Standing out in a crowded job market

Job hunting isn’t always an easy road. It can be hard to be noticed if you’re an immigrant or a mum returning to work, if you’re looking for your first job, making a career change, or many other situations that make your search more of a challenge.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can increase your chances of success. By learning how to stand out in a crowded market, you can build more meaningful relationships and get noticed.

Here are some tips.

1) Build great relationships with recruiters

You often have to impress a recruiter before you get noticed by a potential employer. Try to build positive relationships with recruiters so they put you forward for great jobs.

Recruiters are busy people and may take some time to get back to you. Don’t be afraid to follow up, but take care not to irritate them; be friendly and polite whether communicating via phone, email, or in person.

2) Apply for jobs that match your skills

When you’re keen to get noticed, it can be tempting to send out hundreds of CVs every month and apply for every job in your industry but this approach can overwhelm recruiters and be a waste of your and their time.

Instead, be selective. Apply for jobs where your skills and strengths can shine. You’re more likely to stand out if you’re a good fit for the role advertised.

3) Reflect and improve

Take a fresh look at your CV, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Make sure these documents have evolved with your job search and experience.

For more tips on improving your CV, check out my article ‘What does your CV say about you?’

4) Be specific about what you want

Figure out what type of job you want and tell everyone in your network: “I’m looking for X position with X type of company”. The more specific you are, the easier people will find it to help you (including recruiters).

5) Leverage your LinkedIn profile

Are you using your LinkedIn profile to your full advantage? Review your profile to ensure it gives just enough information to pique interest without being overwhelming.

You can also use LinkedIn to share blog posts and articles, interact with former colleagues, and grow your network.

Many employers post jobs on LinkedIn – just make sure you follow their instructions if you want to apply. Never comment with “check my profile” and leave it at that; it’s likely that the recruiter or employer is much too busy to check out individual profiles. It’s much better if you make contact in the way they’ve asked, or submit a tailored application.

For more advice for upping your LinkedIn game, check out my post “Does your LinkedIn profile reflect your awesomeness?”

6) Take care of your best asset: you!

It’s demoralising when you get rejected or don’t even hear back from employers. Persevere, but also take care of yourself. Remind yourself that you’re building resilience and that you’ve done hard things before and you can do them again. And when you’re feeling blue, check in with someone who will be your champion and keep you clear-headed and motivated.

7) Seek career advice

People come to me for career advice when a traditional job search isn’t working for them, when they don’t quite “fit”. My clients include new immigrants, mothers returning to work, people changing career direction, and graduates looking for their first role. They all say how tough it is to be rejected or ignored over and over again.

I’m inspired by how they keep trying, how they adapt and work at it, and how they don’t give up hope. And then there’s the moment when they tell me how they have an offer – that someone has finally seen their value and wants to hire them. It’s the best. Remember the Fresh Prince and how Carlton does the happy dance? That’s how I feel when one of my clients gets a nice role!

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, here’s Carlton doing the happy dance 🙂

Something is better than anything.

be_specificWhen you tell someone you’re looking for a new job, you can expect that their next question is going to be something like “so what are you looking for?”. You’d be surprised how often I hear people answer with “anything”.

They say things like “I’m looking for anything in testing” or “anything in IT” or “anything to do with customer service”.

Imagine it’s your first appointment at a new hairdresser. As you sit down they ask what you want and you answer “anything”. How likely is it that you’ll be happy with the end result?

I can understand that when you’re looking for a new role you may not be sure what kind of roles are available. Or you may actually be willing to do a whole range of things. Or maybe you think by being specific you might not get some other role you’d be perfect for.

But here’s what it sounds like when you say “anything”:

  • It sounds like you haven’t put any thought into what you want, what you could contribute to a company or where you might be valuable.
  • Instead of making you seem open to a range of things it could make you seem desperate or unenthusiastic or vague or lazy. Employers tend to like enthusiasm and driven and focussed people.
  • It could make you look like you don’t care.
  • It’s hard for employers or recruiters or people you’re networking with to mentally match you to roles/companies they know about if they don’t have any idea what it is you want or would be suited to.

When people ask what you’re looking for, you need to help them to help you. Prepare for their questions by considering the items in the list below. You don’t need to have firm answers for all points below … just focus on the things that you feel strongest about.

