Getting to the top of the pile is hard. Every job listing you see online is bound to be flooded with hundreds or even thousands of responses. There’s a reason human resources departments have to resort to software solutions to sort through them all. Without these solutions, they’d be buried for their entire careers with no discernible way to find the best candidates.
Reframe What it Means to Get Ahead
Most people understand that they need to get on top of the pile if they want to get the job. However, there’s often a fear of being too aggressive or too pushy. So how can you strike the balance between finding success without stepping on any toes?
By re-framing what it means to ‘get ahead.’
You don’t have to beat someone’s door down to get noticed. You don’t have to shove the person next to you to get to the front of the line. If you really want to get ahead, all you have to do is become active instead of passive. It’s not about being aggressive instead of polite. It’s about actively taking control of your job search.
Active doesn’t mean pushy, aggressive or persistent to the point of annoying. Active means taking steps to improve your situation and never sitting back and waiting for something to fall into your lap. It’s being open to possibilities, being opportunistic, and being mindful of the process while you’re doing it.
It’s more important now than ever to get on the radar, stay relevant, and make connections during your job search.
Respect the Process
Let’s say you’ve gone down the road with a few contacts and you are now talking to decision makers. Now is the time when you have to be most respectful of the process. As much as we’d all love to jump ahead of the line, that rarely works and can often backfire. The process is your friend – it’s a chance to do a slow build that will highlight you as the consummate professional.
Present a Strong Value Proposition
Interviewing is your opportunity to highlight what you have to offer: your value proposition. What do they need? How can you provide what they need? And how can you show that you’ll be a team player – someone they can see being a fit for their culture?
Some people you talk to – especially initial screeners – may not understand the details of what you do, but rather are tasked with getting to know you better and present notes about you to the next person. Here’s where you can shine. Talk to them about your skills, but remember to check in with phrases like, “Am I making sense?” or “I can get really nerdy about this topic, please let me know if I’m going too far into it,” or “Did that answer your question?”
By stopping to check in, you’re showing that person that it’s important to you to answer their questions and give them the information they need. They’ll see you as an attentive listener and someone eager to do what’s necessary to obtain this position. Remember: they want to find a good candidate. If you can make sure they understand why you’re that good candidate without being boastful, then you’re making both of your lives easier.
Be clear and concise when answering their questions. Demonstrate your value on the skills side, as well as the culture side. Ask for feedback. Continue doing this during the hiring process and you’ll be able to give everyone a clear vision of who you are, what you have to offer, and why you’re the right fit.
You know what’s great about this? You’re focusing on a desire to communicate clearly rather than boasting; you’re epitomizing the ability to get ahead without being aggressive.
Don’t Forget to Stay Active!
The higher you climb and more specialized you become, the harder it is to find the right fit. That first job interview may not be the one you’re hired for. Knowing how to get to the top of the resume pile time and time again means that’s okay – you’ll have more opportunities and you’ll know what to do when the right one comes along.
Be active, not passive. If you don’t want to be pushy, take initiative and know that it is your responsibility to get your name out there and to maintain a network that sees you as someone who brings value to your field and the people you meet. Don’t sit around and wait for an opportunity to magically manifest. Give as much as you take with everyone you meet. Always be ready for what comes next. Make this a long-term career practice and you won’t have to act or feel pushy. You’ll just be someone who knows how to cultivate your network and grow your career.