If your new year’s resolution is to find your dream job, it’s time to ramp up your search — and, perhaps, revamp your strategy. Your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, interview and other components of the application and hiring process are places where you can really shine, if you include the right key pieces.
Today, most applications, particularly those received by large organizations, are run through applicant tracking software (ATS). While not foolproof, these systems will flag applications containing the right keywords and phrasings for the job description.
That’s why it’s important to use phrases and words that are appropriate for the position and industry. It’s helpful to comb the job description and other materials from the business to identify the keywords they prioritize.
In both your resume and cover letter, you should support your work history by backing it up with concrete data. Not all jobs lend themselves to numerical information, such as sales figures, but qualitative data — summaries of your efforts and how they’ve paid off, for example — are also demonstrations of your value as an employee.
Don’t forget to include your soft skills in your application materials, particularly on your resume. Increasingly, employers value skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and more across industries. It’s even better if you can illustrate these qualities and competencies with anecdotes and examples.
While this is largely about the interview or interviews, you can (and should) be gracious throughout the application process. When you arrive at your interview, be friendly and courteous to everyone, whether they’re the hiring manager or not. Treat everyone with the same level of respect you would want. Do the same in all communications, including emails.
Thoroughly research the business. Learn everything you can, so you’ll appear knowledgeable about the company and the job itself. This will not only help you gear your application and interview accordingly, but it will also allow you to ask meaningful questions. If you haven’t taken the time to do this step, you’ll appear careless, asking something that you could have easily found through a cursory look on the company website, for instance.
Employers receive many applications from highly qualified candidates like you. In order to stand out, you need to demonstrate how you’re unique — how you can do what the other applicants can’t. It’s up to you, of course, to determine what this might be, whether it’s an interesting skill, a certification you’ve earned, a language you speak — whatever you feel is relevant and will set you apart from the rest of the pack.
Employers seek out employees who are not only skilled but will solve real problems for them. This is your true value. That’s why, in your application, you should find examples of ways you can solve problems for the organization. What’s missing? How can you help? What will this do for the company?
Follow the business on social media, and before an interview, try to find the LinkedIn profiles and anything else you’re able to about the interviewer(s). That way, you’ll be able to establish real connections and common ground.
I think I can vs. I can.
I should vs. I will.
I hope vs. I know.
These are all examples of phrase pairs in which the former sounds less secure and the latter sounds more confident. No matter what stage of the hiring process, you should appear confident. Take care not only with your spoken language but also with other qualities, such as your body language: sit up straight, make eye contact and smile.
And if you’re not ACTUALLY confident (yet), fake it ‘til you make it.
Your enthusiasm for the position is unlikely to “make” your candidacy — but a lack thereof could very well break it. Ensure you convey your passion for the job at every stage of the hiring process, from your cover letter to the interview. The hiring manager will look at you more favorably, and you’ll make a positive impression.
Remember: your skills alone won’t carry you through the application process; presentation matters, too!
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.
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