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MERJE Markets - Paul Clayton discusses how to set yourself apart as a candidate

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 4 years ago
  • Author:by Paul Clayton

​I was once asked by a candidate: “Is it really that important that I make myself stand out from the competition, won’t my experience just do the talking for me?” The simple answer is “NO!”

The ongoing market situation in relation to COVID-19 is unquestionably taking its toll on the wider workforce, with an increase in the number of people being made redundant as the economy attempts to recover both now and post-pandemic.

A more stable working climate without doubt seems a long way off at this point in time, which is why it has never been more vital to ensure that you set yourself apart as an exemplary candidate under such unprecedented circumstances.

This will ensure that you stand out from the current crowd of workers who, like you, are actively seeking the next rung in the ladder on their now, perhaps uncertain, career pathway.

Harness LinkedIn and wider social media

The beauty of social media is that people are able to continue easily accessing it, in spite of lockdown restrictions, on a remote basis, all while working from home. In fact, the majority of recruiters and organisations use LinkedIn on a daily basis to search the market for the relevant top candidates. This makes it a medium which cannot and should not be ignored and this is why it needs to play a key role in your job search strategy. After all, it has the power to unlock the door to a host of promising career opportunities.

Without stating the obvious, start by making sure that your profile is active and that your recent career history is up-to-date as this is akin to having an easily accessible online CV.

For my part, I speak to far too many people who are looking for a new role but have not touched their LinkedIn profile for years. I would recommend including a decent overview of your skills and experience in the summary section, along with a selection of key responsibilities under each role undertaken to display your in-depth expertise in more detail.

Go one step further and ask people you know, whether it is your manager or colleagues, to endorse you by writing a few positive words about your work capabilities on your page. This will give your prospective employer confidence in your capabilities.

While on the subject of social media, many candidates fail to appreciate that organisations often take a look at profiles on other popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to carry out some necessary research on potential candidates.

Making sure that there is nothing too inappropriate on your personal profiles is important as I have also seen candidates lose a potential offer on the back of something seen on one of their social media accounts.

Your Twitter profile should include a professional looking photo, an appropriate bio and a link to your CV, LinkedIn profile or website. Twitter is much more informal than LinkedIn, but you should not underplay your skills and expertise in this popular arena.

From a career perspective, Facebook is useful because it provides an easy way to ask personal connections for information and advice about their career or job search. It can also act as a resource of information on both individuals and companies. The informal nature of the site, alongside its interactivity, means that you can often obtain information and communicate with employers in a way that may not be possible elsewhere.

Before you post any information in your own name on the internet, consider whether you would be happy if your family, friends, current and future employers were to see it. If not, change it.

Using social media sites in your job search can increase the visibility of your professional profile and be seen by a wider set of connections. It puts your skills and experience into the public domain and provides opportunities to network online with professionals from a diverse range of sectors.

Stick to your strengths

I realise all too well how tempting it can be when you are immediately available and keen to secure a new role to click and apply to multiple jobs but, believe me, hold off! Applying for relevant roles will not only increase your chances of success, but will also show that you are clear in your own mind of what you want and that you are completely serious about the position in question.

It can put potential employers off when you apply for roles that are above or below your current level and then you run the very real risk of not even being considered when a relevant role becomes live. When candidates apply for anything and everything, it gives off the impression that you do not have a clear idea about the job you want and also that you would not be committed to a long-term role.

Before you apply to any role, ask yourself: Do you genuinely feel that you have a chance of being successful with your application? If the answer is yes, then ask yourself what you want to get out of the position, the type of company culture you would like to work in and the type of leaders and colleagues who bring out the best in you.

Find out as much about the company as possible and make use of credible resources such as Glassdoor. Try to discover why the position has become available and what value and experience you could add to the role if it became yours. This will stand you in good stead for the subsequent interview process, should it come to that.

Be selective with your choice of recruiter

In my opinion, recruiters often get a lot of bad press unfairly. Like any industry, you always have the odd one or two consultants who are in it for a quick fee and do not really have the candidate’s best interest at heart. However, for the large part it is in the recruiter’s interest to find a suitable role for a candidate as they could well become a client in the future who is able to generate further business.

With the amount of recruiters available to any given candidate, I would highly recommend selecting one or two specialist consultants which operate within your chosen area and remaining in regular contact with them. It is very tempting to speak to every recruiter out there in the hope they can find you a new opportunity, but remember that a given market is only so big and it can become very easy to lose control of who you are speaking to about which role.

If the one or two recruiters that you choose perform well in their specialist area, they should know about any live activity in that arena and steer you in the right direction.

You can refine your search for a recruiter by looking for a firm that focuses on your market sector or core discipline, reviewing their job postings and reach in terms of both positions in your field and geographic area. Also take the time to cross-reference whether they are privy to the latest openings, even before they have been advertised publicly.

I find it is best to build relationships by meeting on a face-to-face basis and the strongest candidates are not afraid to ask about a consultant’s expertise and their company’s credentials.

When possible, connect with a particular recruiter at the firm, instead of emailing your CV on a general basis. Use LinkedIn to find that particular recruiter. A large network is a good sign but not the only one. Check whether they are connected with people who you know, find out how long they have been recruiting for, particularly in your field and take a look at their posts and groups. A good recruiter should instil confidence quickly if they are a true expert in their market.

Be careful who receives your CV

Following on from my previous point, speaking to a lot of different recruiters will also mean that you lose control of exactly who is in receipt of your CV. While recruiters certainly should not send your CV anywhere without your consent, the unfortunate truth is that we see many competitors sending over candidate CVs without permission, in the hope of securing interviews and beating off any opposition.

Some recruiters will also send over a candidate’s CV speculatively in the hope of demonstrating their ability to flag top talent in order to obtain a place on the company’s Preferred Supplier Agreement. The worst thing that can happen for you is if your CV gets in the possession of many different organisations without you knowing and without there actually being a live role to apply for. This is because, as mentioned previously, you are ultimately minimising your chances of success when a suitable role actually becomes available.

Another point to mention here is the process of uploading your CV to job portals, such as Reed and Monster. While they can be useful tools for you to search through live roles, once your CV goes onto the website it is then visible by any recruiter who pays for an account. This is another way of potentially losing control of where your CV goes. The golden rule of speaking to just one or two agencies again applies here to ensure that you are kept constantly in the loop and know exactly where your CV is going.

People often say that looking for a new role is a full-time job in itself. I appreciate that it can indeed feel like it, but implementing the points which I have highlighted will certainly go a long way in making your job search a far less stressful and an altogether easier and more seamless process.

Myself and the rest of the MERJE teams take pride in doing the best job possible for our candidates across each of our specialist areas. Our insider expertise and market knowledge will help you to shine while we source the perfect role for you. To find out more, please get in touch: