Despite recent improvement in unemployment statistics, the job market is still ridiculously tough.
I often hear candidate frustration over hiring managers’ extremely exacting criteria – criteria that seems impossible for any candidate to fulfill. It’s pointless to blame employers – there’s an over supply of labor, so why not be picky from their point of view?
Often the reason for this frustration can be simplified to one of three major reasons:
- “Me too resumes” – Your resume looks the same as hundreds of competitors, making it impossible for you to stand out
- One size fits all resumes – Your fit may not be clear from the face of the resume
- “Stretch positions” – The resume clearly demonstrates less than 90% of the criteria
Today’s article describes 3 strategies to help you stand out from the crowd.
Create A Resume That Differentiates You
Your resume is probably the tool you use most in your job search. But after you’ve written it once, how much time do put into the document yourself. If you’re like most job seekers, you don’t change your resume much after writing it. Most candidates use a static resume and customize with a cover letter – not a very effective tactic when your market expects customization.
A customized resume is the single most effective thing you can do to increase your chances in job search. Few candidates know how to effectively customize their resume to gain hiring manager attention – because few of us were ever taught. There are a few specific ways to customize your resume that will have the greatest impact on your job search effectiveness.
Here’s how to get the biggest resume bang for your buck:
- Lose The Cover Letters: In “Is your Cover Letter an Ineffective and Obsolete Tradition?” (http://recareered.com/blog/2009/12/02/is-your-cover-letter-an-ineffective-and-obsolete-tradition/), I discuss how 97% of hiring managers, HR reps and recruiters make their interview decision based on your resume, effectively ignoring your cover letter.
- Fishing vs Response Resume: Fishing resumes (when you don’t know the hiring company) and Response resumes (when you know who the hiring company is) are great frameworks for structuring your resume in a clear form, delivering information for each of your resume’s 4 audiences to easily find what they are looking for (see: http://recareered.com/blog/2009/09/30/differentiate-your-resume-with-a-winning-strategy-fishing-and-response-resumes/).
- Subject Matter Expertise: Many candidates consider themselves generalists, but in today’s hyper competitive job market, few hiring managers hire for generalist skill sets – because they don’t have to. Hiring managers today have the ability to micro target skill sets, and have a universe of thousands of competitors from which to choose – why would a hiring manager choose a generalist when they can find subject matter experts? As a candidate, your search is more effective if you communicate wheat you do better than anyone else, rather than concentrate all 50 things you can do (see: “Subject Matter Experts Rule!” at http://recareered.com/blog/2010/04/24/subject-matter-experts-rule-best-of-recareered/).
- Clear Branding Very few candidates do an effective job of clearly branding themselves in a brief sentence. Branding yourself concisely gives your audience a crystal clear idea of who you are and what problems you can solve for them. Create a relevant branding statement for your specific audience and you have a high probability of “hooking” their attention, and getting a through read (see: “How A Personal Branding Statement Can Help Job Seekers” at http://recareered.com/blog/2010/01/26/how-a-personal-branding-statement-can-help-job-seekers/).
- Understand 3 things your next employer looks for: Can you solve my problems? How will you make money (or provide value if non-profit) for my company? Will you “fit”? See more details at “3 Things Your Next Employer Will Search For On Your Resume” at http://recareered.com/blog/2009/12/17/3-things-your-next-employer-will-search-for-on-your-resume/.
- Have better information than your competitors: Most candidates wait until interview preparation to do much research. Those who do some research before sending a resume, on average spend less than 1/2 hour researching the company. The more information, and more non-public information you can gain about a company before sending a resume, the more likely your resume and communications will address the important issues the company, department, and hiring manager face. This gives the heavily researched candidate such a big advantage, because they can create the perception of being “the perfect candidate” (see: “Guerrilla Job Search Tactics” at http://recareered.com/blog/2009/11/24/guerrilla-job-search-tactics/).
Online Reputation Management
Yes the job market is more competitive than ever. But there are also more tools available than ever before to differentiate you in the marketplace, to promote your subject matter expertise, and to build your personal brand.
Taken together, these form the basic building blocks of Online Reputation Management. Online Reputation Management is more than damage control, more than spin doctors. Online Reputation Management is a proactive approach to managing how you appear on the internet – in effect, it’s being your own PR department (see: http://recareered.com/blog/2010/01/06/online-reputation-management-4-steps-to-being-your-own-pr-department/).
When managed correctly, your online reputation builds an inbound pipeline of opportunities and networking requests, of people and businesses that want your help. This may bring opportunities to leverage into a full time job, consulting projects, side jobs, or connections.
You know that friend of yours who “got lucky” and a great job happened to fall into their lap? That’s not luck: it’s the result of enough “right” people knowing your friend. Online Reputation Management can magnify the number of people who see your work and connect to you. Here are the major ways to manage your online reputation:
- Google: Do you know what a Google search on you turns up? Does it even turn up information on you, or on someone else? A few weeks ago, I profiled a woman who was having job search problems – she had no idea that she shared her name with an adult model who owned page 1 of Google. If you aren’t managing your online reputation on Google, then someone else is (see: “How Does Google Affect Your Job Search?” at http://recareered.com/blog/2010/04/07/how-does-google-affect-your-job-search/).
- Linkedin: The second step in building your online reputation is Linkedin. Linkedin is an ideal tool to start your online reputation and it has features especially valuable for job seekers. It’s not enough just to have an “empty” profile on Linkedin with few connections: such a minimal presence won’t do much for you. To jumpstart your Linkedin presence, see “Job Seekers – 20 Ways To Brand Yourself On Linkedin” at http://recareered.com/blog/2010/02/25/job-seekers-20-ways-to-brand-yourself-on-linkedin/).
