Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
Have you ever noticed that little number next to job postings on LinkedIn or other online job listings? The number that shows how many applicants are applying for each open position? At first glance, it can be a bit defeating, and if you let it, that number can derail your confidence.
On the other hand, you could take that knowledge as a challenge to step up your game. As a job seeker, there’s often fierce competition out there for the best roles. Rather than admit defeat before applying, take steps to position yourself as the top job candidate.
Assuming you’re already launching your job search with an updated resume and a customized cover letter that’s rich with keywords and data-driven bullet points, you can use the following tips to further elevate your job search.
1. Develop a Unique Personal Brand
Intentionally building a personal brand in the job-seeking world is about making sure that you present a consistent message throughout your entire online presence. Hiring managers should be able to visit your LinkedIn profile, social media, and any portfolio sites and see the same messaging.
Realistically, you should already have a personal brand. But if you haven’t been intentional about how you craft it, it might be watered down. To win out your job competition, analyze your unique selling points, personality, and expertise. You can do this by taking a few minutes to brain-dump a list of your education, hobbies, personal interests, skills, work history, etc. Once you’ve got your list, look to see where your skills and expertise intersect to craft a memorable brand.
Suppose you’re in marketing, for example. If you also have a passion for sustainability, you could position yourself as an eco-conscious marketer by highlighting industry standards that support the environment. You could share updates on your social media from eco-conscious companies and create unique, thoughtful posts around sustainability practices. In doing so, you’ll elevate your personal brand beyond simply being a marketing professional.
2. Master the Art of Storytelling in Your Interviews
Research tells us repeatedly that public speaking is a prevalent fear for many. If you’re in that category, interviews can be especially nerve-racking. Consider working with a coach or taking a public speaking course to help you master the art of storytelling during your interviews.
When you treat your interviews like a conversation, you will engage the hiring manager in a more positive way. To help you take some of the pressure off, consider your interview a chance to share your story, rather than a long set of unknown questions that put you on the spot.
Prepare a list of experiences that will answer common interview questions. Use the STAR method to make the most significant impact. By doing so, you’ll feel more in control of the situation, and you’ll likely connect with the interviewer on a deeper level when they can relate to the story you share.
3. Dominate the Online World
Not only should you clean up your social media platforms, but you can use LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook to connect with hiring managers. Create professional profiles that support your brand and your job search goals. Set your personal accounts to private. Even if you’re not going to share anything inappropriate, you don’t have any control over what photos others may post and tag you in.
Once you’ve established professional profiles, share relevant content and look for recruiters and hiring managers you could follow. Approach your interactions as a means to build connections, rather than get a job (unless you’re responding to a post about a job opening). Become a memorable name recognized as a thought leader in your professional space.
4. Leverage Unique Hobbies and Interests
Recruiters are increasingly tasked with protecting the company culture. They’re looking for culture fit along with skills and experience. Sharing your hobbies and interests can help personalize you online.
With so much of your job search conducted remotely, your goal should be finding ways to bring your candidacy to life. For example, say you’re an avid photographer or hiker. This could be a great talking point on your social media profiles. Hiring managers with similar interests will be more likely to remember you.
Just make sure that your interests and hobbies enhance your brand and don’t distract from your qualifications. It can be easy to overdo it when it’s something you’re excited about. But your personal interests can add value if you sprinkle them into your job search sparingly and where appropriate.
5. Diversify Your Network
Actively seek to diversify your network. If the only people within your network are personal friends and others who share your professional aspirations, you’re limiting your potential. Instead, intentionally pursue connections with professionals in other roles and those with a diverse mindset.
The more you’re able to engage with differing viewpoints and perspectives, the more open-minded and proactive you’ll become. That open perspective can help hiring managers see you as a future leader in an increasingly diverse professional landscape.
6. Volunteer for Community Leadership Roles
Volunteering can boost your resume and showcase your initiative and commitment to growth. And volunteering for leadership roles in professional organizations or community events might be the game-changer you’ve been looking for. Not only will you gain valuable experience, but you’ll demonstrate your drive and expand your network.
Here are a few volunteer ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Take on a leadership role with a local charity event, like a 5K.
- Volunteer to manage business functions for a nonprofit you’re committed to.
- Attend board meetings of local nonprofit organizations to learn more about executive functions.
- Volunteer to lead tours at your local museum to grow more confident in your public speaking skills.
As a volunteer in a professional organization, you’ll develop your skills, take on challenging projects, and make a real impact. When employers can see your passion and dedication, you’ll distinguish yourself as a more attractive candidate.
7. Get Excited About Industry Updates
What’s the latest technology buzz or industry standard that is getting updated? Don’t write it off or have a wait-and-see attitude. Read up on it and, if warranted, get excited about it. As new technologies and best practices emerge, hiring managers must pivot quickly to professionals who have mastered those new areas.
If you get excited about new possibilities, are able to discuss them thoroughly, and have taken the initiative to become proficient in them, you’ll stand out to companies looking to stay ahead of the curve.
8. Build a Portfolio
Showcasing a collection of work is important for many professionals, not only those in creative fields. Create a free website that highlights your achievements in a visual way. Use sites like Carrd or about.me for free, easy, one-page site builders. If you lack the time or skills to create a polished site, invest a small amount in hiring a freelancer to help you.
Think of your portfolio as a visual resume that can bring your work experience to life in a more vivid way than your written resume can.
9. Level Up Your Follow-Up
How much effort do you put into your follow-up? Are you occasionally sending a cookie-cutter follow-up message to recruiters at some point after you’ve applied? If so, you’re missing out on some prime real estate for connecting.
When a job posting goes live, recruiters and hiring managers are inundated with a flood of resumes. But after the first few days, when they get down to sorting the candidates, a strategic follow-up can help move you from the “maybe” pile to a coveted interview slot.
Use a spreadsheet or another means of tracking your submissions. Consider using Hunter if you need help finding a recruiter’s information so you can personalize your follow-up email. Keep your message concise, but customize it with a reference to a qualification that will set you apart.
10. Find the Fun in Pitching
You can pitch your services to hiring managers even if you’re not a freelancer. Research companies that you’d love to work with and explore their structure. If your interests and experiences align, don’t wait for a job posting to materialize.
Instead, craft a pitch to introduce yourself and explain why you’d love to work for the company. Share your expertise and what you can offer the organization. You can leverage that interaction to build your network and possibly gain an informational interview.
And while reaching out to strangers can be daunting, especially if they’re potential hiring managers who don’t appear to be actively seeking applicants, try to view your email as an exciting possibility. You never know what positions are open — or about to open up — but aren’t posted. Sure, some hiring managers may not respond and some may be uninterested, but you could get a few bites. And that’s all you need.
Become the Most Sought-After Job Candidate
Maintaining a positive attitude, being proactive, and ensuring a cohesive brand in all of your communications are some of the best ways to support your career goals. Research roles that you’re excited about, get enthusiastic about your career and find joy in getting to know others throughout your job search. All of these efforts can help you be a more memorable job candidate.