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How to Win the Job Search Competition

How to Win the Job Search Competition
By Susan M. Heathfield, Guide

When you talk about hiring an employee, sometimes it seems that a job applicant prevails because of a favorable convergence of the sun, moon, and stars. Or, maybe hiring an employee is just like a crap shoot. 

Or, hiring an employee is like throwing a bunch of darts and hoping one sticks in the target. I have heard all of these references to the process of hiring an employee.

But the fundamental question remains. What makes one applicant the winner in the job search competition? Employees who were hired did a lot of things right. Better, they did almost nothing wrong. How did Mary get the job?

When comparing candidates, an employer has to differentiate between well-qualified applicants. Candidates who appear to have the qualities, skills, education, experience, and knowledge the employer seeks are invited to interview. One is selected. How do you get to be the one?

Your Personal Presentation Must Make You Stand Out

An effective, targeted, customized resume and cover letter got you in the door. Perhaps a telephone screen allowed you to highlight experience and interest that matched the employer's needs. You're on track and an interview is scheduled.

From this moment forward, the potential employer is assessing your fit for the job, the culture, and the needs and strengths of the team. At this point, the employer is giving you every opportunity to blow your chance.

  • Your physical appearance matters. It's the first thing the employer sees. Your clothing, hair, makeup, jewelry, and accoutrements make an immediate impression. Make the best possible first impression. Your presentation of yourself as a candidate must be flawless. Unpolished shoes do sink job searches

Your Interaction During Interviews Either Nails Your Job - or Fails


  • Your preparation for the interview needs to include formulating specific, professional answers to potential questions. You want to sound knowledgeable, competent, and experienced. You need to be able to cite examples of what you have accomplished, contributed, and believe is important. This is not something most people do well off the cuff. Prepare responses.



  • Pay special attention to the physical parts of you that will be in evidence throughout an interview across a desk or conference table. Dirty finger nails matter as does that faint stain on your shirt. They send loud messages about your attention to detail and personal care habits.
  • Relaxed communication is critical. Talk about workplace issues and goals that are important to you. Ask questions to assess whether the culture is a good fit for you. You don't want to join every organization you encounter in a job search. Trust me; sometimes it's better to keep looking.