Staying Competitive in Today’s Job Market

December 24, 2012

Lately, check I’ve heard more and more of my clients say to me “Oh Irene, the competition is so tough out there. Each time I’m applying for a role, I’m competing against 100 or more candidates. How can I even get noticed, let alone compete?”

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

That got me thinking. What a really scary reality to be living in, thinking that for each job that you apply for, there will be a mountain of applicants just like you, who all want the job and are ready to sell themselves or their left kidney in order to be noticed. The overarching feeling they have towards job-hunting is that it’s close to impossible.

The reality is, it’s really not like that at all. In my years of working in recruitment and human resources, I’ve been many a time tasked with putting a job ad online and then waiting for the applications to roll in. And yes, hundreds do pour in at times. But there are a few things that women of today need to know – something that will allow you to keep your head high, stay positive, and not lose sight of the bigger picture.

  1. Yes the competition is high, but the calibre of GREAT applicants is low.
  2. To put things into perspective, out of 100 applicants, 90 are an immediate no, and 10 applicants are a maybe.
  3. Out of those 10 maybes, 5 will be a yes.

Therefore, the actual competition is not so high after all. You just have to ensure that you are can compete with the top 5%!

How do you do this you may ask?

Well, the best way to get ahead of the back of the pack, and stay ahead of the top of the pack is by focusing on the THREE levels of communication i.e. the written, verbal and non-verbal levels:

1) Written Communication

  1. Your Resume, Cover Letter & LinkedIn profile is what I’m talking about here. Ensure that you go through these with a fine tooth comb. Be clear and concise. Your resume must INSTANTLY grab. Information above the fold when you open it on your screen, is the most critical. It needs to sell you in the first 5 seconds, because if you haven’t captured your audience by then, you’ve lost them for good! Don’t forget, there’s another 99 applications to go through. You only have a few seconds to show ‘em what you’ve got!
  2. Don’t just list your responsibilities on LinkedIn and in your resume. Explain what makes you different from others. What achievements have you had? What projects have you worked on? What value do you bring to your employer, your team, your customers? Why should they hire you?
  3. Don’t overuse buzz words. Keep it simple. If the words are too fancy and too big, recruiters will skip that part, which is an extra reason to put you into the ‘no’ pile.
  4. NO spelling mistakes, please. You’ll automatically be culled then.

2) Verbal Communication

  1. If your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile did you justice, then well done. It means that you’re already in the top 10%! Now is when the real test begins. This is your chance to outshine the others that are left. You will get a phone call from a recruiter who politely will ask to have a chat with you. Don’t be fooled into being too relaxed here – the real reason for this call is to figure out what your communication skills are like.
  2. Find a quiet room, don’t eat or drink during this conversation, slow down to a pace that is slightly slower than how you would usually speak and speak clearly and articulately.
  3. Before you get the all-important phone call, practice talking to yourself out aloud about why you’re leaving your current role, what you do in your current role and the ones prior (summarise each role into a few sentences), and be firm about your salary expectations.
  4. It’s important to know what you want, yet still have a degree of flexibility. Someone who values the importance of the ‘right job’ rather than being caught up in the location, the industry or the salary, is a lot more appealing to recruiters.
  5. Prepare for the real interview. This may seem obvious, but you must think about the key capabilities that a hiring manager would be looking for in a new recruit, and have examples ready to explore during interview. Think about a time where you’ve demonstrated leadership, a time where you’ve been able to work in a team, a time where you’ve been able to juggle conflicting priorities, a time that you’ve had to be extremely organised, and so on, so forth.

3) Non-Verbal Communication

  1. You’ve made it into the top 5%! Now, if this stage is really mastered, you’ll win the job. Most communication happens on the non-verbal level, in fact approximately 85% does. Funny thing is, most people don’t even consider this part!
  2. When I say non-verbal communication, I mean the things you project about yourself without even saying a word. Ever wonder why certain salesmen make you feel really uncomfortable? They say all the right words. They care about you and your needs. But something seems off? Do you know what that is? It’s their non-verbal communication. Whilst their words are sending the message “I care” their non-verbal communication is saying “buy this buy this buy this” and nobody likes to feel pressured. Hence, the uneasy feeling that something just isn’t right.
  3. Be confident in yourself, and *believe* that you can do the job. If you believe in this, you will project that reality, and ultimately that’s what the manager wants. If underneath your answers, lies doubt and worry, you won’t be able to build rapport, your doubt will shine through in the way that you answer questions, and this will undermine all Verbal Communication and the words that you’ve worked so hard to get out there.

Moral of the story: Ensure that your Written, Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication send the same message. And THAT, is how you get stay competitive in today’s job market!

Irene Kotov is the founder of Resume Writers Brisbane, a consultancy that helps people effectively manage their careers. Irene works with clients to uncover their passion, and navigates their way to making it a reality. Through Resume Writing Services and Interview Coaching, Irene helps job-seekers create an impactful personal brand that has them stand out above the rest.

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