With the U.S. unemployment rate hovering around 4 percent—lower than it’s been in a decade—there’s rarely been a better time to be a job applicant. However, even in a market that favors job-seekers, 71 percent of job applicants admit that they find themselves stressed out by the job application and interview process.
While, short of not interviewing at all, there’s little to be done to make the job hunt less nerve-racking, there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure you stand out from your fellow interviewees. We’ve rounded up the top tips from hiring managers, ensuring you’ll land the perfect job in no time. And when you’re ready to take your job search to the next level, discover the 40 Best Ways to Jumpstart Your Career!
While any good résumé should paint a rosy picture of your accomplishments, it won’t be difficult for a hiring manager to tell when you’re outright lying. “You’d be absolutely astounded by the number of people who think they can hoodwink their way into a job,”says one hiring manager. “It’s almost as if they assume that hiring managers don’t know anything about their own industries, or that applications just need to include the right keywords.”
Think of Inventive Answers
If you’ve landed an interview, try to make yourself stand out from the pack with inventive answers. When asked about your weaknesses, don’t state that you’re a perfectionist. When asked about your strengths, don’t simply rehash what’s written on your résumé.
“I asked [a candidate] some level 2 and 3 questions and he drew a blank on one, but followed up with ‘I could Google it easily,'” recalls one hiring manager. “So, I kinda jokingly, kinda seeing what his thought process would be, said ‘what if you were unable to Google it?’ And he immediately came back with ‘If this job is somewhere where I can’t access Google I don’t want it.’ [He] worked here for 2 years.”
They Don’t Want to Hear That You’re Gunning for Their Job
Hiring managers are people with bills to pay, just like you. Unless you want to have yourself automatically disqualified, don’t tell them you’re eager to someday have their job. They likely worked hard for that job and, odds are, they want to keep it. However you can still demonstrate your initiative by saying that you’re eager to grow with a company and do what it takes to expand upon your skill set along the way.
Use a Professional Email Address
When you’re sending in job applications, make sure you’re using an email address that wouldn’t cause a conservative hiring manager to faint. “I’m shocked at how people will use (I’m guessing) their personal (and not very professional) email addresses,” says one hiring manager. If your email address has any references to sex or drugs in it, make another one—preferably one that’s just your name—with which to send out résumés. And after you’ve adopted a more professional email address, discover The Single Best Way to Sign Your Emails!
Don’t List Your Hobbies
Once you’ve landed the job, you’re welcome to regale your co-workers with tales of your fly-fishing trips and your macramé projects. However, those hobbies don’t have a place on your résumé. “Why do I care if you’re into tennis, or enjoy cross stitch?” asks one hiring manager.
Personalize Your Cover Letter
If you’re not tailoring your cover letter to the job you’re applying to, don’t be surprised if you don’t get asked in for an interview. A cover letter written specifically for the job you’re inquiring about will make you stand out from the pack.
“Applications offered without a personalized introduction tend to get moved to the bottom of the pile,” says one hiring manager. “Form letters are incredibly easy to recognize, and they give the impression that a given applicant is more interested in getting hired than actually doing the job.”
Have a Sense of Humor
While you don’t want to seem like you’re not taking the interview seriously, a sense of humor can go a long way. “Our director asked the candidate to describe his ideal co-worker. He pointed at our videographer and said ‘that guy,’” says one hiring manager. “We hired him.”
Don’t Try to Make Your Résumé Stand Out Visually
Using visual tricks to make your résumé look different from those of other applicants is a universally bad idea. “I hate résumé that are (pick one or multiple): more than one page; double spaced; have dumb framing lines or whatever they are; all sorts of colors; tiny font; giant font,” says one hiring manager.
Others caution against using oddly-sized paper in an effort to make your résumé stand out visually. And never, ever, ever use Comic Sans. Luckily, weird fonts and oddly-sized paper aren’t the only ways to make your résumé stand out: The Secret Trick for Getting Your Résumé Noticed will have employers champing at the bit to hire you.
Only List Recent Accomplishments
It’s great that you won that trombone competition in middle school. However, your résumé isn’t a great place to tell people about it. If you want to wow a hiring manager, only list accomplishments that are relevant to the job, and preferably ones from the last decade.
If You’re Going to List an Objective, Tailor it to the Job
If you write an objective on your résumé, make sure it’s specific to the job you’re applying for.
“The classic first line ‘objective: to obtain full/part time employment in your company/business.’ As soon as I read that line I set them to the side,” says one hiring manager. Luckily, once you’ve landed that dream job, the 20 Daily Confidence Boosters for Getting Ahead at Work will be a major asset.
Don’t Refer to Yourself in the Third Person
Don’t write your résumé as though it’s about someone else. Write it in the first person, or you’ll come across as an oddball, at best. “Stop referring to yourself in the 3rd person. This isn’t a press release,” recommends one hiring manager.
Try Not to Scare Anyone With Your Skills
If your skill set is irrelevant, don’t put it on an application. If you’re applying for an accounting position, don’t mention your cake-decorating skills. And unless you’re applying for a job that requires hand-to-hand combat, listing anything about how good you are at violence is a bad idea. Says one hiring manager of a particularly creepy candidate: “He had ‘fighting skills’ listed. We move boxes.”
Ask Questions, But Don’t Pry
Having a few questions about the company you’re interviewing with shows initiative and makes it clear you’ve done your research. However, asking personal questions about your interviewer is unlikely to go over well. “A girl stopped me mid question (she even put her hand up) to ask my star sign. Then the star sign of my significant other. Then she asked me to describe our relationship,” says one interviewer.
Clean Up Your Social Media Presence
Before you even think about applying for a job, make sure your social media presence is locked down. Anything that remains up, even on a private account, should be inoffensive. That means removing photos of yourself drunk or high, as well as anything that could be considered misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, racist, ableist, or generally demeaning or insulting.
“[It] turned out [a candidate] did one of these upskirt photos at his previous place of business in addition to uploading revenge porn of his ex-fiancé. There was a Tumblr page of all of his extra-curricular activities,” reveals one hiring manager of a particularly harrowing client search.
Be Up Front About Any Skeletons in Your Closet
Everybody has some skeletons in their closet. While having a criminal record may make finding a position more difficult, having your employer find out about it on their own is even worse. “I was interviewing a much older guy for a similar position of mine. Everything seemed okay, and he was our best candidate. Before moving forward, I did a quick Google search to only find out that he was fired from his previous job because of stealing $5000 worth of computer equipment,” reveals one hiring manager. Honesty will only get you so far, however. When you want to put yourself on track for that corner office, This is the Fastest Way to Get Promoted!
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