In a tight market, every job seeker needs to find a way to stand out from the crowd. What separates the great from the good and makes a particular candidate too irresistible to pass up? Often, it is one of these three things:
1. Ability to prove worth
It is one thing to call yourself an outstanding communicator or an effective leader. It is another to back those claims with proof. Employers want to know what you’d bring to the table if hired.
“Candidates who can provide real, tangible examples of successes at their current and past jobs certainly stand out,” say Western Union’s Chris Brabec, director of leadership talent acquisition, and Laura Hopkins, vice president of talent acquisition.
Alan Guinn, managing director and CEO of The Guinn Consultancy Group in Bristol, Tennessee, agrees.
“More and more of my clients simply aren’t interested in questions like, ‘If you were an animal, what would you be?’ They are exponentially more interested in seeing if the candidate for a position understands the value that he or she brings to the employer when hired.”
Guinn says that most applicants for commission-driven jobs know they can demonstrate competency and quantify value by discussing how they met quotas, exceeded sales objectives or searched out new clients.
Candidates in other fields who are not accustomed to thinking this way may have more difficulty, but trying to do so may ultimately land them a job.
To come up with examples, it might help to examine your résumé and performance reviews.
What have you accomplished that sets you apart from others? How can those achievements be applied to this job? Is there a way to quantify or explain results in terms of time or money saved, output or improvement?
It can be especially effective to search for instances that would be noteworthy for the specific position or employer. For example, since Western Union is a global company, a candidate who highlights his international experience would grab the attention of Brabec and Hopkins.
Examining the job ad for keywords can offer clues as to what might be most significant.
2. More than a simple knowledge of the company
An acceptable candidate looks at the company’s website before heading to the interview. An irresistible one learns more.
“To stand out, you need to show that your research was a mile deep and not an inch deep like most candidates,” says Jim Langan, partner and manager of the investment and financial services division for Winter, Wyman — one of the largest staffing firms in the Northeast. “You need to go above and beyond in your efforts to show that you understand this company inside and out.”
Annual reports and financial statements can help. Likewise, check for any recent news events or press releases. Langan says these things also might be helpful to know about a company:
• Its motto or vision.
• Its products and what makes them stand out in the market.
• Its competitors.
• Its stock price.
• Its senior management and their history with the company.
(Bonus points: If any of them have written a book or been quoted in a publication, see if you can mention that in the interview.)
If you’ve taken the time to demonstrate your worth and to do homework on the company, chances are you’re well on your way to becoming the final thing an employer can’t resist: an enthusiastic candidate.
How does enthusiasm shine through? “First and foremost, I believe, is the candidate’s interest in the interview itself,” Guinn says. “It’s directly in proportion, I think, to how excited the candidate might be to be offered the job.”
He says the questions that enthusiastic candidates ask are not only about the job they would be doing but also about the job in the future.
“They ask the interviewer how they may expand positional responsibilities. They demonstrate interest in upward mobility. They want to know who has moved up and why the position they are being interviewed for is vacant. They also are interested in how they will fit in with the group to which they are assigned.”
Let a potential employer know that you have spent time learning about this particular job and reflecting on how you’d be the perfect person for it. Chances are your genuine excitement could be contagious.
As Langan says, “Companies love to hire people who have passion and enthusiasm for a position rather than a candidate who sees this as just another job.”