How to Compete in a Highly Competitive Job Market

No one knows when things will return to “normal” but when they do there will be a lot of people competing for fewer jobs.

The question is: How can you stand out? How can you differentiate yourself from other candidates?

There are reasons why some people are more successful than others in their job searches. Here is what I have learned about what successful job seekers do, regardless of market conditions:

They take care of themselves.

Successful job seekers live active, healthy, and balanced lives. While this more challenging during the pandemic, they eat properly and get lots of exercise and rest. They spend time with family and friends and participate in activities they enjoy.

They know that if they follow these simple strategies, they will have energy and enthusiasm for their search, and be able to withstand the occasional reject letter.

They build and maintain strong personal connections.

Successful job seekers build and maintain an array of personal connections and relationships that includes friends, relatives, former employers, colleagues, business associates, association members, community leaders, former professors—just about everyone they know.

But here’s the key: Even if they’re not looking for a new job now, they maintain these relationships by reaching out regularly. They send a holiday or birthday greetings, invite them to lunch (harder now, of course), and offer help when needed. They know that giving now may help them down the road at critical stages in their career.

They maintain an active online presence.

Successful job seekers make themselves visible using social media especially LinkedIn and Twitter.

But they don’t limit themselves to posting a profile or checking news feeds once a day. They actively participate by contributing relevant articles and blogs in their field of interest. They also ensure that any inappropriate photos, offensive comments, or evidence of excessive drinking, are non-existent on various sites.

They customize everything.

When applying for jobs, successful job seekers take the time to customize their cover letter, resume, and interview answers to match the employer’s needs. They do the opposite of what most other job seekers do, which is to send in templated cover letters, use the same resume for every job they apply for, and give vague, generalized answers to any interview question they are asked.

They make a strong first and lasting impression.

Successful job seekers historically have followed a few simple strategies when interviewing. They show up on time, have a strong handshake and friendly greeting, dress appropriately, maintain eye contact, listen well, and smile.

Of course, this has all changed in recent months, as most interviews are now conducted by Zoom or some other means. However, the principles are still the same. You still must impress the interviewer.

Remember, employers prefer to hire people they like. In fact, they will sometimes reject candidates who may be stronger technically but who come across as egotistical.

They anticipate the interview questions.

When preparing for interviews, successful job seekers review the job description and prepare a list of questions they will likely be asked. Then, they prepare their answers to those questions and conduct a practice interview with a friend or family member. They know that good preparation and planning are key.

They always follow up with a thank-you note.

Successful job seekers use the most under-utilized tool in the job search process: the thank-you note. They recognize that a well-written note gives them the chance to highlight key points about their background and summarize why they are a good candidate. It also gives them the opportunity to point out any things they may have forgotten to say in the interview.