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The Secrets of Stand-Out Job Candidates


With the job market strong, unemployment continuing to dip lower, and massive numbers of baby boomers retiring, job candidates should be inspired about their potential futures. During more than 30 years’ experience with selection and interviewing, I believe too many professionals settle for a job because they need a job. Reviewing job boards and throwing applications at the ‘job market’ dart board is not likely to get you where you want to go. Here are tips I have witnessed in stand-out job candidates, especially those approaching mid-career.

  1. Understand yourself and define your ideal job.

    Where do you fit? What type of organizational culture brings out your best? It is surprising how many job candidates, regardless of age, do not truly know themselves. Do you fit best in an innovative culture where you’re encouraged and expected to think beyond the corners of your office, or do you prefer an environment with more comfortable, less volatile change? We’re all different, and that is alright! When working with a recruiting firm or even conducting your own job search, define the job and the type of culture that best fits your personal style, write it down, and be able to communicate it.
  2. Identify organizations and companies to target for your next job search.

    As you begin your research of the job market, identify your ideal organizations that support the organizational culture you so desire. How? Social media has opened the doors! Reach out to people who are already employed at your targeted organizations to obtain their insight. Develop your own networking questions to gather information, from their points of view, on the culture, important happenings or current challenges, and build this information into your own job search strategy. When working with a recruiter, share your ideal companies because recruiters can reach out to confidentially market you directly to these organizations.
  3. Work harder and smarter than anyone else, and it will fast track you.   

    If you are only willing to write one resume for all jobs, you will eventually get a job, yet stand-out candidates do it differently. If possible, proactively network with current employees of your targeted organization through social media to learn about their business needs, types of candidates who fit best, and the actual organizational culture. Always ask, “Who else should I talk with?” Based on the acquired information, you can tailor your resume to emphasize your experience that will most benefit this employer. Do not inflate or falsify your experience in any way. Next, utilize this information in preparation of your interviews. Have your examples and stories about your successes prepared ahead of time. During the interview, don’t just tell them what you have done. Instead take them on the journey through your stories that show them what you have done.Second, here’s what so few candidates do to prepare for an on-site interview – anticipate questions and write your own interview to prepare ahead of time. Video yourself answering your own questions to watch how you respond both verbally and through your body language. Critique yourself! It’s not easy and takes extra effort, yet it will be well worth it. Your confidence in an on-site interview will be evident!
  4. Be the valuable candidate who is focused and motivated.

    Consider preparing a 90-day roadmap for your first three months of employment should you be hired. You likely do not have all of the information needed for details, yet your goal for the interview is to demonstrate that you are already willing to go above and beyond. Bring copies to the interview, introduce it at an opportune time, be prepared to discuss it, and you’re likely to be seen as a cut above the rest. Don’t try to over sell your ‘passion’ for the job, that’s noble. You are not being hired for your ‘passion.’ You are being hired for the skills and value you can bring to the organization.

In summary, finding the right job with the right organization is hard work and takes an immense amount of time. Top jobs require your effort during the selection process. We frequently say, “Finding a job is like a full-time job, so it takes your willingness to put in, on the average, six to eight hours per day to find and prepare for the right opportunity.” Bottom line…working harder and smarter than the typical job candidate pays off. Figure out what will set you apart from others to be seen as the ‘stand-out candidate.’

Linn DavidsonLinn Davidson

With more than 20 years of experience, Linn has held HR administrator roles and served as the top human resource executive for healthcare, insurance, federal contracting, and higher education organizations. She has held responsibility for human resources including recruitment and selection, performance management, employee relations, compensation/incentive plans, EEO/affirmative action, as well as employee benefits, learning and development, and facilitation of strategic planning processes. As a result of her C-Suite experience and consulting roles, she has developed a unique ability to listen to, understand, and relate to your executive and director-level staffing needs, develop strategic staffing plans to secure passive top talent, or recruit and select for hard-to-fill roles. She is dedicated to serving clients with the highest standards through exceptional customer service. With a B.S. in Business Administration and an Executive Masters of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Linn can supply the tools and resources necessary to understand your business needs and to help you make informed decisions to select top talent from among the best and brightest recruits.

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