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8 Ways to Become the Strongest Candidate in the Job Market

Sep 2, 2008
Whether you are male or female, 22 or 62, live in west coast or east, being ready to handle the challenges posed by the job market can be the key to professional success. With nearly 2 million people unemployed in the US, individuals need to be more than just prepared, they need to position themselves as the strongest candidate in their field in a bid to reduce the average 19 weeks (Bureau of Labor Statistics) it takes to get a job.

This turbulent economy has many individuals fearing for their jobs, so use this time as an opportunity to take stock of how prepared you would be if you found yourself out of work. Whether you are planning a career change, are actively seeking work or just making sure you are prepared for any eventuality - here are 8 steps to help you to be the strongest candidate in your field.

1. Strong resume

Your career history and future plans will determine what style of resume you use (functional, combination or chronological) but whatever the style remember that your resume is not simply a list of your responsibilities but more a record of how well you carried out those responsibilities. A useful method to help you create a strong resume is the mnemonic is CARS. For each job held think of Challenges you faced, Actions you took, Results or outcomes and finally Skills / Strengths that this showed you have. Using this story to create a sentence that speaks to how successful you were at your previous role.

E.g.

C - We needed to recruit 10 nurses before the opening of a new hospital ward in 4 wks time
A - Worked with team to create a shorter recruitment turnaround time, created a Team Leader specific to the project and negotiated the buy in of senior managers to sign off new recruits.
R - Recruited and trained all 10 within the 3 weeks, reducing the predicted $500k agency spend.
S - Negotiation, team leadership, meet deadlines, motivation, intuition and creative problem solving.

Resume - Successfully managed a team that recruited 10 nurses, expedited their training and start date in order to meet a 1 month deadline, saving the hospital a predicted $500k in agency spend.

2. Cover letter

The cover letter elaborates on the points you have made in your resume and acts as supporting statement. The cover letter should be specific to the job or company you are applying to. If you do not have a specific job to apply to, then locate the company website of the person you are sending it to and note the language they use, note their vision or mission and use that language in your letter.

3. Informational interviews

Informational interviews are useful for people who know where they are going next as well as those who don't have a clue. They are, as the title would suggest, an opportunity to meet professionals who can share their professional success stories with you. Identify people who are doing the job you want to be doing or people who are a living the lifestyle that you want. They are both great targets. In formational interviews are a great networking tool and will highlight you as someone who is proactively looking for a new opportunity. Treat this is an interview - research the company, prepare some strong questions and always end by asking - who do you know who can help me......

4. Networking -

Both in person and online networking is a great way to boost your job search. Work through which style of networking events work for you (breakfast meeting or bar based events etc.) and set yourself some targets on how many to attend on a weekly basis. Make the best out the networking events by following up with each of the people you meet and asking - Who do you know who can help me.....
Resources - www.bni.com www.meetup.com www.ingoodcompanyworkplaces.com www.linkedin.com

5. Variety of job listing

There are so many job boards. It is useful to have a variety that you receive notifications from. For example www.ladders.com / www.jobfox.com / www.craigslist.com / www.linkedin.com

6. More than just recruiters

Recruiters are a useful resource but do not solely rely on them. Take some initiative for yourself and use other job search sites to help with your job search www.jobfox.com (not for career changers) or www.linkedin.com

7. Professional Development

Keeping up to date with relevant training and development it really important so, begin to identify organizations that coordinate training relevant to you and regularly review their schedules, signing up where appropriate.

8. Interview skills

When you are actively looking for a new role, you use interview skills all the time - informational interviews, networking, creating your resume or cover letter, speaking to recruiters. Take time to practice how you talk about yourself. For example - how might you answer -Tell me about yourself? Or, what are your strengths and weaknesses? Behavioral interview techniques are also becoming more common so take time to practice some behavioral questions, for example - Tell me about a time you have motivated a team? Or, tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss? And finally, practice your handshake with a friend and make sure you have a firm confident handshake.

Use these 8 points to form the basis of your job search preparation and be comfortable with your strength in the job market.
About the Author
Lou Clark is a Career and Interview Coach and founder of Ętre Coaching based in NYC. With a successful background in Human Resource Management, formal coach training & accreditation with the ICF, Lou is experienced in providing interview, resume and career coaching. Visit Etre Coaching!
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