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Applying for Jobs? Here are 3 Ways to Make Sure You Stand Out.

Applying for Jobs? Here are 3 Ways to Make Sure You Stand Out.

So you give your resume one last thorough review. It looks good. You make a few minor tweaks to your standard cover letter, changing a phrase here and there to include the important keywords from the job description. Then you hit send. Just like 257 other candidates.

Maybe in booming economic times, when it’s a seller’s market, you can get away with this passive job-search process: find a great gig posted online, fire off a resume and wait for an interview or an outright offer. But not in a buyer’s market. Not today. If you’re looking for work today, in just about any industry, chances are you’re competing with many people who are at least as qualified as you are. Time to get creative.

1. Make your pitch stand out.

Everybody sends in a cover letter and resume. Do something more interesting, more relevant to the gig you’re applying for – something that gives you a chance to show off what’s unique about you.

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I’ll illustrate with a personal example. I once posted a job for a marketing person whose primary function would be building PowerPoint presentations. We received many dozens of resumes (this was during boom times), and many of the candidates claimed proficiency with PowerPoint. But one candidate actually rebuilt her resume – beautifully – in PowerPoint. This candidate had the simple but brilliant idea to show us her proficiency with PowerPoint, rather than just tell us. She also showed creative thinking and made hers stand out among all of the resume emails that flooded our inbox.

2) Don’t limit yourself to jobs posted.

These days just about every posted job worth having receives dozens if not hundreds of applicants. What’s more, posted jobs represent just a small fraction of the opportunities that pop up all the time. According to a hiring expert quoted in the Wall Street Journal, in fact, 80% of jobs are never even advertised.

So why not work the other way around? Find the companies you want to work for, and pitch them.

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This has two benefits. First, by focusing your search on organizations you’d be enthusiastic about working for, you can make your pitches much more genuine and positive. You can tailor each pitch, making a case for specifically what you like or admire about that company and why you want to join their team. That makes a difference. Second, the field is clear so your pitch will receive more attention. And you never know. You might send in an enthusiastic inquiry about working in the marketing department of a large videogame publisher – a place you’ve always wanted to work at – just when their VP decides it’s time to build out the team. Or yours might be such a perfect background for the company that that same VP might want to bring you in even though they hadn’t planned on adding new staff.

Don’t wait for the right fit for your talents. Find a fit yourself, and then go after it.

3. Offer to prove yourself for free.

Okay, this one is a bit controversial. Some people believe offering to provide some work for a potential employer for free to prove yourself makes you look desperate. Or that it devalues your work and puts you in a weakened position when it’s time to negotiate for the job. And they might be right.

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But I also know that almost nobody thinks to make this suggestion, even if they’re interviewing for their dream job. Doing so will make you stand out. I also know several professionals who have used this tactic to great success. In some cases, they’ve performed a small task, impressed the company and got the job. In other cases, merely offering a free project as proof of their skill – and positioning it that way – has given the company the confidence that they’re the right candidate. And those professionals also got the jobs.

Note: If you’re going to make this offer to a possible employer, how you position the offer is key. You’re offering to do a small task for free because you consider it a minor upfront investment in a long-term relationship. You know that after the company has seen your work, they’ll want more of it. That’s confidence. Not desperation.

By the way, this tactic can work for just about any type of job – not only for designers or web developers. If you’re a corporate trainer, for example, you might suggest crafting a very short training session for a specific department in the company. Sales rep? Perhaps you could offer to craft a very short introductory phone script based on the information you can glean from the company’s website and literature.

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The point here – as with all of these tips – is to be creative. Everyone has a resume, and a cover letter with job-description-matching keywords, and references. What do you have that sets you apart? Don’t be afraid to share it.

Featured photo credit: Captain Kimo via flickr.com

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robbie hyman

Copywriter

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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