Standing out in the job search can be hard. HR folks see a lot of people. What you really want to do is make them sit up and take notice, to say “Wow! What a fabulous and unforgettable candidate. We really must hire him/her as soon as possible in case someone else snaps him/her up first!”
Most of us probably don’t know how to make that impression. So, I asked hiring managers what qualities make them sit up, take notice, and even say “Wow!”
Interestingly, many listed a lack of grammatical or spelling errors in the cover letter as a “rare” thing that gets their attention. Still? Seriously, people. What’s wrong with you? I guess it’s good for some folks that the bar is so low. But it’s a sorry state of affairs.
Another one that came up was communication skills, and the ability to articulate oneself without using “ums,” “uhs” and “likes.” I mentioned that in “How to make people think you’re smarter than you really are.” Learn to speak. It’ll work wonders.
Here’s some more of what they said.
“Confidence. High energy, but also patience in their body and verbal language. When a candidate can answer a question in a brief, bright and confident way, that is a unique skill. And intellectual curiosity. A candidate who enjoys problem solving, dedicates themselves to their profession, is a student to their trade, and is using that curiosity to drive their profession forward.”
Ben Martinez, HR director at HireVue, a digital recruiting platform
“The qualities that make a candidate stand out are, unfortunately, not that common. I like to see strong volunteer activity; to us, giving back to the community or to specific charities tells us the candidate has a ‘world’ perspective rather than a ‘me’ perspective. Also, when the candidate sends a cover letter that is genuinely specific to our company and the position he or she is applying for. When I receive template letters, it tells me that they could – and probably have – sent the same letter to 100 different companies.”
David Bristol, president and CEO of Employee Solutions
“The number one quality that makes job applicants stand out is demonstrating that you are results-oriented. Whether it’s a college student who led a project with a student group, or someone who has ten years of experience, I need to hear them talk about their past work in terms of achieving and working toward goals without significant prompting from me as the interviewer. Many times, I’ll ask someone to tell me about a big accomplishment from a job I’ve selected from their resume, and many candidates draw a blank.”
Tracy Brisson, founder and president of The Opportunities Project, a talent development and recruitment consulting agency
“What gets our attention are the candidates that respond quickly and are persistent. That may sound overly simplified, but I am constantly amazed at the lack of follow through candidates demonstrate. So many times I will contact a candidate who has applied and it will be DAYS before I hear back!”
Leslye Schumacher, talent analyst/management consultant, TalentQ Consulting, LLC
“We are impressed with interviewees who ask questions that show evidence of having conducted some sort of background research on our organization or suggest something that has the potential to bring in business or add revenue in some innovative way that we have not yet considered. The former shows initiative and the latter creativity and innovation, all of which are high in importance.”
Lynda Zugec, managing director, The Workforce Consultants
“Interesting stories. Being memorable is key, and interesting stories help hiring managers remember candidates. Many candidates say during interviews that they are “quick learners.” The problem with statements like this is that they are generic.
“One time, I had a candidate tell a story about learning six new software systems in one year. She learned three new software systems upon being hired for a company. Three months later, the company transitioned to completely new software systems, and she learned three new systems AGAIN. Better yet, she became an employee trainer of the new software systems and helped others learn the systems. This story showed me that she was a quick learner and definitely a leader. I was not only impressed, it was a memorable story, and I hired her.”
Kent Lee, Yahoo Career Consultant, CEO of Perfect Resume
Follow Elizabeth Bromstein on Twitter @missbromstein.