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Standing Out From the Job-Hunting Pack

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At first glance, the numbers are intimidating: every year, hundreds of schools churn out thousands of graduates in a wide variety of technical disciplines. That’s a lot of people competing for the same pool of jobs, especially in popular disciplines such as programming and data analytics.

So how does the individual job applicant stand out amidst this scrum? Here are some tips:

Differentiate Your Résumé with Data

If a recruiter places ten résumés side-by-side, chances are good that the majority of them will appear virtually identical in formatting and template: contact information, education, list of jobs and skills, and so on.

If a recruiter is evaluating hundreds (or even thousands) of résumés for a position, the potential for any one résumé attracting attention dwindles even further. The trick to preventing your résumé from getting lost in the not-so-proverbial shuffle: use data and metrics to show your very real impact on your previous companies’ projects and bottom line.

Most candidates detail what they did without showing how their activities advanced their firms’ respective agendas. By showing how your work translated into completed projects, added revenue, cost reductions, and efficiencies, you automatically stand out from the crowd as an effective worker. And the quickest and easiest way to show those results is through data.

With that in mind, take another look at your current résumé. While you might be prevented from sharing exact numbers (proprietary information, and all that), you can always say that you helped a business expand to twice its size, or created a project that led all other company initiatives in revenue, or that your latest app hit a certain position in Apple’s App Store. For example:

Old Résumé Point: Assisted IT in servicing employees throughout organization.

Now add some digits:

New Résumé Point: Expanded IT support to 5,000+ users in 20 global locations.

Much more compelling, no? Numbers give an employer confidence that you have what it takes to wrangle huge projects under pressure, and execute on plans.

Get Ready to Show How You Did It

It’s one thing to load up your résumé with data points; it’s another entirely to ace a job interview, where you must think on your feet and provide unique answers.

Most job interviewers are trying to get a handle on how your abilities and background can help their company. As a result, many questions will delve into your work history, with an eye toward discovering how you tackle challenges. So when asked about your previous experience, don’t rely on jargon and formulaic answers; instead, come up with a narrative that covers your previous experience:

  • What the situation was like when you arrived at your old company
  • What you did to improve it
  • The end result

By creating an arc that clearly shows your influence on a company or project, you demonstrate that you’re someone who delivers results. Walking the interviewer through specific examples has the added bonus of showing you’re detail-oriented.

Thank You Notes

Lots of people send post-interview thank-you notes; it’s the right thing to do. In addition to being a common courtesy, however, thank-you notes are another opportunity for you to stand out from the pack.

Instead of a generic missive (“I appreciate your time and await your response”), take a few paragraphs to refer to points from your conversation; also reiterate why you’re particularly suited for the job.

If the hiring process drags on for some time—not an impossibility, given how long it takes to fill certain roles—you can send a follow-up note in which you reference the job interview and note your latest achievements. That will (hopefully) keep you front-of-mind with the interviewer and hiring manager.

Nick Kolakowski/Dice

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