Tuesday, February 9, 2016

How to Differentiate Yourself in a Competitive Job Market

Being located in Kitchener-Waterloo, the tech hub of Canada, the competition for top jobs is fierce. But good jobs can be scarce at any time in any place.  You need to make yourself stand-out and rise above other candidates. But how?

Start with Plum.io

For starters, do you know what differentiates you from other applicants?  You sure need to.  Do you know what you bring to the table?  A good way to find out is to take the Plum Job Seeker Discovery Survey.  In less than half an hour it can tell you exactly what your strengths are and how you rank in the general work force.  Don't underestimate what this knowledge can do for you!  Leverage it to differentiate yourself.

Visually, the Plum Discovery Survey results give you a number of “badges” that you can use to bolster your Linkedin profile page or as part of your application package - more about this below.

plum.io badges
Courtesy of Plum.io
From the Plum Discovery Survey you will learn about your personality and greatest strengths. Memorize these.  Practice (out loud) explaining your strengths.  For example, I am very proficient at making high-quality decisions based on limited information.  I am known for being thorough, deliberate and having great attention to detail.  This will help you feel comfortable "talking yourself up" and sets you apart from others who really don't know what their actual strengths are because they’ve never had them assessed.  Plum helps you pinpoint your unique value to a potential new company.


Research local companies to find out where you want to work, or at least narrow it down to a specific industry.  Then go to work!  Start learning everything you can about your top-listed companies.  Use their "About Us" or "About Our Team" webpages, coupled with their Linkedin page and employee profiles to really hone in on who their top leaders are.  THEN start following their leaders on Twitter and Linkedin and find out what type of content they care about.  Although you're not part of their actual network you can learn a lot about the culture of a company from it's employees and what they post about.  How does this differentiate you? You can use information you glean in your application package, and IF you get an interview, you will have the opportunity to highlight what you've learned about them.  A common interview question is: "What do you know about our organization?" and/or, "Why do you want to work here?"  Imagine how much you would have to talk about if you've immersed yourself in their company, researching it - this will set you apart!

Something A Little Extra

Now to your application package - here is where you can really separate yourself.  You don't likely know if the company where you are applying uses traditional hiring methods or if they even have software that's going to be doing key word searches on applications vs. a real human being reading your submission.  Therefore, you need to plan for ALL approaches.  This means yes, you need to have an awesome resume full of action words and your quantifiable accomplishments. Yes, you need a cover letter that addresses the specifics of the job posting you're applying to.  BUT if you want to set yourself apart, find a way to incorporate another visual to your application.  For example, you can create an Infographic about yourself (see mine here) or even a short introductory video.  While a little long, here is example from Vida who is trying to get a teaching job overseas; great idea!  Graeme's video, here, is a bit short on details but it shows a small glimpse into his personality.... You get the idea.

You can use your specific Plum badges and descriptions to create an awesome visual that can't be ignored!  Read more ideas about using your Plum badges here.  If you aren't permitted to submit "extras" with your C.V., then include the Infographic directly before your cover letter, making it a 2-page cover letter.  Include the link to your online video in the text of your cover letter.  Find a way to get that extra little something INTO your application package. It is what differentiates you from the other reams of white paper the hiring manager will be looking at.

A Tangible Exemplar

When you get invited for an interview (well done you!) you're a quarter of the way there.  Yet, you still have an opportunity to separate yourself from the pack.  Here you have a chance to present a portfolio of work examples.  No matter which industry you work in, you can surely come up with some examples of projects, memos, spreadsheets, or even speeches you have prepared.  You can somehow use these exemplars to illustrate your competency as it relates to the job you are applying for; be creative.  It doesn't have to be anything super flashy.  The point here is that you've made an effort to individualize yourself.  Even if you aren't asked to bring or present a portfolio, bring something tangible with you that you can show off during your interview.  The person interviewing you is looking for a reason to be impressed - this is one way you can impress them!


A couple of days after the interview, set yourself apart by sending a thank-you email or even a hand-written thank-you card.  Yes, it’s old school but how many people do you think do that?  Keep it short and simple and this will bring your name to the forefront of their mind again.

In a competitive job market, job seekers need to find ways to set themselves apart from others.  

Start today by completing the Plum Discovery Survey and then get creative in finding ways to highlight your objective job skills in a marketable way to prospective companies.

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