Q&A: To Get a Job, You MUST Stand Out « ZipRecruiter Blog

Q&A: To Get a Job, You MUST Stand Out

Rachel Dotson —  April 3, 2013
With an average of 100+ applications submitted to each job opening, it has probably never been more crucial to stand out during your job search. In today’s expert Q&A, Kevin Hungate teaches you how to do just that.

How to stand out in your job searchWhat is the typical approach to job search? How did we all end up with the same, cookie-cutter approach?

Here’s how the large majority of people approach the interviewing process:
Step 1: They submit their resume online and wait…hoping for a response.
Step 2: If they get an interview, they show-up ONLY with their resume and then wait passively for interview questions to be asked of them.
Step 3: For follow-up after the interview, only an email will be sent.
Job seekers interview in this manner because this is the way it’s always been done. It’s how our parents and grandparents interviewed (minus the email, of course). Also, this approach allows for the candidate to put forth the least amount of effort. Unfortunately, most job candidates choose the “easy interview path” not realizing that it differs greatly from the “successful & effective” one.

What is the problem with taking this approach? Is the problem bigger now given the current economy?

The problem with this approach is twofold.
First, companies want to hire candidates who display effort during the job interview process because it is indicative of the type effort they will put forth once they are hired. The traditional approach to interviewing requires minimum effort and this no longer flies in today’s competitive environment.
Second, with the large majority of job seekers utilizing the same interview approach, few stand out or separate from the crowd. It’s the job candidate who understands the power of differentiation who gets hired today.
This problem is compounded due to the state of our economy. It’s all about supply and demand. There’s a huge demand for jobs but fewer jobs available. Therefore, companies can choose the cream of the crop and it’s typically not the candidate who interviews as I described above.

Generally speaking, what can a candidate do to differentiate herself in a job interview?

It’s important to differentiate from the moment you submit your resume all the way through your follow-up.
Step 1: When you submit your resume, don’t simply rely on the online tool. Do some detective work and uncover the name of the hiring manager and/or an HR contact. Of course, I realize this is not always easy to do. LinkedIn is great for this. Once you have a name, express mail your cover letter and resume to the contact and include a business appropriate and relevant “accompaniment.” An accompaniment is generally a one-page insert that creatively and uniquely positions you for the job and allows you/your resume to standout from the crowd. (See example under next question).
Step 2: Create a presentation for your interview. This demonstrates great preparation/effort and allows the job candidate to drive the discussion and she becomes the one asking questions instead of sitting back passively waiting for questions to be asked of her. Typically 1-2 out of 10 job candidates will do a presentation. Therefore, if you are one of those two candidates, you immediately differentiate from 80-90% of our competition.
Step 3: Most candidates follow-up with an email. Therefore, you should follow-up with a handwritten letter which nowadays is extremely uncommon—thus the effectiveness. If the interview process stretches over a period of months, utilize what I call “next level follow-up.” This is not only the next step within your follow-up process but a method of follow-up that is incredibly memorable and impactful. (See example under next question.)

What about more specifically? Can we have a couple of examples?

How to stand out in a job interviewStep 1 Example (Resume Accompaniment):
A job seeker interviewing for a job at the Time Warner Foundation created a Time Magazine cover with a business appropriate candidate photo on the front along with a caption reading “Time Warner Foundation’s Next Great Addition: Time hires Jane Doe.”
This approach resulted in the candidate receiving a call from the hiring manager stating out of hundreds of resumes, she was the ONLY ONE to do something creative and thus earned the interview.
Step 3 Example (Next Level Follow-up):
A candidate had an interview at which the hiring manager stated he wanted to hire someone who was a leader and could orchestrate—“like a quarterback.” He actually stated “like a quarterback.” As follow-up, the candidate first sent a handwritten note. His “next level follow-up” was an autographed football that arrived weeks after the initial follow-up and included a note stating “In our meeting you said you wanted to hire a leader and orchestrator—like a quarterback. I look forward to being your standout QB.”

Sometimes standing out can be a bad thing. What are some things that job seekers should avoid during the interview?

In a job interview, standing out is only negative if it’s for negative reasons. If you don’t stand out—if you’re not memorable—you will have great difficulty getting a job ( « Tweet This ). Of course, the wrong follow-up idea, etc., can have a negative impact on your ability to get a job. If you stand out for all the wrong reasons, that’s far worse than not standing out at all. In everything you do, make sure it’s appropriate for the company culture and the job function as well as in-line with the hiring manager’s personality. It’s not always easy to assess appropriateness. Trust your instincts but don’t be afraid to be bold.

Is there anything else you would like to say about this topic?

Job competition is fierce and the interview process has evolved. Focus on two key principles:
    1. The power of differentiation
    2. Displaying above & beyond effort during the entire job interview process
As stated earlier, most candidates take the same approach to interviewing—which sends them down the “easy interview path.” Step off the “easy path” and onto the “effective” one. You’ll be amazed at the end result.

About the Expert:
Kevin Hungate is the author of “I Can Start Monday: Powerful Interviewing Tips to Take You Above and Beyond the Short List” and creator of one of the most comprehensive interviewing video series available. He is also an interview coach, public speaker and creator of a mobile app that provides job seekers with inventive ideas for follow-up after the job interview.

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