As a recruiter, I’ve spoken with hundreds of job seekers. Along the way, I’ve noticed a pattern: Most people want to do what everyone else is doing. They don’t want to stick their necks out, take big risks, or do anything “crazy.”
Here’s the problem with this line of thought: Many companies get hundreds of applicants per job, and only about 10-20 of them will even get a phone screen. If you follow the herd, your odds of getting picked are about the same as everyone else’s — not good.
By being different, you can immediately catch the employer’s attention. They’ll take a closer look at your resume and consider more carefully whether you might deserve an interview or even the job.
Here’s the main point I want you to walk away with today: Every time you can do something differently in your job search, you should do it. Blending in with the crowd is the last thing you want to do if you’re trying to get hired for high-paying jobs.
Plus, there’s virtually no risk to experimenting with being different. The worst thing that happens is one company decides not to interview or hire you — which is exactly what would have happened if you had followed the herd anyway.
5 Examples of How You Can Be Different in Your Job Hunt
1. Sometimes Less Is More
I get 5-10 messages on LinkedIn every day asking for help and 5-10 more via email. Believe it or not, the ones that stand out are the extremely brief ones. Sometimes, only a sentence or two is all it takes.
If you want to stand out in your first contact with an employer, I’d think about taking a more efficient approach to messaging. Write an extremely short cover letter instead of the traditional wall of text, or make your LinkedIn message so short a recruiter can read the whole thing on their phone without scrolling. You’ll likely get more replies and more interviews by keeping it brief.
2. Make the Interview About Them, Not You
The typical job seeker goes into an interview thinking it is a discussion about their background. In reality, it’s a conversation about how your skills and background can help the employer.
It may sound like it’s all about you when the interviewer asks a question like, “Tell me about yourself,” but you should be thinking, “Okay — What can I talk about that is most relevant to this employer’s needs?” As another example, if an interviewer asks, “Why did you apply for this position?”, explain why your skills and background would allow you to accomplish what is needed in this role.
These are both examples of questions that seem to be all about you but can be used to show the employer what is in it for them if they hire you. Always be thinking, “What’s in it for them?” That is what the interviewer is thinking, too.
3. Get Comfortable Saying No
There is a saying in marketing: If a product is for everyone, it’s for no one. The idea is that you really need to specify who your product is for, or nobody will buy it.
In this case, you’re the product. You’re selling yourself to employers. If you can’t explain what types of jobs you’re targeting — and which types of jobs you don’t want — you won’t attract anyone.
Don’t be afraid to say no to an interview if the role is a bad fit. Don’t be afraid to get on the phone with a recruiter and explain what you’re looking for and what you don’t want. By doing this, you’ll show employers you’re not desperate. As a result, you’ll likely get hired for a better job faster. It’s ironic, but the job seeker who is willing to take anything often gets nothing.
4. Don’t Apply Like Everyone Else
If you see a job posted on a job board, look to apply in a different way. Visit the company’s website. Try to find the hiring manager’s name, and then research them. See if they’ve written any articles or posted any videos related to the industry. If so, you could email the hiring manager to say you watched a great video of theirs and are interested in applying for a position you saw posted. This tactic is going to get you noticed far more often than applying to 50 jobs on Indeed and hoping for the best will.
5. Show The Employer You’re a Great Communicator
Many job seekers don’t put enough effort into their communications with prospective employers. However, emails, phone calls, and other points of contact are opportunities to show employers you’re an articulate go-getter. Your communications offer employers a glimpse of the type of employee you’ll be if they hire you, so they play a big part in the company’s decision to interview you.
Make sure your communications are clear, error-free, concise, and professional. Go above and beyond. Spend 10 extra minutes editing each email to make sure it is as clear and concise as possible while maintaining the exact tone you want to communicate. Editing an email should take as long as writing it, if not longer. Do this for all emails, including scheduling interviews, thank-you emails after the interview, and so on.
The tips above are just a few of the many ways you can do things differently and catch the attention of top employers. As you job search, remember to always ask yourself, “How can I be different here?” If you do, you’ll find a better job in less time.
Biron Clark is an executive recruiter, career coach, and founder of careersidekick.com.