What Do Employers Look For When Hiring?

You’ve sifted through the job boards and found your dream job, or even your “right now” job. Now it’s time to put your best foot forward and wow your way into an interview. With a job market and economy still on the mend it is more important than ever to stand out among other applicants in conditions where employment prospects are limited and hiring managers are often inundated with resumes. Let’s take a look at three simple steps for getting hired in a competitive job market.

Stand Out Even When Employment Prospects are Tough

Let’s begin with the basics. Most higher-paying, professional jobs require a bachelor’s degree and often a master’s degree or higher. Once prospective employers check education off the list, they then consider factors such as relevant work or volunteer experience and whether the individual is a good fit with the company and team. You’ve fulfilled the past employment and education requirements; now showcase them on a finely crafted cover letter. This is your first—or last—chance to sell yourself to the employer. A thoughtful cover letter tells them that you care enough about the position to put thought into how your skill set can benefit them. A generic cover letter can signal that you aren’t that invested in the opportunity.

Take time to speak to specific examples of how your past experience aligns with key aspects of the job description. Highlight past employment and education first and then include volunteer experiences or technical skills that are relevant to the position, taking a what-I-can-do-for-you approach.

The Meat of the Resume: Employment and Education

Like the cover letter, a common mistake that can keep you from landing the interview and getting hired is a one-size-fits-all resume. If you want to get noticed when employment prospects are low, tweak your resume for each job application. Use the same approach that you did with your cover letter—featuring qualifications that speak directly to the job description.

If you are entering the job market fresh out of college, emphasize your degree and relevant coursework or extracurricular activities. If you are applying for a middle-management to senior level position, make sure to highlight relevant past employment and education—especially advanced degrees—as well as information about how you will lead or manage your prospective area.

The Interview: Getting Hired

You’re almost there. Your cover letter and resume dazzled, delighted, and landed you an interview. Now it’s time to back up that awesome employment and education history you detailed in your cover letter and resume with your institutional knowledge, quick wit, problem-solving skills, and professionalism.

Preparation is key. Make a list of possible interview questions and prepare answers for all of them. Cover the common interview questions such as your goals, why you are an ideal candidate, and even the dreaded, “What is your worst quality?” Study the job description and anticipate the types of questions they might ask about past employment and education as well as how you might handle areas of the job in which you do not have direct experience. Recruit a friend to play the interviewer and practice as if it were the real thing. The more you’ve prepared, the more likely you are to present the confidence and professionalism that will get you noticed and the more likely you will maintain that demeanor should you be thrown any curve balls.

With a little time and effort you will be on your way to getting hired for your dream job before you know it. Good luck!

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