  1. What do you want from your next role? To develop technical skills or leadership, to stretch yourself, to embed skills you already have?
  2. Do you have an idea of the role you want in the long-term? Is your next role a stepping stone to that or do you want something completely new?
  3. How senior a role do you want? Why? Do you want to be a leader and do you have experience in this? Would you prefer to work in a team or alone? How big a team would you prefer?
  4. What industries have you worked in before that would give you an edge, and what industry do you want next? Why?
  5. What type of company do you want to work for? A small start-up, a growing company, a large corporation?
  6. What type of work environment do you want? Fast-moving, flexible, traditional, innovative? Is the development methodology important to you? Do you want a team where roles are flexible and varied or do you prefer clearly-defined responsibilities?
  7. What salary/benefits would you want ideally and do you have a minimum in mind?
  8. Do you have any must-haves?
  9. What is most important to you? The role, company culture, salary, benefits, training, flexibility, industry, opportunities, location, or other things?

Let’s change those examples above to something a bit more helpful:
“I’m looking for a test lead role at a telco.”
“I want a Java developer role in a large corporate organisation.”
“I want to work part-time in a customer service role.”

Once you have some idea of what is important to you and what you want to aim for, then decide how specific or broad you want to be when telling others. You don’t need to disclose exactly what you want but it’s good to have your ‘first prize’ in mind.

So the next time someone asks what kind of role you’re looking for be ready to replace “anything” with something.

Can recruiters find you, and will they like what they find?

I recently attended an IT recruitment conference that had speakers from many successful and fast-growing companies. The event was about how to attract, recruit and retain IT professionals.

Companies operating in the IT/tech/digitech space are well aware of how hard it is to find good people to fill their vacancies. Presenters at the conference spoke about new methods they’re using to help them with this task.

How companies and recruiters find candidates.

The most common ways for recruiters (in-house or at agencies) to find candidates are:

  • Place an ad on an online job board or on a company’s career page
  • Look at their existing database of previous candidates
  • If they’re in-house recruiters they’ll likely look at their pool of existing staff
  • Ask for referrals
  • Approach people directly

Aside from the channels above there are is now a trend towards looking for people online, via various social media and other channels. Or, maybe they have someone’s name but they want to find out more before they proceed.

The cost of not filling a role or of hiring the wrong person or high so it’s reasonable that companies and recruiters will try to find out as much as they can, and in places you might not expect.

Here are some places they might look.

In most cases below, people can search for a name or more generic terms (e.g. developers in Sydney). Once if they find someone they’ll usually expand out the search to see that person’s contact, followers etc and get even more names of potential candidates.

1. Twitter.   This is a great starting place to see who you follow or interact with, what types of things you post and how you communicate. Use this to your advantage – follow or interact with companies you like or ‘influencers’, post relevant content. Also remember that companies often post vacancies on Twitter so it’s a great place to see what roles they offer and how they deal with candidates.

2. LinkedIn.   Recruiters are likely to have a look at your LinkedIn profile, but they also search more generically for people with certain skills or in specific locations. This means you should keep your profile up -to-date (but remember to disable notifications if you don’t want your current employer to suspect you’re thinking of moving). Do you have a title showing what you currently do or what you’re looking for? Do you have a few, specific recommendations from people about how you work? (See my other blog about creating a good Linkedin profile and CV.)

3. Facebook.   Depending on your privacy settings there could be a wealth of information on Facebook that you don’t realise is public. Check what your profile looks like to people who aren’t friends and edit posts/photos that you want to remain private.

4. Instagram.   As with all social media, employers can tell a lot about you from what you post or respond to.

5. GitHub.   I’ve heard many times that if you’re a developer you need to have a GitHub profile.

6. Meetup.   If I was looking for someone with, for example, testing automation experience, one of the first places I’d look would be the local meetups. I’d get the list of members and then cross-reference them with other places (Twitter, LinkedIn etc). If you belong to meetups, make sure your profile – for each group you belong to – is up-to-date.

7. Google.   A plain, old Google search might yield lots of information about you or people like you. Google+ is used in some countries but not in others. For example, if you work in India (or if you want to be found by an Indian company), you need a Google+ profile. A reverse image lookup (drag an image and drop into the search bar) might take searchers to other places online where your details can be found.

8. Online.   Searchers might look at sites where tech people can offer their services or display their portfolios. You might be found on one of these – Bēhance, Elance, Upwork, peopleperhour, Fiverr, dribble, etc. What about if you leave a review with you name on TripAdvisor, AirBnB, eating out sites etc? People can get a sense of your tone, your attitude and what you do in your spare time.

What will they find out about you?

It’s not only about how you might be found, but also what information people might uncover when they find you.

  • If you use your name in any of these sites or applications then make sure you have content that won’t discourage potential employers.
  • Keep in mind the image you are portraying online. Does your online presence give the impression that you’d be a suitable employee for the kind of company you want to work for?
  • You don’t need to sign up to all the sites listed above. Only do so if it makes sense (e.g. if you’re a developer then GitHub is a good place to start).

candidateSo, be aware of your presence online, but possibly even more importantly be honest, professional and hard-working … these are the things that will ultimately create your reputation.