently. They’re part of multiple industries across the county, and are using job search tactics to set them apart from their competitors.
These approaches are broken up by bullet points, so you can easily identify their winning job search strategies.
Start by Finding Your “Why”
Anderson Campbell is looking to break into the HR industry from a full-time job in higher education. Here’s how he’s using a mission-based approach to find his dream job in Portland, Oregon.
- Focus on a personal mission: “I empower people to become the best version of themselves.” This statement inspired Anderson’s interest in human resources. From this simple idea, he started asking for informational interviews with industry professionals he admired. These conversations introduced Anderson to people working at his target companies, and reaffirmed his interest in HR.
- Create original content: One way to build a personal brand is by leveraging LinkedIn. Anderson began to post original content on LinkedIn with an HR audience in mind. These posts snowballed into impactful conversations, industry professionals interacting with Anderson’s posts, and gaining advocates and referrals in his target companies.
- Fill in educational gaps: LinkedIn offers FREE certificates and courses for a number of industries. Anderson has certificates through LinkedIn such as “Human Resources: Managing Employee Problems”, “HR as a Business Partner”, and “Talent Management” that show he’s dedicated to landing an HR role and is actively increasing his skillset.
Give More Than You Get
Celeste is a regional strategist and director of sales based in Denver, Colorado. Her executive experience helped her develop a generous mindset, and changed the way she’s approaching her job search.
- Develop a set of values: Celeste took time after her last position to create a list of “must-haves” in a company culture. Not only did this give her a set of personal values, but it also narrowed down the list of companies she’s targeting.
- Offer your specialized knowledge: Celeste developed a tip sheet for optimizing a LinkedIn profile. She hosted several webinars to give a live walk-through of setting up a profile (with several more planned for the future). Through these webinars, she’s honing her presentation skills while giving back to others.
- Catch up with connections: One way to foster a connection? Ask someone about themselves! Once or twice a week, Celeste schedules calls with professionals she admires to hear about their story. “It’s about others”, she says, “building a community and participating will pay dividends down the road.”
Start a Side Hustle
Jonathan is a cybersecurity specialist in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His experience in the military and private sector comes in handy during the job search— Jonathan’s not afraid to ask questions, learn from others, and set goals.
- Reach out to executives: Jonathan reaches out to cybersecurity leaders to better define “bringing value” to a position. As well as learning more about leadership, these conversations also help Jonathan realize where he stands on industry trends. “I have aspirations to help my industry as a while—I am learning through my conversations that I am not alone, it’s a wonderful feeling,” Jonathan observed.
- Learn industry vocabulary: Jonathan’s networking conversations helped him develop vocabulary for private-sector positions. He learned vocabulary he didn’t use while working for the government. This helped him narrow down the types of roles to target in his job search. Learning industry vocabulary is a great way to gain credibility in interviews and understand what types of roles are a good fit.
- Have a long-term goal: Jonathan hopes to establish a cybersecurity consulting firm, and turn this into a full-time opportunity with speaking engagements. His job search is focused on positions leading him to this role, and inspired him to start his side-hustle.
Focus on Referrals
Lisa has global professional experience with logistics and project management. Here are some ways she’s reaching out to find her next position as a project manager in the Houston area.
- Targeted applications: Five of Lisa’s last 12 job applications were through referrals. This immediately set her apart from other applicants. These referrals came from informational interviews with employees within Lisa’s target companies, or people currently in her target role. By working hard to foster these connections, Lisa had a leg-up on her peers applying without referrals.
- Research hiring managers: For positions Lisa applied without a referral, she researched the hiring managers reviewing applications. At the minimum, you can email a hiring manager asking to keep an eye out for your application.
- Send thank-you notes quickly: “I have sent thank-you email to each person I have talked to, within 2 hours of the interview”, Lisa notes. This is a step missed by many applicants, but sending a thank-you is a great way to get your name in front of a decision-maker after interviewing.
Lift Others Up
As a talent acquisition manager, Jill has centered her approach around caring for others. She’s searching for a VP/Associate Director of Talent Acquisition position in the Boston, Massachusetts region.
- People are peers, not competitors: Jill recognizes that each applicant is an individual, with unique skills and perspectives. Many of her referrals came from former coworkers or people she referred in the past. By viewing her “competition” as peers, Jill is able to foster genuine professional connections with a wide range of people.
- Look for longevity: Jill narrowed her job search to companies that she is excited about staying with for a long time. This strategy shines through in an interview—when a candidate is truly dedicated to the mission of a company, it shows.
- Staying positive: “I’m a recruiter because I’m a helper,” Jill notes. Her job search hasn’t changed her outlook on building relationships. Staying positive allows job searchers to make the most of every interview and application, and building on that experience can lead to your next position!
Target your resume and LinkedIn profile for the job that you want
All of the job seekers stressed the value of targeting their resume for the job that they want and not writing a “one-size-fits-all” document.
A targeted resume is written to the job that you want–using language from the job description to demonstrate your unique value proposition. Targeted resumes are written– or customized– for every role that you are applying to so that the content is specific to the job description and the pain points of the opportunity. The video below walks you through how to create a targeted resume using examples.
**Bonus: Tactics for the Class of 2020
As a 2020 graduate, my world flipped upside-down in March: I was home from school, finishing my classes in my living room, and missing my college friends. Add in a job search that suddenly seemed impossible, and the stress began to build. Here are three steps I took, as a recent graduate with little corporate experience, to stand out in an applicant pool.
- Use. Your. Network: The network of my friends and family was essential to starting the job search. Every connection counts. Much like the job searchers featured above, I found career conversations with my network and offers to help more useful than stalking job postings.
- Show off projects: Without tons of professional history, I used what I had to stand out. I learned about SEO and practiced using WordPress’ site-building engine by creating a personal website. I learned new skills and created an online work portfolio at the same time. I posted old writing assignments, kept a blog during my study abroad program, and posted photos I took as a hobby. I am currently a freelance writer, adding even more samples to my portfolio.
- Put in the work: I fought job search fatigue by narrowing my search to specific parameters. Next, I personalized my resume to fit each and every different application. After every call, I sent a thank-you note—remember, even proper etiquette is a valuable job skill! I found that these actions built up over time. By putting in hard work on the front end (beefing up my resume, refreshing my website, and branding my LinkedIn page), I could build upon that work later.
Today, even the smallest difference can be used as a strength for your application. The tactics used by the candidates above—sending a prompt thank-you note, seeking out industry influencers, or creating a set of professional values—helped them stand out in a sea of competitors.
Career paths change all the time; in a job search, it’s no longer always about being the candidate with the most skills. Sometimes, a recruiter is looking for the small differences that makes a candidate stand out from the rest. The featured job seekers are doing things differently, and they’re seeing results.
I am one of the few job search coaches who has actually been a recruiter. I’ve interviewed hundreds of job seekers and know what companies are looking for in a candidate. I’ve also used applicant tracking systems (ATS) like Taleo and iCims and understand how recruiters scan resumes.