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8 Job Search Strategies for Standing Out in a Crowded Market

If you’re searching for a new role in today’s competitive job market, you may be struggling to catch a hiring manager’s attention. Thanks to the pandemic-driven unemployment, more people are seeking jobs right now and finding it difficult to distinguish themselves from other applicants. 

That’s a concern many of your fellow job seekers share — 53.8% of would-be applicants worry about standing out in a competitive job market in the coming year, according to iHire’s 2021 State of Online Recruiting Report

At a time when more applications than usual are filling the average hiring manager’s inbox, your best move is to tap into every advantage you can to separate yourself from the rest. Here are eight job search strategies to help you stand out from the pack and land that job. 


1. Customize Your Cover Letter 

Although it can be time-consuming, tailoring your cover letter to the specific job you’re applying for is a smart strategy. That might mean you have to narrow your job search process to focus only on the jobs you really want. Start by addressing your cover letter with the hiring manager’s name. Then, comb through the job posting to mine keywords, skills, and qualifications that the company is seeking. Include those same words to describe what you’ll bring to the company. However, ensure that your cover letter is not a rehash of your resume – delve into what, specifically, makes you the ideal fit for the open position.


Person holding resume during interview


2. Polish Your Resume 

If you haven’t tinkered with your resume in a long time, give it a thorough review now. Along with your cover letter, tailor your resume to the specific job for which you’re applying. Use words from the job description to describe your skills, qualifications, and experience. Include a brief personal branding statement — think of it like an elevator pitch — that summarizes what you’ll bring to the position and how you’ll be an excellent fit for that particular company.


3. Quantify Your Results 

In your cover letter, resume, and interview, highlight tangible results you’ve produced in similar roles to establish yourself as a results-oriented and performance-driven worker. For example, in your cover letter, you might say, “During my tenure as Social Media Manager for Acme Company, I increased customer engagement with social media profiles by 35%.”


4. Create Online Buzz 

Strengthening your online presence happens to be one of the least-used job search strategies – so it’s an instant attention-grabber. When prospective employers “Google” you, you want your skills, accomplishments, and experience to land in the top results. To make that happen, create an online portfolio (LinkedIn is a great place to start) or blog/website detailing your career path and expertise. It’s also a good idea to clean up your social media profiles now, making sure they project a professional image.


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5. Provide Employers with a Portfolio or Work Samples 

Give your application an edge by preparing a portfolio or work samples. Ideally, choose between three and five samples of recent work related to the position you’re seeking. Remember that the hiring manager’s time is limited, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing projects. Include a brief description of each sample, such as, “This is a pitch I created for a medical manufacturer’s advertising campaign.”


6. Follow Up 

To keep your application from falling into the dreaded resume black hole, follow up by phone or email about a week or two after you submit it. Keep the conversation short and ask if the person can verify that they’ve received the application or if you can provide additional information. If you’re writing an email, remind the hiring manager briefly of your qualifications for the role. (Of course, if the job posting specifically discourages applicants from reaching out about their status, you should respect those wishes.)


7. Connect with Your Network 

You never know who might be able to offer you job search help or advice. Reach out to former colleagues, mentors, and other members of your existing network to let them know you’re in need of job hunting tips. Resolve to grow your network by joining professional associations or attending conferences. If you happen to know someone who works at a company that’s currently hiring, ask if they’d be willing to provide a referral. Since employers pay special attention to employee referrals — even offering referral bonuses — it can help you elevate your application to the front of the pack.


Training and development on keyboard


8. Continue Your Education 

The job search process can be long and frustrating, but you can use this time to your advantage by investing in your future education. Think about which skills would make you more employable, perhaps by searching for a listing of similar jobs and identifying the most in-demand skills employers require. You don’t necessarily have to go back to school to set yourself apart in a crowded job market, although you might choose to if it aligns with your future goals. The goal is to show prospective employers that you’re continuously learning and committed to growing your skillsets. 


The best way to search for jobs in a crowded job market is to be flexible and patient. Focus on showcasing your accomplishments and experience, tapping into your connections, and tailoring each resume and cover letter to the specific position. By using these job search strategies, you’ll boost your chances of standing out from the crowd no matter what the job market brings. 

By iHire | September 21, 2021
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