Three keys to becoming a top job candidate

Byby Peter Weddle
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Job Journal

SACRAMENTO (JobJournal) -- Recruiters have a name for those they consider the best candidates. They call them purple squirrels. Investors have a name for companies that rapidly become business success stories. They call them unicorns. Both creatures are rare and highly valued - and that's exactly how you want to be seen as a job candidate.

In today's job market, being qualified isn't enough to land a great job. There are just too many competitors who can meet the stated requirements for an opening, too many individuals who look alike, at least from the imperfect perspective of a recruiter. The trick to being successful, therefore, is to stand out in the herd - to look like a rare and valuable creature.

How can you do that? Adopt three characteristics and emphasize them on your resume. But remember, the first verb in that statement is as important as the second. To be believable as a purple squirrel or a unicorn, you actually have to act like one.

While there are a range of characteristics ascribed to rare and valuable candidates, three are particularly important in today's job market.

1. Be a work-in-progress.

Regardless of the academic degree you hold and the years of experience you've had, act as if you still have much to learn in your field. The pace at which knowledge is now advancing is so rapid, the half life of your expertise is measured in months, not years. And employers know that. They know that workers become obsolete almost overnight. As a consequence, they value those rare candidates who take responsibility for keeping their skills and knowledge up to date. You can demonstrate that commitment by enrolling in an appropriate academic course or training program, even while you are looking for a job. You can then promote your ongoing participation in personal development on your resume.

2. Be a thought leader.

Employers are facing unprecedented competition in both domestic and international markets. They believe the only way they can come out on top is to employ workers who bring innovation and creativity to work with them every day. They want people who can think outside the box or, even better, find a different box altogether for doing their job. For that reason, they search for candidates who remain active in their field, even while they are looking for a job. These rare individuals invest time online in actively participating in one or more forums devoted to exploring new ideas in their field and/or solving occupational challenges. They then promote that commitment to continuous improvement on their resume.

3. Be a person of talent.

Your talent is not your field of work or even your area of expertise. It is your innate capacity for excellence. For example, it might be the ability to disaggregate complex tasks so they can be more effectively accomplished, or the ability to communicate complex ideas so that they are clear to everyone. Employers are desperate for such talent, but have a very hard time finding it, largely because so few people actually know what their talent is or how to work with it. For that reason, they search for individuals who display their talent, even while they are looking for a job. These rare individuals find a way to keep their talent employed (e.g., in volunteer organizations or a professional society) and then detail that experience on their resume.

Today's job market is a crowded place where it's very difficult to stand out. You can, however, rise above the horde by acting and then positioning yourself as a rare and valuable candidate - a purple squirrel or unicorn.

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