Someone who is more qualified than you will always be out there. When you’re applying to jobs, try these tactics to stand out no matter how inexperienced you are.
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” — Abraham Lincoln
If all you did was submit your cover letter and resume, you’re screwed.
Why? Because someone out there speaks one more language, has a one point higher GPA or has one more year of experience. I don’t care how qualified you are. This is the wrong game to play. Let’s be honest: There are a lot of qualified people out there.
Of course, credentials can sometimes be necessary. If you want to be a doctor, you’ll need to go to medical school first. But as a rule of thumb, you should never lead with your experience.
This is especially true if you’re a young professional. For millennials new to the workforce, credentials take time. Fortunately, fit is often much more important than experience. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
If you want to stand out from all the noise, take these three steps:
1. Give up on submitting applications cold
Job listings are red herrings. Most large companies use computer algorithms to do keyword searches on your resume. This means you’re just about as likely to get a job from applying online as you are to win the lottery.
Instead, go to LinkedIn to figure out how you’re connected to the type of companies you want to work for. Then, form a relationship with an actual person who works there (ideally in person or over the phone).
You’re more likely to get a job if you know someone at the company, especially if they submit your resume and recommend you to the hiring manager.
Besides, most jobs never get listed. They are here one day and gone the next. Networking can help you get wind of of these opportunities before they are filled.
2. Dig up some dirt
Sure, you can browse the company’s website. But don’t stop there. Everyone else already does that. Instead, dive deeper to figure out what that company’s biggest frustrations or opportunities are right now.
Reach out to your company contact or anyone else in the same industry and find out what they’re obsessing about on a daily basis. Use what you find to customize your resume. The key here is to figure out what this company would write a blank check for.
And it’s not just about your ability to solve business problems. Cultural fit is important, too. Learn what types of people this company wants around.
If you don’t care about the answer enough to ask this question, it probably isn’t the right job for you. Don’t even bother interviewing.
Of course, the best way to learn about a place is to work there first. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Act as though you’re already hired
The final step is to position yourself as the best possible solution to their problems. Remember, this isn’t about you. Don’t spend the whole interview talking about what makes you great.
Most career counselors will tell you to talk about yourself first and ask questions at the end. This is a stupid strategy. The person who gets the job isn’t always the best option on paper; it’s the person who feels right.
If the interviewer asks you a direct question, set yourself apart in your response. Then ask a question. Ask first, and talk about yourself later.
In your thank you email, try sending the person a few links related to their challenges and include a summary of each. Or put them in touch with someone you know who might be able to help. If they need a new logo designed for one of their projects, literally draft a new logo for them — or put them in touch with someone who can.
The idea is to start working for them now so you can keep your foot in the door. Don’t start negotiating until you’ve demonstrated your value. Once they want you badly enough, it will be much easier to craft the specifics of your offer (e.g. salary, flexibility, benefits.)
Reframe your job hunt
If you keep doing what everyone else is doing, you’ll get the same results. So be different. Make connections, figure out what the company actually needs and start providing value right away.
As a millennial, you know there is more opportunity — and more competition — than ever. The world is open to you, but only if you hustle. It’s time to start taking smart, consistent action.
What will you do to stand out?