With the search for that next job being more competitive than ever before, it’s important to try and “stand out from the crowd”, both on paper with your resume and in person at an interview.
Following are some potential differentiators that you may wish to consider applying in your current or future job search:
Style and Format of Resume – initial impressions are essential! A professional looking resume that is well formatted, easy to read, concise, relevant and tailored to the role you are applying for is a "must".
Put yourself in the chair of the person reading 50 or more resumes and make it as easy as possible for them to access the information that is of most relevance. Previous articles go into greater detail about resumes if you need some further advice.
Achievements – clearly articulated achievements on your resume is another way to stand out “on paper’ as they are a way of demonstrating how you have added value and delivered benefits to your previous employers.
Effective achievement statements should state an action you took to improve a situation, explain how that action benefited the organisation (eg cost savings, revenue generation etc) and the result of the action should be quantified or qualified, eg achieved a cost reduction of 25%.
Beware of writing down achievements that are really role responsibilities or things you should be doing anyway!
Impressive achievements on resumes can also assist with interview preparation as you should then be able to more easily discuss or expand on them if asked to do so.
Interests / Hobbies / Community – This section on a resume can be under-rated in my opinion. I think it is interesting to read about what people get up to outside of work and once again, some of these activities could act as possible differentiators between you and other candidates. For example, people who are active in the community through volunteering etc can reinforce positive personal values systems, people who play a lot of sport can reinforce traits such as teamwork, goal setting, focus etc.
It only has to be a few lines within a resume but it could prove to be of value and interest to the reader.
One of your goals in an interview is to establish rapport and connection with the interviewer/s and sometimes it is what is in this section of your resume that could lead to a general discussion ensuing about your extra-curricular activities. Without this section in your resume then maybe this does not occur and as a result, connection is not established as effectively as it could have been.
Cover Letter – an easy to read, well-spaced out cover letter is also important for first impressions. It should reinforce key capabilities that are relevant to the role (these should also align with those in your resume).
Also, taking the time to call the organisation and find out who the contact person is (if there is not one listed in the job advertisement) and therefore personally addressing the cover letter rather than “to whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam” could also be a small way of differentiating yourself at the application stage.
Phone call to contact person - where possible, try and come up with a question to ask the contact person of the job application before applying. If you present well on the phone and are able to discuss your background then you may be able to "score a few points" or make an initial positive impression before applying.
You will then be able to commence your cover letter with "As previously discussed by phone on (date), I wish to apply...."
If indeed your original call did go well then the contact person may have even noted your name and be awaiting your application.
Interview preparation – an interviewee who is well prepared for an interview is obviously going to impress so take the time to research the organisation, practice answers to key questions you think you will be asked (especially behavioural questions re the key capabilities they are seeking in the position description) and have some well thought out questions for the interviewers at conclusion of interview. Once again, refer to previous articles for further information about this.
Personality and “like-ability” – one of the reasons that you have an interview in the first place is because the organisation can tell from your resume that you are more than likely capable of performing the job. They will obviously ask some questions to further prove this (or otherwise) but one of the main things they are doing in the hour or so that you are there is to assess whether your personality is going to gel with those already in the organisation because as we know, if things break down within the workplace it is normally due to personality clashes.
Very important therefore to display “like-ability” – smiling, attentive posture, good eye contact, sense of humour etc are essential.
People who are well prepared but have no personality or presence are less likely to succeed in interviews as are people who are charming but have obviously not done the homework!
Good luck in your job search - utilise the above tips (and others) to ensure that "no stone is left unturned" in effectively selling and marketing yourself moving forwards.
Principal Consultant, Hender Careers