Long before you meet a potential employer face-to-face, take these steps to separate yourself from the competition.
What do you do when 30 other candidates are competing with you for the same job—and many of them are more qualified than you are?
You need to do something to stand out. You need to have something unique, something that makes you what Seth Godin calls “The Purple Cow.”
Here are seven of the easiest and most effective strategies to do that.
Before you start, note that not one of these, in isolation, will do the trick. The secret is to implement as many of them as possible, because not only are they synergistic, but the more of these steps you take, the less likely other candidates will be to have done the same.
1. Get introduced
This is absolutely the best way to stand out in a sea of strangers. Being introduced to a hiring manager by a friend of his is like a having a red carpet rolled out for you.
How can you get introduced? Reverse engineer the hiring manager’s connections on LinkedIn to see how the two of you are connected, and then network your way into his circles. You’ll be surprised how closely related the two of you are, especially if you’ve been in the industry for a couple of years.
2. Conduct deep research
Yes, you always need to prepare before an interview. But you also need to go a step further than other candidates would.
You can do this by asking a few people from the company out to coffee for an informational interview. Tell them you’re interested in working for the company and would like to know more about its culture (or anything else). Most will be happy to do it, at which time you can talk about where the company is going, what are its most pressing problems, etc.
Pro tip: Name-drop the person you talked to in your actual interview to gain extra points.
3. Invest in awesome resume design
After you get your “in,” remember to make your resume look professional. You need to go further than the Word document most people use.
If you have no design experience, hire a professional to do it for you. A decent one will cost you just $50. In my experience, there’s a diminishing return in resume design: a $500 top-of-the-line designer will only get you marginally better results than his competent competitor who charges $50.
Some people create infographics for their resume, though that might not be the right option for everyone.
4. Keep your resume concise
Less is more in your resume. If you’re applying to be a teacher, don’t include your experience waiting tables. And there’s no need to mention the spelling bee award you won, either.
Read every word, and ask yourself: can I still sell myself if I leave this out? The goal is to have a resume no longer than one page. You have no idea how appreciative hiring managers are when applicants get to the point.
5. Create a website where hiring managers can find out more
If a hiring manager is interested, she’ll call you, right? Well… yes and no.
If she thinks you’re an extremely good fit, then yes, she’ll call you in for an interview. But what if you just made the “maybe” or “come back to this” pile? Will she take the trouble to pick up the phone when she has a whole pile of resumes to go through? Don’t take that chance.
Instead, create a website with more information about your career. Your resume is your hook, and your website is where you have the opportunity to really sell yourself. There’s a lot less friction to click on a link or type in a URL than to call someone or go through the trouble of scheduling an interview.
Pro tip: Install analytics to track how many people visit your website, and watch for direct traffic (meaning someone went directly to your website by typing in the URL rather than clicking a link that led them there). This will tell you whether or not your resume is doing its job. It’s not a perfect measure, but it’s a great estimate, especially if you just launched your site.
6. Create a video resume for your personality to shine
If you really want to take it to another level, create a video resume. A video shows off some things that written resumes can’t—like your personality, which is arguably more important than your qualifications in certain circumstances. If a hiring manager has two candidates who are equally matched on paper, but one has a great personality and the other has no personality to speak of, who do you think will get the job?
Plus, watching a video is more compelling than reading a boring old resume!
7. Write a case study
What if, during your deep research, you found out your prospective employer faces a huge problem similar to one you solved in a previous job? A plain old resume won’t do the trick. Talking about it in an interview might, but that is if you get an interview.
Instead, write a case study about your experience. Include numbers, your approaches and what was the exact outcome.
Andrianes Pinantoan is part of Open Colleges’ HR courses and the editor of the Open Colleges Blog, where he and his team write about career advancement and personal development. Connect with him on Google+.