Employers are looking for top candidates; they want to hire talent who stands out in a crowd based on their past performance and future potential.
It's not difficult to make a strong impression, but it does take some planning and preparation to be sure the employer remembers you favorably. How can you highlight what you have to offer during the application and interview process?
Edward Kwang is the president of MySammy, a company that produces cloud-based software designed for employers who want to monitor employees' computer usage to evaluate work performance. He suggests the following tips for job seekers who want to come across as promising candidates:
Tell a story. According to Kwang, "Everyone loves stories." Stories provide a richer narrative than a sheet of bullet points can convey. He suggests: "Use the cover letter, email, or interview to paint a picture of who you are and why you're the best fit for the position. Turn yourself from a blank slate into the most promising candidate by weaving together important parts of your background and skill sets."
It's important to keep your stories relevant to the job. Make sure they have a clear point and that they answer the employer's unspoken question: "Why should I hire you?" Consider using the acronym "CAR," which stands for "challenge, actions, and results," to keep your story on track. Describe the problem (or challenge) you faced, detail the actions you took to overcome the concerns, and explain what happened due to your intervention. Don't forget to describe the result—many people get so caught up in describing the problems, they forget to focus on the solutions. Ideally, your stories will illustrate how well you overcome problematic situations and give the employer confidence in your abilities to handle any curve balls you may face in a new job.
Use statistics and data. There's a big difference between saying, "Increased sales of XYZ gadget for first three years" and "achieved year-over-year growth of 85 percent for XYZ gadget, increasing top-line revenues to $15 million." Make sure you can have a reference verify your numbers. Above all, do not lie; fudging the numbers to make you look better will come back to bite you later.
Go over and above the call of duty. Maybe you've heard you should be the first one in the office in the morning and the last one out at night? If you demonstrate this type of work ethic, be sure to convey to your employer what you will do to stand out once hired. Kwang suggests: "Tell some anecdotes about what you did in the past that went beyond your job description. Employers crave employees who are proactive."
Show how you envision the industry's future. It's very powerful in an interview to demonstrate your industry knowledge by talking about trends and the future. "Use relevant statistics or data to drive your point home. Wrap it up by showing how your skill set matches where the industry is headed," Kwang says.
Emphasize your ability to work independently, while still in a team structure. While it may seem like a paradox at first, companies treasure those who can execute and think independently while still being consummate team players. Kwang explains: "With more work being conducted remotely, reassuring your prospective employer that you are self-driven and don't need frequent monitoring and supervision will go a long way."
Talk about your desire for a great mentor. Companies typically value employees who want to grow professionally, and mentoring arrangements help both parties improve their skills.
Update and sanitize your social media presence. Google search your own name and check out each listing. Sweep your social media profiles for anything that would portray you in a negative light. Even better, Kwang suggests that you go into your Facebook settings and do not allow the public to see your Facebook wall.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.