“What do I need to do to get a job?” While I appreciate the confidence our candidates have in our ability to fill searches, there is no magic “job placement” formula I can give them. Big Data plays a valuable role in recruiting, but we cannot input a name, education and experience, and expect “the perfect job” to appear. But candidates are honestly looking for advice to help navigate the sometimes treacherous path of job searching. What it comes down to in the end, is this: “Tell me why you’re a better fit than the guy/girl standing next to you?”

The state of the job market continues to improve. Unemployment has dropped to 5.7% nationally, and here in our beautiful town of San Diego, it has dropped to 5.2%. The gradual thawing of the hiring freeze is great news for the unemployed job seekers who have been searching for a long time, as well as passive seekers who are ready to up their game. The increase in hiring is also evidence of another important trend: competition for jobs is becoming even more fierce. This elevated level of competition should not be a deterrent to those ready to jump back into their search. It simply means you need to come to the table with you’re A-Game.

For those of you who want to know what you need to do to get the job, here are 3 important tips to stand OUT so you get hired ON…

1. Know your Value Proposition: Although you’re the one looking for a job, your search isn’t all about you. A strong candidate knows her market, in addition to knowing herself. In order to prove you are the best candidate for the position, you have to first know the company’s needs, trends and hot buttons. Next, it’s time to determine your unique, non-cliché and relevant Differentiation. Knowing what your market is looking for, how your experience differs from your competition, and how a company will benefit from hiring you over your competitors is imperative to making a compelling case. Remember, in some cases – most notably, bigger companies looking for a domain or technical expert in a specific niche or discipline – you don’t have to be a “jack of all trades.” You simply have to be a “captain of YOUR industry”, with a deep understanding of the position, success factors and latest trends. On the other hand, if you are applying for a position in a smaller company, your ability to “wear multiple hats” and contribute across departments will be key to your success.

2. Define your Professional DNA: Drive- What truly motivates you? Recently I had an experience with a long delay for a flight to Northern California. As I watched the passengers not so subtly express their displeasure to the airline employees, I couldn’t help but wonder who in their right mind would want to work for an airline. I suppose one could ask that question regarding any profession, couldn’t they? Something, other than a paycheck, drives those people to want to work for an airline. What drives you to get up for work each day? Niche: Like your Value Proposition, your niche defines your unique characteristics that set you apart. It is the most common thread that runs through each and every one of your most significant achievements. Lastly, your Accomplishments are key to defining who you are as a professional, and the experiences in your life that define you – both personally and professionally. These are the things that make you stand OUT against your peers.

3. Listen to Your Mother: Most of us learned the basic lessons regarding professional and respectable behavior at a relatively young age. Although we live in an ultra-cool world where it’s acceptable to carry coffee into church or sit in a restaurant while chatting on the latest and greatest device, there are certain truths that remain- especially in the professional world. First, it’s important to look the part. If in doubt, overdress. If you’ve done the research yet can’t determine the dress code, assume it’s conservative. Be a good listener. You’ve been told all your life to use your words. In a professional interview that is not always the case. Stop talking and listen. You can learn a lot about what your employer is looking for as well as what he/she values. Stop and think before you respond. Say thank you! Thank you notes seem to be a dying skill. However, they go a long way to showing both gratitude for the opportunity to learn more about the company, and the chance to show why you are the best candidate for the job. Well-crafted thank you notes also communicate respect for those who gave their time to interview you, and a genuine interest in establishing a relationship. Finally, don’t try to fit in with the wrong crowd. While your mother was probably referring to you avoiding the “troublemakers”, in the professional crowd, it simply means that you should apply to companies and jobs where you can add value and feel comfortable with the culture of the employee base.

I wish there was a simple answer to the “how do I get a job” question. As recruiters, we can give a lot of advice. As candidates, you can invest a lot of time researching the company in question. Ultimately, however, it’s up to you to market your best product: you.

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