How to Be a Stand-out Job Candidate

Some advice on standing out among the masses.

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Karen Burns
If you’ve looked in a newspaper lately you may have seen a photo of long lines of showered, coiffed, and dressed-for-success people clutching briefcases or laptops and looking very, very unhappy.

They are waiting in line at a job fair.

Their glumness is understandable. Now is not a great time to be out of work. But you know what? They shouldn't be scowling. They should be smiling.

Why? Because employers are more likely to hire happy-looking people than unhappy-looking ones. That might sound shallow. But it’s human nature. Employers may be well aware of the reason for the glum faces. They may even sympathize. But they, like everyone, are attracted to positivity and repelled by negativity.

Which is why, when you’re looking for a job, you need to consistently project optimism, resilience, and confidence.

Even if you have to fake it. In line at the job fair, in the ladies’ room before an interview, in the lobby after the interview, you gotta smile. Not a big ol’ fakey smile. Not a “I’m too dumb to know I’m in trouble” smile. Not an arrogant smile.

No, your smile needs to come from a genuine place. You get to this place by knowing your worth, having a Plan B, and remembering that hard times do not last.

It’s not easy to act optimistic and confident when you feel worried or scared. But think how you respond to a smile, and how you respond to a scowl.

Employers are just like you.

Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009 (but available now for pre order at Amazon!). She blogs at karenburnsworkinggirl.com .