- Facebook: Facebook is no longer a game and it’s no longer for kids – there are more grandparents than students on Facebook today. Facebook is a business engine, surpassing Google for usage in the US. Facebook plan is to be the new search and for the past year and a half Facebook has been the top site to search … for people. If you are in job search (passive or active candidates both), you need to be on Facebook. Recruiters and hiring companies now search Google, Linkedin, and Facebook first before using job boards – because job boards are expensive and typically don’t include passive candidates. Facebook is a critical part of your Online Reputation, because it tells readers who you are. Review this post to see how to use Facebook proactively, beyond just scrubbing your profile: http://recareered.com/blog/2010/02/11/job-seekers-20-ways-to-brand-yourself-on-facebook/.
- Twitter: Twitter also shouldn’t be discounted, as Twitter’s stream is now included in all major search engine results. Twitter is a great way to find thought leaders and establish your own thought leadership, connect with industry people, and research. For a quick primer on using Twitter to leverage your online brand see “20 Ways To Brand Yourself On Twitter” at http://recareered.com/blog/2010/03/24/job-seekers-20-ways-to-brand-yourself-on-twitter/.
- Online Portfolios: Why not go beyond just putting up an online resume, or just a video resume. To show prospective employers what a great job you do, why not include work samples in an online portfolio? Online portfolios can be simple to create, and can be used for more than just artists and writers. Wouldn’t you like to share samples of financial reports you’ve designed (black out proprietary information that you probably shouldn’t share online), Powerpoints, written reports, sales presentations, code samples, or side projects with potential employers? See “How Online Portfolios Put You At the Top of The Candidate Pile” at http://recareered.com/blog/2008/06/11/how-online-portfolios-put-you-at-the-top-of-the-candidate-pile/ or a simple tutorial on how to set up an online portfolio.
- Blogs: Promote subject matter expertise by building a blog. It doesn’t have to be a fancy design (mine isn’t), it doesn’t have to cost you a dime, you can DIY, and you really don’t even have to be a writer. If you choose not to write yourself, publish publicly available work in your subject matter expertise, maybe adding short commentary to the articles you post. Google loves blogs, and they are one of the best ways to move up to a first page Google search ranking if you have a common name. You’ll see more detailed information on blogging in the coming days, but here’s a basic guide to blogging to help your job search in “You Don’t Have to be Shakespeare to Write a ResuBlog” at http://recareered.com/blog/2008/05/14/you-dont-have-to-be-shakespeare-to-write-a-resublog/.
Demonstrate Employer Value
Unless you are applying to a non-profit, you’re being hired to make money for your employer – either by increasing revenues, decreasing costs, or improving profit. For those in the non-profit world you might add goals like providing service or improving awareness – essentially the same thing as cutting costs … doing more with less.
Most resumes ignore this, because we’ve been taught to write resumes as an autobiography. Your audience is far more interested in what you can do for them than your entire personal history.
The better you can understand what’s important to your prospective employer/department/hiring manager, the better you can communicate that you’ve already solved what’s important to them in ways that made money for your past employers. This combination of information, accomplishments and relevancy demonstrates the value you’ll bring to your prospective employer. After all, they aren’t hiring an additional person just to fill a chair, are they?
Here are some ways to sow you can do more than just fill a chair – by demonstrating employer value:
- Employer Value Statements: Employer Value Statements are accomplishments that show the problems you’ve solved and the value those solutions have provided to your past employers. Employer Value Statements provide proof that you were a good investment, giving a future employer the perception that you have a good chance to also be a good investment for them – that you’ll do more than just the bare minimum (see: “Employer Value Statements Make Your Resume Sizzle” at http://recareered.com/blog/2010/03/09/employer-value-statements-make-your-resume-sizzle/).
- WIFT: What’s In it For Them? Most resumes are structured autobiographically, describing WIFM (What’s In it For Me). Wait – you claim your resume isn’t WIFM? Does your resume have an objective statement describing what you want? Does your resume have a summary/overview section, describing what’s important to you? Have you done enough research before sending your resume to even know what’s important to your audience, or WIFT? Here’s how to transform your resume into WIFT: http://recareered.com/blog/2010/03/17/job-seekers-tell-your-readers-wift-whats-in-it-for-them/.
- Relevancy: You’ve laid out your accomplishments, monetized them, and made your resume WIFT. Will they care? Your audience will care if you’ve done the research to identify major problems and opportunities of your prospective employer/department/hiring manager.
Increase your odds to pass the “So What?” test with steps outlined here: http://recareered.com/blog/2008/05/27/4-killer-ways-to-use-research/;
and here: http://recareered.com/blog/2010/04/08/does-your-job-search-strategy-include-more-listening-or-talking/;
and here: http://recareered.com/blog/2010/04/01/why-good-career-changers-are-anthropologists/.
Today’s article outlined 3 major ways to stand out as a candidate in today’s crowded market: Differentiate your resume, Manage your online reputation, and Demonstrate employer value.
While there is no such thing as a sure thing in job search, using these 3 strategies increase your odds by helping you stand out, get noticed – even in today’s uber-competitive job market. Unless you know the hiring manager personally there’s no better way today to improve your odds to stand out more frequently, get more interviews, and be selected as a finalist more often.
In addition, if you’re using these strategies effectively, the hiring manager has a better chance of knowing who you are based on the industry reputation you’ve built online.
How can you change your job search to implement these three strategies and improve your own odds?
For more details and information about how to set yourself apart from job search competitors, attend one of my free Resume Revolution! webinars (register at http://ResumeWebinar.com).-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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