I know a lot of people that have been out of work for a long time. Most of them are continuing the battle. So what can they do to increase their chances? Besides the obvious (networking, personal introductions, etc) there are ways candidates can stand out from the crowd even when they don’t have a personal connection in the hiring company.
First some basics, I am amazed at how many candidates don’t return phone calls, or when they do they’re rude, disinterested or worse. I’ve had phone conversations with your typically “crusty” engineer, and I even had a candidate recently swear at me. Actually, not just once, but a long angry “F-bomb” laced tirade. I understand he was frustrated, but calling me names did not make me inclined to help him out.
Ok, so assuming you have some basic common sense and social skills what can you do to stand out? Do a little research – check out my company. At least know what we do, better yet, have some relevant questions. Next, have some ideas how you can add value to my company. Interviewers need to figure this out – make it easy on us. If you have prior experience in my industry, highlight it. Don’t just assume that because it’s on your resume it will be obvious. Finally, tell me something about yourself that differentiates you. Please, please, don’t tell me you have good people skills or are a self starter. It may well be true, and it may be very important for the job, but it’s so cliché, it’s meaningless.
And for extra credit? Go above and beyond and do some more research. Find someone in the company or a former employee (LinkedIn is a great resource for this) and get more info about the culture, and what the job entails, and then tell me how you specifically, with your unique background and skill set can help make my company more successful. The more specific the better, and if you can tell me how you’ve done this in the past, even better!
Good luck, and keep the faith!