Even during times of high unemployment, managers often lament that there aren’t enough qualified candidates out there. Follow these tips to increase your marketability and become highly sought-after in a competitive job market at your current employer or anywhere else.
- Boost Your Tech Savvy
If you’re a software engineer, you already know you must keep you technical skills sharp, what with new platforms, apps and technologies springing up daily. However, even if you believe your job isn’t remotely technical, let’s face it — the world has gone digital. At the very least, make sure you have a solid foundation of basic computer skills. Consider taking classes at a local college, or exploring the private class centers popping up in cities all over the country. Alternatively, sit back in a comfortable chair and brush up those skills from the comfort of your own home. The amount of free or low-cost, high-quality online training available is staggering, and it means you have no excuse for keeping your skills stuck in the Stone Age. Your updated resume will appear higher in recruiter search results once it contains some of the desirable software skill keywords. Plus, when you’re asked by an interviewer to provide examples of familiar technologies, or you land the job and you encounter a new piece of software, you’ll be that much more prepared to handle the challenge.
- Look Your Best
We don’t need studies to tell us the obvious – that, all things being equal, good-looking people are more likely to score a job than their less attractive counterparts. But don’t go running to the plastic surgeon just yet. Instead, make sure you’re clean, well-groomed and sharply dressed at every possible opportunity, be it job interview or casual networking encounter. A professional haircut can do wonders for your confidence. Wearing modern clothes that complement your shape will give many people the perception that you’re well put together in other aspects of your life, too — even if you’re really a slob at home. Now, if you’re not sure where you stand on the desirability scale, go talk to that one friend who is brutally honest and will give you some fashion and grooming advice. Moral of the story: make sure you’re looking your best, in online profile pics, and in real life.
- Mind the (Unemployment) Gap
It’s often said that the best job candidates are those who are currently employed. It demonstrates that you’re marketable instead of, well, sitting on the couch at home feeling sorry for yourself. Likewise, if you’re unemployed but actively looking, make sure you’re doing something with your free time besides engaging in the job search. You’re not impressing anyone when you tell them how many resumes you submitted in the last week. Instead, make sure you’re growing your skills with resume-worthy classes and activities. Even relevant volunteer experiences can boost your marketability to potential employers: for example, if you’re a marketing wizard, you can call up a local non-profit and offer them your services to promote an upcoming volunteer event. You don’t necessarily have to spell out on the resume that it was an unpaid gig, unless the interviewer asks for clarification, and by that point, you’ve got your foot in the door. The key here is to have a resume that’s full of life, with few-to-no glaring gaps of inactivity. Remember, companies want go-getters.
- Passive Is Good?
Top companies spend a ton of time, resources and money trying to find passive candidates, that is, candidates who are employed and not actively looking for a job. It’s called “poaching” and it happens when your skill set is unique or in high demand. Companies realize that you may be content with your current situation, but they know there’s a chance you’ll consider jumping ship for a better title, higher compensation, or a few unique perks that you current gig doesn’t offer — like telecommuting, subsidized child-care, free lunch, or the ability to bring your pet Fido to work, to name a few.
- Location, Location, Location
In general, employers prefer local candidates. It’s a hassle, not to mention an expense, to orchestrate in-person interviews when you’re hundreds of miles away. Now, relocation is certainly provided by some companies, but it’s the exception these days, not the rule. Employers feel safer, and stand to save money, by hiring someone who is familiar with the territory. If you’ve targeting a job in a different geography, do your research. Weigh the risks and the opportunities of moving. Consider flying out and living in the new place for a few weeks as a test — ideally with friends or relatives, if you can make that work, so that you can save some money. If you’ve lined up a few interviews in the span of those few weeks, the process will be a (relative) breeze. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck making up excuses or lies as you scramble to book an expensive flight for a last-minute interview on the opposite side of the country.
- Loyalty Rules… Or Does It?
This is a tale of two camps: some companies look for loyal employees who are able to commit a few years to their organization in order to make a significant, measurable business impact. Other employers prefer a lightning-fast go-getter who has quickly climbed up the ranks both in title and scope of responsibility, often doing so by jumping from one company to another company. This is more common in some fields (e.g. sales) and industries (digital marketing) than others. Whether your resume screams decade-long allegiance to one employer or ambitious and irreverent job-hopping, just make sure you can position yourself (i.e., your resume, online profile, interview pitch) appropriately to the company. As is often the case, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. It’s not just about your experience on paper, but how you can sell it to the person on the other side of the table, phone, or — increasingly — videoconferencing screen.