Best Ways to Stand Out During Job Search

May 25, 2021

6 Min Read

For most people, landing a job and the job seeking process is stressful and time consuming. You have to comb through job listings, reach out to your network, and sift through pages upon pages of “About Us” introductions from companies. Although it may feel gruelling while you’re deep in the searching process, the truth is, recruiters and companies also have a similar issue of finding the right candidate.

HR teams and recruiters sometimes get hundreds, if not thousands of applicants for a single opening. There is no way one recruiter can efficiently sift through that many resumes and cover letters manually to give each candidate the same level attention. They rely on text crawlers that go through resumes to catch specific keywords so that they can automatically filter out experience that doesn’t sound relevant.

So how do you stand out if you’re one in a thousand applicants? StackCache has a few recommendations.

Optimize Your Resume

Use tools like Jobscan to match specific keywords from the job description you’re applying for with your resume. The cool thing about these tools is that they recognize hard skills like specific coding languages versus soft skills like communication and leadership. What this does is help you optimize the keywords in your resume so that it’s more likely to pass an initial automatic filter by the hiring company. Many times, if a job only has one position but receives tens or hundreds of applications, recruiters will use their own tools to scan resumes for the right keywords before they manually review each application. This helps them save time on people who are unlikely to get through the first round of interviews. 

As a minimum, it’s helpful to leverage tools like Jobscan to do a quick optimization of your resume before you submit the application.

Include a Cover Letter

If there is an option to send in a cover letter with your application, do it. Any opportunity to showcase more of your expertise, values, or ambitions is one you should take. You can check out more cover letter specific tips on our “How to Write a Technical Cover Letter” page but we recommend taking advantage of this part of the job application.

It’s important not to send in a generic cover letter to every one of your applications because hiring managers will be able to tell that you didn’t take time to research the role or organization.

Problem Solving and Overcoming Challenges

Once you get to the stage of the job application process where you get to speak with prospective team members, it helps to have a treasure trove of stories ready to be shared. Especially for tech roles where problem solving is an integral part of the job, you’re probably going to be prompted to tell the interviewer about a time you were able to get through a tough project or problem. Think of times where you directly impacted the outcome of an issue and include specific examples you can tell the company. It sometimes helps to include metrics like “with my contribution to project XYZ, our release efficiency increased by 20% or 10 fewer hours per cycle”. 

In order to get to know how you think, it’s common that interviewers ask similar questions or request more examples so be ready with a handful of scenarios you can speak to. Perhaps focus on a variety of angles like a time where you showed leadership, another instance where you didn’t get the outcome you wanted, or a difficult situation where you had to deal with conflict with others.

Ask Thoughtful Questions

Remember that interviews are always a two way street and you should look for a job and company that is a good fit for you as well as the other way around. We also believe that the opportunity to ask questions is a good way to highlight your strengths. Are you asking basic questions that every other candidate asks? Are you focusing on the right aspects of the job? For example, if a candidate keeps asking about perks of the role but not the substance, it’s probably not a good experience for the hiring manager. Their read of the situation might be that this candidate is only looking for supplementary benefits of the job rather than having a strong interest in the role itself. 

As a guideline, think of questions that will help you understand what your part will be within the larger team or organization. If having a variety of challenges or a strong sense of camaraderie is important to you, bring up those specific points and ask the interviewer to give examples of where they can find that in the company. If you are a forward thinker, ask questions around long term goals for the organization and how your role can support those. These types of questions can lead the way for a deeper discussion around the job and the fit. If you stick with simple questions like “can you tell me what a typical day looks like?” you may end up getting stuck on the basics. More open-ended questions help broaden the conversation.

Presenting Potential Solutions

Once you get far along the interview process to the final rounds, it’s time to show what you’re really made of. Some employers may ask you to complete some sort of homework assignment but regardless of whether they do or not, StackCache recommends you go above what is required to stand out from the rest. From your earlier conversations with people from the company, did you get a sense of what some of their top priorities were in the near term? If you did, putting together a deck with ideas on how to tackle these top issues is a great way to show how proactive and creative you are. 

If you get a chance to present your ideas, even better. You can do a live Q&A to show more of how you think. Even if you don’t get time to present the deck in real time, being able to convey your thoughts clearly in a visual format is also beneficial. It will show the hiring manager that you took something away from the interviews and lets them imagine how you would fit onto their team. A few things to keep in mind as you work on this supplemental deck are:

  1. Don’t overwhelm the audience with information. In addition to trying to find their next team member, interviewers are working full-time jobs and won’t have a ton of time to review your work.
  2. Include some market or industry research if relevant. There are sites that release data for the public to use including government agencies like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or private ones like Statista. 
  3. Sending a badly created deck can also do damage. If your presentation is riddled with mistakes and typos, it could reveal you don’t have much attention to detail. Take time in making sure the deliverable is up to quality standard before sharing.

The last thought we want to leave with you as you continue on your job seeking journey is that you should spend time wisely on roles you actually want. A lot of the suggestions we’ve included in this article are time consuming to prepare for. Make sure you invest in something you actually want to see yourself doing in the future. Otherwise, it may be back to square one if you land a job that isn’t what you thought it would be!

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