Job search: How to stand out from the competition

·5 min read

At a time when companies are scrambling to fill open positions — there are roughly two open jobs for every job seeker out there — it may feel like it’s easier than ever to land a well-paying job with the flexibility you crave.

My conversations with dozens of professionals across the country through my work as a career coach tell a much different story. It’s still challenging to land job offers, especially at companies offering competitive salaries and highly sought-after benefits like unlimited paid time off, remote work privileges, and other perks. The challenges are even greater for workers looking to pivot into a new industry, where they may be competing for jobs against multiple candidates with more experience.

Here are some tips to get noticed by hiring managers and land your next dream job.

When job searching, let your network of former and current colleagues know you are interested in a new opportunity, so they can keep an eye out for you.
When job searching, let your network of former and current colleagues know you are interested in a new opportunity, so they can keep an eye out for you. (Photo: Getty Creative)

Focus on building your professional brand

I’ve gone viral with my story of quitting my way rich over my career. A key element of my story that’s often overlooked is the fact that I didn’t actually apply for many of the new opportunities — those companies and hiring managers found me through my work and courted me directly because my professional brand was strong.

If recruiters and former colleagues aren’t reaching out to you with new work opportunities, there’s a good chance your professional brand has gone stale. It all starts by developing a reputation as an excellent worker and colleague, of course. But you can also improve your professional brand by sharing your thoughts on industry trends with your network on sites like LinkedIn; volunteering to sit on panels at industry events; mentoring other colleagues in your field; following your former colleague’s careers and offering support along the way; and being a source of referrals for people in your network.

Your network is your greatest asset

Upwards of 70% of job listings aren’t even posted online, with the majority of roles either filled with internal candidates or through referrals. It’s great to go for opportunities you find on job boards online, but don’t let that be your only strategy.

Let your network of former and current colleagues know you are interested in a new opportunity, so they can keep an eye out for you. If you find a job you are interested in online and you know someone who works there, let them know you’ve applied and ask for a referral. The stronger your professional brand is (see above), the more likely you’ll be approached for those opportunities down the line. For folks who are looking to pivot into a new career field, an internal referral from an employee can be crucial to getting your foot in the door.

Set the stage for a great interview

Before a virtual job interview, take some time to make sure you’ve got a good background for your video and you’re seated somewhere with plenty of light.
Before a virtual job interview, take some time to make sure you’ve got a good background for your video and you’re seated somewhere with plenty of light. (Photo: Getty Creative)

For many professionals today, interviews are virtual, which means you’ve got to make a good impression through a computer screen instead of in person. Take some time to make sure you’ve got a good background for your video (neutral spaces like a living room or kitchen are better than a bedroom) and you’re seated somewhere with plenty of light (natural or otherwise). Test your WiFi connection to be sure you don’t encounter any technical issues and plug in a simple pair of earbuds into your computer to minimize echo.

Bring good energy and enthusiasm to the room

Interviewing can be nerve-wracking but it’s also about making a personal connection with the other people in the room, even if it’s virtual. If you come into an interview with lots of anxiety or feelings of doubt, that energy will inevitably seep into the room with you and could leave the interviewers feeling less than excited about you.

Practice saying out loud why you’re a great fit for the role before your interview. Stretch or dance to loosen up your muscles. Do whatever you can to pump up your energy and go into the interview feeling positive.

Show up with a game plan

Some employers ask candidates to give presentations or present case studies as part of the job interview process.
Some employers ask candidates to give presentations or present case studies as part of the job interview process. (Photo: Getty Creative)

Depending on the type of role you’re looking for, you may be required to do much more than sit for a few interviews. Some employers ask candidates to give presentations or present case studies as part of the interview process. You may also want to go the extra mile with a 30-60-90 day plan for the team to review, where you outline goals and how you’d accomplish them in your first 90 days.

Ask trusted colleagues or peers to review any of your materials before you submit them to get their feedback. They may offer a unique perspective and help you bring your work to a new level. Target folks in your network who are at a more senior level if possible.

Give your resume a simple makeover

You don’t need to pay someone thousands of dollars to revamp your resume. There are plenty of templates available online. One of my favorites is Canva, which offers lots of free sleek resume design templates you can use. The key with a good resume is being clear and concise about who you are, the skills you have, and what you’ve accomplished at your previous roles.

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Mandi Woodruff is an inclusive wealth-building and career expert, cohost of the Brown Ambition Podcast and founder of the MandiMoney Makers community.

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