Great candidates come in all shapes and sizes. Just because you have a raft of qualifications and/or experience in a certain area doesn’t mean you’re an ideal candidate for every role that interests you. The problem is complex when fewer roles are advertised, and more and more applicants (often 100+) are applying for each role. So how can you stand out and catch the recruiter’s attention?
Lately, I am coming across more clients wanting to change careers for a variety of different reasons. Many of these clients would like to de-stress their lives and are seeking what they consider, a less stressful role. Whilst most of these clients are well qualified and highly experienced in their current field, I often get the impression they think they’ll be a certainty for those ‘lesser’ roles they’re applying for. The problem with this thought process is that the recruiter doesn’t see it that way. There are many reasons for this – not least of which is that you just don’t have the same level of experience in THAT particular area as other candidates might have.
One of my recent clients was a qualified lawyer who had been working in private practice for about ten years and had built up an impressive array of experience and skills. For personal reasons, this client was seeking a lower to mid-level administration role. In her words, she felt she’d be able to do these roles ‘standing on her head’. She had already applied for a number of roles she thought suited her well but hadn’t received any feedback. The problem stemmed from her Resume not addressing many (if any) of the requirements of roles she was applying for. She felt her legal expertise and experience spoke for itself and would be jumped at by recruiters looking for someone to take on an administrative role. However this just wasn’t the case. We talked about realigning her existing skills and thinking about her legal experience in the context of the roles she was applying for so she became more competitive with the other candidates who had current administration specific experience. Once her Resume was tweaked and targeted, she began to gain some traction with interviews.
So what are some of the surprising things that might make you a good candidate – particularly if you’re heading in a new direction?
Uniqueness: Ask yourself why you’re the best candidate for the job and cover off those reasons in your application. If you’re low on experience in the actual field you’re applying in (even if you have what you believe is higher level experience) think about your transferrable skills and how they’ll contribute to your success. Read our previous article on Why transferable skills matter for tips on identifying and articulating those skills.
Value Add: know how you add value. Talking about your achievements is essential in a Resume and application, but quantifying how you add value is even more important. Using quantifiable numbers and data is the best approach, however if you honestly can’t do that there are other ways to demonstrate your worth. Using the STAR approach to identify and articulate your value is a great place to start.
Social Media Links: recruiters will search for you on social media, so including your links saves them time and shows openness and professionalism. You should include LinkedIn, and any work related Blogs, but avoid Facebook and other personal social media pages. See our article Want the job? Audit your online profile for tips on social media content.
Career Breaks: most candidates are determined to hide career breaks, but this needn’t be the case. Many recruiters see career breaks as an essential part of the career development process. So long as you can show that you didn’t lie around on the couch all day – it can be seen as a valuable, personally, and professionally fulfilling time. Leaving a job to travel can show that you’re not afraid of change, that you’re independent, and comfortable with unfamiliar situations. Experiences like volunteer work, study, or other worthwhile pursuits can demonstrate your good character and could attract the recruiter’s interest.
Volunteer Work and Side Projects: If you’re using your spare time to help others, develop a side business, or work on developing some kind of unique skill set, this can also be of interest. Volunteering is also a great approach if you’re finding it hard to break into a new area – by volunteering in a role that exposes you to the type of work you’re seeking, you can start to develop some of the new skills that might be required.
Failures: Huh?? Yes, failures! Perhaps not an item for your Resume, but certainly something to think about for the interview. Learning from your mistakes and being able to talk about them openly and frankly is a great asset for any candidate. Employers are interested in hearing about new things you’ve tried and how you learnt from your mistakes if things didn’t go exactly to plan. This can demonstrate a proactive approach and willingness to innovate – attractive traits for any good employee.
Don’t be afraid of using specific examples and details of accomplishments and achievements to show your successes. Employers want to see that information – in a cluttered market, having details about the value you added in previous roles, helps them to visualise you as a good candidate and might mean the difference between you being selected for an interview or not.
Would you like some help identifying your key assets and understanding what might make you a more impressive candidate for your next application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services.