Scoring a great job is all about standing out from the crowd. Figuring out how to do that - while still staying true to yourself - is the key to landing that perfect gig.
In today's fast-paced hiring world, more and more companies are turning to recruiters and staffing agencies to find the right people. This means that finding a job doesn't follow the checklist of a) apply, b) interview and c) hope for the best anymore.
So as a job seeker, what’s changed for you? Well, oftentimes you’ll be listed among a slew of other candidates in a searchable database, and might get scrolled past if you don’t catch anyone’s eye. Then again, coming off as trying TOO hard to be unique and special can also bust your chances of landing the job. Here’s how to find the right middle ground.
Have a Good Headshot
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but your headshot is key. Invest the money (or find a photographer buddy) to get some different headshot options and choose the ones that feel the most authentically like you.
Headshots should have you looking happy and be free of distracting backgrounds (sure, that castle behind you is rad but you don’t want anything distracting from your wonderful face now, do you?). Lighter backgrounds are usually better, and square images make for the most versatile headshots. In general, avoid anything like this.
Having a good headshot isn’t just down to taking a good picture and going with that. It involves making sure your image format fits whatever site you’re uploading your resume to.
It also means that when you walk into an interview room, you don’t look 10 years older with an entirely different hairstyle. Make sure that you update your headshot frequently enough that it represents you as who you are. It can also be good to play with different headshots on different sites to see which ones appear to be the most effective.
Now that you’ve gotten a recruiter’s attention with a winning smile, let’s get to the good stuff.
Show Your Soft Skills, and Back Them Up
Sure, maybe you worked for a year as an intern for an accounting firm and have your bachelor’s degree. But so does Yuri. Good with Excel? Sure thing. But so is Rebecca.
So how are you different? That’s what staffers are looking for. There are more qualified students looking for work than ever, so the place to set yourself apart is in the space beyond your hard qualifications. That’s where soft skills come in.
Soft skills are personality traits, interpersonal skills, and other intangibles that make you who you are in the job market. Employers typically look for both hard and soft skills, especially teamwork, creativity, and work ethic. According to Push Models, a prominent national staffing agency, soft skills are what can make or break an applicant in their hiring process.
When listing your soft skills, pick a few that are your best. No one wants to listen to someone go on and on about how compassionate, creative, innovative, kind, respectful… conceited they are. Tell your potential recruiters that you love collaborating with people and give a SPECIFIC example of how that has presented itself in the past.
By focusing on soft skills on top of your technical qualifications, you can separate yourself from the pack. Just make sure to do it in a tasteful and concise way.
Tell Them What You Want
Employers and recruiters want certain things from the people they’re looking to hire: skillsets, personality, etc. But it might surprise you that a way to stand out to the people vying for your services is to tell them what YOU want.
Making demands? Shouldn’t I be grateful just to be considered for a position? Well, in a sense, no.
As a skilled person, you offer something to companies that can benefit from your work. This means that you should be vocal and direct about what you want in return. This doesn’t necessarily mean making salary demands or requesting specific working conditions. Think more big-picture than that.
When a recruiter or staffing agent asks you (and they will) what you’re looking to get out of a job, you’ve got to know the answer.
This isn’t just good advice for getting hired, it’s good life advice. What are you trying to do in the long term? Gain experience for a specific dream job down the line? Work towards something greater? Make the world a better place? Get incredibly rich? Any of these are perfectly viable if they’re true and you stick to them.
Letting people trying to hire you to know what you’re looking for will inform them that you’re driven, thoughtful, and makes you seem more in control than potential competitors.
Looking for a job is never easy, but by keeping in mind these few simple tips you’ll be able to stand out to recruiters and staffing agencies without compromising your ideals.
Make a good first impression with a great headshot, or if you’re at a recruitment event, with a professional outfit and clean look. Let your experience and technical skills speak for themselves, and highlight just a few soft skills to set yourself apart from the competition. Lastly, don’t be afraid to tell those vying for your skillset what you want from them, a potential job, and from your career as a whole.
Happy job hunting!
Katherine (Tori) Lutz is a graduate of Florida State University and a current student at Columbia University. Professionally, she has a great deal of experience in writing, editing, and marketing. She is currently living in Brooklyn, New York and aspires to be a journalist.
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