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Hiring managers share what makes job candidates stand out

We asked hiring managers to tell us what makes job candidates stand out for them. This is what they said.

Competition for jobs right now is fierce in many industries, as millions of people have found themselves out of work and vying for available positions.

This means it’s more important than ever to stand out in the job search and be more memorable and impressive than your competitors. We wanted to know what makes job candidates stand out, so we asked more than 60 hiring managers. Here’s what we learned:

Do your research

No surprises here. We say this all the time. A majority of respondents listed researching the company and role as a top way a job candidate can make themselves stand out. Show up knowing your stuff, and you’re ahead of the game.

Matt Woodley, Founder of MoverFocus.com an online resource for comparing moving companies and finding resources to assist with international moves, said, “Really do your homework. Research the company thoroughly, and know more about it than any other applicant. This doesn’t go unnoticed by employers and can really set you apart from the competition. You should endeavor to know their company history, principals, target market, and how you can add value.”

You can then use this knowledge in the interview to impress the manager. Rather than simply saying, “I have done my research,” demonstrate it by asking relevant questions and finding relevant talking points.

For example, Glen Wilde, CEO of Diet to Success, a personal training and nutrition coaching company, said, “Ask questions that show you have done your research about the company. When I was hiring a writer for my company, one candidate asked me about the company’s view on vegetarianism and veganism. She asked because she didn’t see any posts on the site discussing the subject and wanted to know as it may be a potential blogging topic. This impressed me because it showed me that she took the time to scroll through the countless articles. When you show that you did some digging into the company, it’s extra brownie points in the eyes of the interviewer.”

Show how you will bring value

Showing how you will contribute and bring value is the key to the whole puzzle. That’s what the hiring manager is looking for: the person who will bring the most value. You have to be someone who will benefit the company more than you will cost it – and who will benefit the company more than your competitors.

Marie Buharin, a hiring manager in the medical device industry and career-development blogger at modernesse.com, said, “A fantastic candidate is one that recognizes that a company seeks to accelerate the completion of certain strategic objectives by filling an open position, and who is eager to understand these objectives and how they can provide the skills needed for the company to achieve them.

“When a candidate truly shifts their mindset from them getting the job to the benefit they can bring to the organization, it stands out like a beacon of light.”

Quantify your achievements

Quantifying your achievements is probably the easiest way to communicate your value.

Adam Sanders, Director of Successful Release, an organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged populations find financial and professional success, suggests doing this both during interviews and on your resume. He said, “It’s easy to focus on your responsibilities and tasks when discussing your prior experience but that is often a mistake. A more effective tactic is to focus on the results of your work and how you measured success. Being able to tell your interviewer that you improved sales by 20% or reduced necessary overtime by 100 hours a week which saved $100,000 a year is a lot more impactful than just talking about your duties. Hiring managers want employees that can make an impact and the best way to show that is through numbers!”

Show that you’re a self-starter

It’s also more important than ever to show that you are motivated and can work autonomously, since so many people are working remotely. How to communicate this? Show them something you’ve worked on.

Calloway Cook, President of Illuminate Labs, an ecommerce company selling dietary supplements, said, “In the era of remote work, I’m looking for candidates who have proven that they can produce outstanding work on their own time. I love seeing a candidate who has a personal project that they’ve built up outside of work, or a creative portfolio that they’ve constructed on their own.”

Or you can just start doing the job you’re applying for.

Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, a company that runs team building events for clients like Apple, Amazon, and Google, said, “One surefire way to stand out is to just start doing the work. For example, if you are applying for an article writing job then you can just write an article and send it to the hiring manager. If you want a role in sales, find a way to make a sale for the company. There is no easier decision to make from a hiring perspective, than someone that is already doing — and succeeding — at the job that you want to hire for.”

Be adaptable and willing to learn

In an era when the future of business is so uncertain, adaptability and willingness to learn are valuable qualities to hiring managers.

Omar Zenhom, co-founder and CEO of WebinarNinja and host of The $100 MBA Show small business podcast, said, “The thing that separates candidates from the pack is adaptability. What they already know or have expertise in is secondary to their willingness to learn and develop into whatever the company needs.

“If someone demonstrates an agile mind, a work ethic, and an openness to learning, I know that I can train them in anything. Who knows what the company will need next month, next year, next decade? I want someone who can navigate what they DON’T know, just as much, or more, than I want someone who knows a ton.”

Those are the key ways in which candidates can stand out, according to hiring managers. For more on

For more on what to say in the interview, read 3 things not to say in the job interview and what to say instead.

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