How do you make yourself stand out in a sea of candidates?
While the job market in Tampa is getting much better for tech, it’s still common for us to receive hundreds of applications for a single job posting – and that’s for us, a staffing agency. We’re sure it’s just as bad – if not worse – for companies that handle hiring internally.
Let’s be very clear – we’re not advocating stunts. You won’t see us suggesting you send your CV to a hiring manager along with a fruit basket or other bribe-esque gifts. These methods tend to backfire horribly; they come off as obvious and desperate.
We’re advocating for methods that highlight your skills and passions. Yes, it’s more subtle, but in these situations, subtle is good.
Do your research
Prior to an interview, make sure you’ve read everything you can about the company. It’s amazing when we meet candidates who can speak intelligently to what a company does, who their target market is, and what a problem they’re currently facing is. Then, take it one step further, and figure out solutions to this problem that just so happen to require your skill set.
Make sure to also read about your interviewer. Note their key accomplishments at the organization, and if appropriate, mention them during the interview.
The point of all this is to show interest in the job and company. Avoid looking like a mass-applier at all costs. It’s ok to ask what you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis as that may not have been covered in the job posting, but in order to stand out, make sure you’re knowledgeable enough to avoid asking questions such as “So what do you guys do?” – that’s a surefire way to discourage your interviewer from hiring you. In fact, many will straight up disqualify you for being unprepared and unwilling to take 10-15 minutes of your time to learn about their company.
Don’t be that guy. Do your research.
Be noisy in your space
Sometimes, you can have employers find you. If you’re passionate about what you do, show it. Write blog posts about tech in your chosen field. Publish white papers. If you’re a dev, add new projects to your GitHub regularly (if you don’t have a GitHub, or GitLab, or any other repo – get one). Do everything you can to get your name out there and show that you’re active in your community and that you love what you do. People love happy people. People love passionate people.
We recently spoke to Chris Jenkins, CDO at The Symphony Agency, who mentioned that he hired one of his developers because of how noisy he was in his space. Chris heard about him, watched him, and acquired him.
Repo all the things!
More and more employers at younger companies value experience over education. Many won’t look at a developer without a repo. They want to see that you’re consistently committing code or contributing to projects. Alternately, they want to see the quality of your code. So, get a GitHub or GitLab account and post as many of your projects as you can. It’s ok if you don’t have a ton of stuff on there – just make sure the code you do put up is high-quality.
Now that you have an account with some projects on it, you can answer “why yes, yes I do have a repo you can look at” when your interviewer asks. However, beat them to the punch and take it a step further: bring a laptop with you and show them your code.
“I had a candidate come into an interview with his computer in hand, repository open, and ready to show code applicable to what the job entailed. It definitely tipped the scales in his favor and I submitted him to the client after that. He stood out because he was immediately willing to put his money where his mouth was and showed his talent right from the start. I’d say a good way to stand out is, if you’re in a creative (and yes, I count coding as creative) profession, be prepared to bring a portfolio or samples with you. Having the visuals instead of just guessing where your skill levels are is wonderful.” -Matt Vaughn, Full Stack Talent
Immediately following the interview, send your interviewer a Thank You note via email. Yes, immediately. As soon as you can. Pronto. Then, send them a handwritten note via regular mail. I know what you’re thinking – “oh god, how archaic!” – but trust us on this one. Mail won’t get there until a couple days later, so it’s a great way to keep yourself at the forefront of your interviewer’s mind.
Something to take into consideration: if you had more than one interviewer, sent them each an individual Thank You note. Don’t send the same email to 3 different people – tailor your notes to each person you met with. It’s just another nice touch that will make you memorable.
It can indeed be overwhelming to try and figure out how to make yourself stand out in a sea of applicants, but with a bit of work, it’s definitely doable. Again, make your work available, be loud, do your research, and follow up. You’ve got this.