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How to Stay Competitive as a Candidate in Today’s Job Market

Written By: Taylor Gordon, Senior Account Executive at West Coast Careers

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When we evaluate the competitive nature of today’s job market here in Seattle, and even on a national scale, it is simply not enough anymore to just show up on the day of your interview and hope you will get the job. As a Sales Recruiter, one of my main focuses is aiding candidates in thinking outside the box and getting creative in order to break through that mold and stand out against the competition in interviews. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of what I do every day.

Let’s face it, you’re not the only person ABC Company has interviewed for the job this week. Or even today, potentially. And you’re certainly not the last. Interviews are time consuming for the employers, they can be mundane, and they often tend to blend together especially after several combined hours of interviewing in one day. So how do we overcome those obstacles? It’s simple, and it really boils down to what I call “Three P’s.”

  1. Preparation. Seems like a no brainer, right? Wrong. The longer I’m in this business, the more I understand that people either neglect this altogether, or simply don’t know how to prepare for interviews. Preparation takes time, but if you fail to do this you might as well just show up to the interview in sweatpants and a backwards hat – because I promise you, it will show.

o  Research the company – thoroughly. When I ask people what they have done to prepare for interviews I often hear, “I spent about 15 minutes reading over the company website.” Not good enough. The website is a great start – but we have to go deeper. Understand the products and/or services the company offers and be able to describe them to a friend or family member – what the products are, what they’re used for, who they serve, what the value prop is, etc. Research their key competitors in the market, what separates them or makes them different? Read their case studies and customer testimonials to understand the value different types of companies are getting out of the product. Watch videos on YouTube if available. Read news articles and press releases from the company about recent events or tradeshows, new product launches, or employee spotlights. If an employer is going to spend 1 hour interviewing you – your total preparation should be 2-3 times that, as a general rule of thumb. Of course, more never hurts.

o  Naturally, as you dive into your research, you will formulate questions. Especially if your experience is outside of their industry. Compile these questions, write them down. Physically bring them with you to the interview and ask them. These questions lead to valuable, thought provoking conversation and get you away from the “Tell me about yourself.” And you get credit for some of the research you’ve done. Congrats!

2. Presence. Preparation is what you do before the interview. Presence is completely intangible and it’s what you show up with on the day of. Presence has to do with things like your body language, your confidence and how you carry yourself when you walk in the door, your handshake, your eye contact, etc. Presence is usually something employers can’t describe – they like the person and want them on their team, but they can’t exactly put their finger on what it is about them. That is what gives you a competitive edge.

o  When you walk into the office, smile and be friendly and respectful to the Office Manager, Administrative Assistant, or Secretary. Are these the people that ultimately make the decision to hire you or not? No, not necessarily. But they certainly have a voice in that decision. People who come into our office to interview with me and are rude, dismissive, or hassle my Office Manager about the 1 page paper application she asks them to fill out get a quick 3-5 minutes of my time and are sent on their way and wished good luck. The way you treat other people in the organization, especially upon first impression, is a great indication of how you will treat the company’s customers, your peers, and leadership.

o  Confidence goes a long way. You’re likely not an expert on the company or their product, even after the hours of research and preparation you’ve done. But the way you carry yourself and your confidence in your abilities will speak volumes. If you’re not confident in the interview, how can they possibly be confident in their decision to hire you?

3. Persistence. We covered pre-interview and during the interview. But what about post-interview? Be professionally persistent in your follow up with employers. Notice I say, “professional persistence.” Meaning, this does not give you license to call the employers 5 times a day or blow up their email when they’re trying to help their team hit quota at the end of the month. However, I strongly encourage follow up after interviews.

o  Send the employer an email after the interview thanking them for taking time out of their day to discuss YOU and why they should hire you. Reiterate your interest in the company and position and leave them the opportunity to reach back out to you with any questions or next steps. Think emails are impersonal? Send a handwritten note in the mail. This one is a long-lost art, I swear. Candidates that I place into jobs always get handwritten cards from me congratulating them on their new jobs, thanking them for positive online reviews or recommendations they’ve written, referrals they’ve sent my way, etc. It’s an uncommon gesture that communicates a message in itself.

o  Should you get moved forward in the interview process, continue to be persistent. Ask the employer for any material they would like you to study up on or review before your next meeting. Ask if you can prepare anything for them that would help to highlight your abilities. Your persistence will continue to propel you forward in the process and represents the way you will conduct business for the company, professionally but persistently communicating with prospects, pushing deals through the sales process and closing deals.

We could spend an entire day talking about interviews and how to standout in this competitive job market. But thinking about these Three P’s gives you a solid foundation to work with and build from. Our job market is on fire and the unemployment rate in Washington state is below 5%. Interviews are a skill everyone should work to master.