Finding that right job may seem like a daunting task. The number of applicants for a single job opening is on the rise, and having a college degree no longer seems to guarantee a competitive edge, even for entry-level positions.

However, you can gain an advantage over the competition.  Study and implement these 5 tips that help job seekers jump to the head of the hiring pool. Let’s pretend that each is worth 2 points. If you consider yourself totally prepared and confident in all areas, give yourself a score of 10. That’s what it will take to come out on top.

1. Appearance

The law of “you only get to make a first impression once” is still true.  This is certainly part of your research, but dress for the job…and then some.  Try to look like you already work in the job for which you are applying, but a touch better.  How? First, don’t assume—observe.  If you can, visit the company and see how employees, in the department or job you want, dress. If you can’t go inside, watch employees as they arrive and leave.  You can also call Human Resources or the appropriate department and ask.  Most will be more than willing to give you the information. But confirm it with observation as well.

Keep in mind that in many organizations, business casual does not mean jeans, unless you’re a cowboy.  You should look fresh, like you have had a good night’s sleep. Clean nails, neatly groomed hair, clothing that fits, and shoes that aren’t used for hiking contribute to a polished look that says you pay attention to detail.  No brief cases, back packs, cell phones, pens with a plastic cap, or a rubber watch band.  Appearance alone won’t get you hired, but it can prevent you from getting the job.

2. Research

Know the company and know the position for which you are applying.  An applicant who can express knowledge of the industry, the company, its history and needs, as it applies to the desired position, will have an edge.  Applicants who simply respond to a job posting because they need income are not who employers are seeking.  Employers want new hires who represent a great fit.  In this case, fit means someone who has the desire to do the work and make a positive contribution to the organization if hired.  If the purpose of your research is phony, hope that no one figures it out. Sincere research demonstrates your desire for the position and a rare resourcefulness.

3. Experience

Although it can be helpful in certain cases, having done the job before may actually reveal an applicant’s limitations. Therefore, don’t bank on “I’ve been there and done that.”  Interviewers hear from people every day who say they can do the job.  Employers want skills, know-how, and work ethic, none of which is proven because you say so.  Assuming you have done your research (tip #2), practice your delivery on how your previous experiences and current skills will shorten your training or learning curve.  Clarify how you will bring value from day one.  Learn to explain how what you know, what you have done, and what you can and will do benefits the employer. If you can’t, then you have a problem.

4. Presentation

Most resumes are too long and immaterial to the company or the job.  Since job postings list performance criteria, craft a resume that is relevant to that specific job interview.  Any information that is not relevant to that specific company and job should not be on the resume.  Practice, practice, practice being interviewed.  I once advised a candidate to go on interviews for jobs he knew he did not want, just to gain experience.  We then reviewed what took place at the interview and rehearsed body language and responses.  Before the interview, prepare and ask questions that reveal your knowledge of the industry, company, and job.  Get someone without bias to rehearse with you, and make a video recording for review.  Practice your hand shake, eye contact, and your smile. And avoid using slang or words and phrases that have meaning only to a specific generation.

5. Procedure

Sometimes, the biggest challenge to getting that coveted interview is the gate keeper.  A company of any size typically assigns the initial application screening to an individual or HR department.  You may not have an opportunity to initiate the application process with the people actually doing the hiring.  However, if you allow your fate to be decided by that obstacle or an online process, don’t be surprised if someone else gets the job.

Therefore, during the initial hiring process ask questions to gain more information, such as “Who is responsible for my department?” or “Who makes the final hiring decision?” These are all valid questions that hopefully will lead to the name of a hiring manager.  After the first encounter, and armed with the name of the person who will decide or influence the decision, hand write a note card that day addressed to that individual. It should contain only a few words mentioning one applicable skill-set, your willingness to earn the job, and your contact information.  After you are certain your note arrived, make a phone call to that same person as a follow-up.

Be an Atypical Job Applicant

Do anything atypical of job applicants that draw positive attention to you, obviously avoiding the contrived, weird, or illegal.  Do not take the advice of friends or family on how to get a job, and don’t necessarily count on anyone getting you in.  Getting a job, particularly the right job, takes time, planning, preparation, and action.

Ron Hequet Consultant Speaker Coach

To get more information and receive other no-cost special audio downloads, reports, articles, blog posts, and more, visit Ron Hequet where I cover valuable topics that every person wanting to grow their business or career needs to know.  And, if you’re ready to take your business to the next level, get a free assessment from me personally at Free Business Assessment or for those wanting to build your career go to Complimentary Coaching Assessment.

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