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Implementing Your Job Search,
Stand Out from the Crowd

By Susan P. Joyce

[This is Step 4 in Part 2 of Job-Hunt's Online Job Search Tutorial.]

Step 4 in Part 2: These days, it's easy to get lost in the crowd of job seekers.  But, with some effort (not a lot), you can clearly differentiate yourself from the people in too big a hurry to pay attention.

A job search is usually a sales job -- your "product" is yourself, and your success depends on your ability to differentiate yourself from everyone else who wants the same job that you want. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the employer or recruiter, and approach them with that mind-set.

There are many ways to differentiate yourself:

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1. Research the employer before you apply for the job or go in for the interview.

There is so much information available on the Internet! At a minimum, visit the company Web site to see what it says. Employers usually have the choice of very many applicants, and you will stand out by being well-informed about the employer organization.

  • This research will enable you to do a better job of customizing your resume and cover letter (next point below).
  • You'll be able to ask informed, intelligent questions during the interview, based on your research, which will impress the interviewer.
  • Your research may also help you to avoid wasting time on a company that isn't a good fit for you or that is in the midst of a declining market and potentially planning layoffs or job freezes.

Visit the company Web site. Information about publicly-traded companies is everywhere, from Google finance and LinkedIn Company Pages to AnnualReports.com and Hoover's.  Find the quarterly financial reports required by the U.S. government in the U.S. Department of Commerce's Edgar database.

Don't know how to research a company online? See the Guide to Company Research by Job-Hunt's Company Research Experts Parmelee Eastman and Debra Wheatman.

2. Customize your resume and cover letter for each opportunity. One-size-fits-all isn't true anymore, if it ever was.

Because most employers and recruiters use some form of applicant tracking system (a database of job applications and/or resumes), customizing your resume for each opportunity is required today. Read Optimize Your Resume for Recruiters to understand how to meet the requirements today.

For example, if the opportunity you want is in HR, emphasize the skills and experience you have related to HR. If the company is in the medical industry, highlight the experience you have in HR in medical or related industries.

Use your research! Make a reference to their products or services, by name if possible, or to corporate officers. Demonstrate that you know something about this employer and this opportunity.

Send out fewer resumes, and use your research to include proof that you've paid some attention to this specific opportunity. You and your message will stand out.

For more tips on using company research in your cover letter and resume, check out Job-Hunt's "Guide to Company Research" articles. For some good ideas on how to create a cover letter that will really stand out, see recruiter Sandra MacKay's article on Getting Recruiter Attention.

3. Write your resume and cover letter in terms of what you can do for the employer, NOT what they can do for you.

Often an applicant's cover letter will say something like "I need experience in a [whatever you need] company like yours." Why should an employer care? They don't!

When filling a job, most employers don't care what they can do for you; they are interested in how you can help them be more successful. Don't let them try to figure out how you can help them - tell them.

Present your skills and knowledge in terms of how hiring you will be a benefit for them. Don't minimize your skills, but don't over-inflate them either. Stick to the facts - selecting the ones most relevant to the opportunity you are are seeking and linking them to the employer's specific needs.

4. Use e-mail as back-up and/or follow-up; don't depend on it alone.

Use snail mail, FAX, the telephone, etc. to reach the employer or recruiter, unless directed to "use e-mail only" by the employer. Even then, try to network your way into the company to find out what's going on and advance your search. See Job-Hunt's "Tapping the Hidden Job Market" article for networking ideas.

E-mail has been killed as an effective "cold-call" communications medium. "Spam" (bulk, unsolicited, commercial e-mail) clogs company e-mail systems, reportedly more than 90% of e-mail in 2014.

Most companies use spam filters to eliminate junk e-mail before it ever reaches anyone's Inbox. So, don't assume that your e-mail will be read or even received by the addressee, and don't assume that you will receive a notice from the "postmaster" when your message is blocked. Most spam filters just delete the messages without any notice to the senders.

Do assume that every potential employer uses spam filters.

Ask your contact(s) in the company to add you to their "friends" (or "white") list.

NOTE: If you do send an e-mail, use the spam problem as a reason to contact the employer. Call to see if they received your e-mail. Ask to speak with the recruiter or hiring manager, and then, see what else you can discover.

For 7 tips on avoiding spam filters, read Job-Hunt's article "Keeping Your E-Mail Out of the Spam Filters."

5. Don't stop looking!

No matter how perfect a job is for you, or, even, how great the interview went. Keep reminding yourself that you don't have a job until you have a written job offer, with the right title, salary, and start date.

I've seen too many job seekers pause their job search waiting for that offer they knew they were going to receive - the offer that didn't come from that employer. So they often lost both time and momentum.

Once your job search is rolling along, keep at it until you have that job offer in your hand!

6. Send a thank you for each interview, to each interviewer, both for job interviews and information interviews.

A thank you is a simple courtesy that is so important, and so often ignored by job seekers that you will stand out from the crowd if you send one!

  • Thank them for their time and their consideration.
  • Include the job title and date and time of the interview to help them remember which interviewee you were.
  • Include something to remind them of who you are - maybe a former employer, project,

It's smart to also include a few additional snippets of information that help them see you as the best qualified applicant, particularly if you think something from the interview needs clarification. Or, to provide a better answer to a question they asked that you feel you mishandled.

But keep the thank you short - no longer than one page (2 or 3 short paragraphs).

[More: Sending Your Thank You After the Job Interview with sample thank you notes and emails.]

An e-mailed thank you is acceptable to most employers these days, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey. But, your e-mail may not get through the company spam filters, so your nice gesture (and great follow up!) may be lost.

Off-line, now, is the most reliable, and it's a very nice touch to do it the "old-fashioned way" with REAL paper, envelopes, and stamps - a.k.a. "snail mail."

7. If you receive the dreaded "thanks for your interest, but.." letter or message, respond with a thank you.

A thank you for being turned down? Yes!

I've spoken with countless people who landed their job after initially being turned down for it. They followed up on the rejection, and were at the top of the list when something didn't work out with the "winning" applicant or when the next opening appeared. For tips on how to handle this situation, read Turning Rejection into Opportunity.

NEXT: Step 5 - Tapping the Hidden Job Market


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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