As someone who’s been a small business owner most of my life, it occurred to me that I’ve never gotten a job the traditional way — with a resume and job interview — ever. Instead, I’ve always used creative ways to get in the door and prove myself.
As an inventor with a background in the entertainment industry, I’ve decided to use my experience to help job seekers in an incredibly fierce job market learn to stand out from the crowd. I’ve been involved the past few years in putting on job fairs, and I’ve learned a lot by being the person in the middle (in between the hiring manager and the job seeker.) I’ve also worked with casting agents to hire actors, who — if you think about it — spend their whole lives looking for a job. But regardless of what work you’re seeking, the most important thing is that you have to stand out in a sea of dozens (or even hundreds) of people who also want that same job.
Now, here’s the good news if you’re the person looking: it’s shocking how few people go the extra mile to guarantee they will get the position. I don’t want you to make that mistake – so here are a few tips to help you stand out from the crowd:
- Customize your resume – The typical job posting will bring in an average of several hundred resumes. Google receives over a million resumes every year, but they only hire between 1,000 to 4,000 employees. Put yourself in Google’s position, and imagine what it would be like sifting through that many resumes. They all become a blur at some point; they all seem the same. That’s why you need to take the extra time to customize your resume for the job and the company you’re applying for. Make sure you use the same keywords in your resume that the company uses in their job posting, whether it’s being read by a computer or a human being. Those keywords tell what they’re looking for, so those exact words need to be on your resume. Doing this automatically puts you ahead of your competition. And — if you want to go a step further — add a video resume. According to Chad Newman, owner of Digital Island Media, “A video resume is essentially a pre interview, so make sure it makes a good impression. For the best audio quality, stand close to the camera; standing too far away makes it sound hollow. From the top of your head to your shoulders is a good distance, and it’s intimate enough without being intrusive.”
- Be memorable – Here’s another trick from the entertainment industry. When I worked in TV/film development, we would have to write something called a “logline” for each script we read. It’s basically a one-sentence summary of the entire script. Sounds easy — but summing up an entire 100 plus page script into just one sentence isn’t as easy as it seems. It takes a laser-like focus – and that’s why writing one for yourself as a job seeker is a must. You’ll force yourself to focus on exactly what makes you unique and hirable. A personal logline keeps you from rambling on about your skills and your background — and instead makes a dynamic impact when the hiring person reads it or hears it from you.
- Personalize your interview – Here’s another thing that I rarely see at job fairs, and also rarely saw in casting sessions, but the people who employ it immediately jump to the head of the line: preparation. Do your homework — not only on the company, but also on the person with whom you’ll be interviewing. Be thorough. You may not even use most of the information, but at least you’ll seem more professional and competent than most of your competition. (I can’t tell you how many times actors came in to interview and had no idea what films we had done.) Find out some history on the company. If they sell products, what have they sold in the past? What are their newest products? What are they most proud of? Bring these items up in the interview if you can. If they’ve won awards, compliment them on them. Be sincere and genuine. And most of all, be excited about working there. If you’re not — why are you wasting your time – and theirs?
- Go un-digital – The worst way to be unique and stand out from the crowd is to send an email. It’s impossible to get your real, sparkling personality across in an email, and you shouldn’t even try, unless you’re applying for a job as a writer. Find some other way to make contact. I always suggest face to face if possible. That’s why job fairs are valuable: not because you’re there with hundreds of other people, but because you get a chance to shine face to face. Wanna go the extra mile? Drop your resume off in person. You might get lucky and catch the HR rep in, but even if you don’t, you can at least make a good impression with the receptionist. If you can’t meet HR face to face, at least find a way to talk to them over the phone. (That receptionist you made a good impression on just might put you straight through when you call.) And after a contact, follow up with a hand-written thank you note. It’s more personal, and few people send snail mail these days – so it makes a nice impression.
- Take the path less traveled – If you limit the amount of competition you have, you improve your chances of getting a job. The initial instinct of a job seeker is to go to the big job websites and cast a wide net. But instead of fishing in the big pond with everyone else, find a smaller pond. Figure out how you can whittle your job search down to a niche market. Then, focus on learning everything you can about that market and who the companies are that are hiring now, or — even more important — will be hiring in the future. Get to know them online and off. Connect with them on LinkedIn and join their groups. Follow the conversations and add your advice. Look on sites like NicheNexus.com, and, in the address bar of your browser, try typing your desired career followed by “jobs.com” (as in engineeringjobs.com, marketingjobs.com, etc.)
To get a job — you first have to get through the door. The best way to do that is by standing out from your competition. Yes, you do need to put some extra effort into it, but if it gets you the job — isn’t it worth it?
Guest Writer: Julie Austin
Julie Austin is an award-winning author, inventor, and multiple business owner. Her patented product, swiggies, wrist water bottles, have been a NASDAQ product of the year semi finalist and are currently sold in 24 countries. She’s appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX News, along with dozens of TV shows, magazines and radio shows around the world. She’s a “go-to” media expert in the fields of innovation & creativity, and is featured in the books “Patently Female” and “Girls Think of Everything”.