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How to Be a Compelling Candidate

Positioning Yourself for Job Search Success

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How to Be a Compelling Candidate
Copyright Jacob Wackerhausen

When the job market tightens up, and there are less opportunities for job seekers, job searching becomes much more competitive. Rather than it being a buyer's market, where you can pick and choose between job offers, there are fewer jobs available and more candidates, so employers can afford to be picky.

Stand Out From the Job Search Crowd

When job searching times get even a little tough, it's more important than usual to make sure that you stand out from the job searching crowd and show the hiring manager that you are a candidate who definitely should be selected for an interview.

What can you do to get noticed? It's not as hard as you might think. Your application materials, have to be perfect, of course, and you will need to use your connections to help get an "in" at the company. You'll also need to actively market your candidacy and yourself, rather than waiting for a new job to find you.

How to Be a Compelling Candidate

Write a Targeted Resume
I know this is harder than just having one resume that you use to apply for every job. However, it works. Taking the time to edit or rewrite your resume so it matches the qualifications for the job you're applying for will show the hiring manager that you have the credentials for the job and should be considered for an interview.

Write a Targeted Cover Letter
Write a cover letter that shows, at a glance, why you are a strong match for the job. Don't repeat your resume, rather link (list or use bullets) your relevant skills to the skills the employer is seeking. Highlight your professional qualifications that match the hiring requirements. You only have seconds to catch the hiring manager's attention, so use them wisely.

Build Your Professional Brand
Sometimes, recruiters Google candidates even before they schedule an interview. You will want to make sure that everything they find when they search and everything related to you on the professional and networking sites (like LinkedIn and Facebook) is information that is presentable to the public. Also, be sure to edit your profile on LinkedIn so your connections know you are available for career and/or job opportunities.

Use Your Connections
Do you have connections at the company you just sent your resume to? If so, use them. They may be able to give your resume a boost and help you get an interview. You can also use your connections to find out more about the company. I know one job seeker, for example, who was able to connect with an employee at the company he was interviewing and get the inside scoop on the job and the company - before he set foot in the door.

In a tight job market, your connections are an even more important resource than they are when jobs are plentiful.

Be Proactive
Remember that old saying "He who hesitates is lost" - it's true. Employers don't wait forever for applicants to submit their resume (I know more than a few people who have waited too long to apply and lost out on what could have been a good job), so when you find a job listing that's a good match, apply immediately. Set up job search agents on the job search engines and/or job banks so you get new positions via email as soon as they are posted online. Again, don't wait to apply.

Unstick Your Job Search
If your job search seems to be stuck, try some new initiatives to get it started, so you can get back on track to find a new job, sooner rather than later.

Practice Make Perfect
Practice before you go for an interview. Review typical interview questions and research the company so you are well-prepared to interview. Have interview clothes ready (dry cleaned, shoes polished, etc.) so you're ready to interview professionally at a moment's notice. That way, your first impression will be positive and that's the impression you want to make on everyone you meet when you're job searching.

Send a Thank You Note
Don't forget to follow up with a thank you note reiterating your interest in the job. Most candidates don't bother, but those that do are more likely to get hired.

Related Video
Businessweek's Jon Fine on Creating Compelling Content
Doug McFarland on Online Video Advertising
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