Thinking about a new job? Maybe it’s the advent of summer that makes us think about stretching our legs and trying something new. Since we’re hiring here at HBG, it made me think about the search process – what I hope to see from candidates, and how they can get our attention.
Let’s say that you’ve found an interesting career opportunity. You know that you’re qualified, but how can you stand out above all of the other candidates in the eyes of your potential employer?
What can you do to get noticed?
As someone who has interviewed a number of people over the years – both for HBG and to help clients who were looking for new staff, I’d like to share my top tips with you.
Here’s what makes you stand out during the application and interview process:
- Your cover letter and resume are a work of art.
But not a haiku or a Jackson Pollock. This isn’t the time to try out something daring. One person’s “clever” could be another person’s circular file.
The cover letter should be clear and grammatical. It should be spell-checked and vetted by at least one other person. It’s three or four paragraphs and it sticks to one page.
Also, it shouldn’t be a repetition of the facts on the attached resume. What a great cover letter does is grab the attention of the reader and tell the story of why the author wants to work for that organization. Why they are applying for this particular job. It may include one or two examples of how the applicant’s experience matches the job description.
And please: if you claim in your cover letter that you have tenacious attention to detail, your resume and cover has to be flawless or your credibility is shot.
- You arrive on time to the interview.
Maybe 5 minutes early, but not five minutes late. Leave plenty of time for your commute, and if you get stuck in traffic, call the interviewer and let them know when you’ll be there. Ask if that’s okay and offer to reschedule if they’re tight on time. Don’t just assume you’ll explain things when you get there.
Showing up too early is just awkward for everyone. If you are early, take a walk. It’ll help you gather your thoughts and give you extra information about the layout of the area you’ll (hopefully) be commuting to.
- You’ve done your homework.
Interviewing is a two way street, and I’m always disappointed when it’s clear that the candidate hasn’t done any research on the organization they’re applying to work for or has no questions for the interviewer.
Make sure you have a few questions ready to ask about the organization or the job duties. Not only will it help you decide if this job is a good fit for you, but it will also show the interviewers that you came prepared.
Don’t let the interview be the first place you learn the basics about the organization – do your research (especially if you’re applying for a research job!). If I interview someone for a research position and it’s clear they know nothing about the organization they’re applying to, it’s a big red flag to me that they are simply a box-filler and not a true researcher.
Make comments and ask questions that subtly show the interviewer that you’re not just looking for any job – you want to work there.
- You send a thank you note.
It doesn’t have to be a hand-written note (although that will give you extra bonus points since it’s such a rarity these days). Send one to every person who interviewed you, even if one of them is your best friend whom you’ve known since you were six.
Double check your spelling and grammar, and email or slip it in the post box the same day as the interview.
- Even if you don’t get the job, you send a follow-up email.
I’ve seen job searches where there were 10-15 really strong candidates for one position. At the end of the interviewing, there may be three or more candidates that the organization just has to make a decision between.
My advice is to send an email to say thanks for being part of the process. If you were near the top, the interviewers are going to remember you next time if you followed up to express appreciation.
I recommend an email for this second thank you rather than a hand-written note for two reasons: 1) it’s more easily saved for their next opening, and 2) it’s easier to forward to others. Fundraising is a small community – if you were a strong candidate they may recommend you to a colleague looking for good people.
Those are my top 5 tips – do you have others to share?