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How to stand out in a crowded job market

​With the country's unemployment rate reaching 6.2% last month, many Australians who have never faced unemployment are now finding themselves out of a job. Not only do they have to navigate an increasingly competitive job market, but they also should be aware that the landscape has changed dramatically since their last job search. If you're in this position, three of our experts here at Paxus share their advice on how you can stand out to score your next role.

Reach out

If you find yourself suddenly unemployed, one of the first things you should do is reach out to your connections. As Phil Wilkinson, Senior Account Director at Paxus advises, “It's important to work through your LinkedIn connections first. Reach out to past colleagues to see if they're aware of anything coming up, since many positions are filled before they even go to market.”

Also, identify the companies where you would ideally want to work. Do some research on them and if possible, contact their internal recruitment team or department manager and ask for a 10 minute call.

Resumes

This is the time to update your resume. It may seem obvious, but always ensure you are honest, and that your LinkedIn profile matches. Recruiters and hiring managers will check your resume against your LinkedIn profile, and sometimes even against an older resume that's been kept on file. If inconsistencies are found, it's an automatic red flag and you're unlikely to proceed through to the next stage.

If you were in your previous role for a long period of time, it's important to do some research on the different variations of your job title. Rob Hart, Senior Account Director at Paxus says, “Be aware that the job title you had in your previous company may not be desirable or it's now called something else, but with the same skillset. A Business Intelligence Developer could now be called a Data Engineer. Carry out some research on what titles are being used now and ensure your resume reflects this.”

Phil Wilkinson agrees, “The last two jobs are the most important part of your resume. Make sure you have a recognised job title. You may have been a Product Owner, but you're really a Senior Project Manager. Also, be mindful that each company has its own terminologies. Some companies might call a certain function a Team Lead, whereas another company would call the same function an Executive Manager. So always do your research on the role and company you're applying for.”

It's also really important to have an achievements section that lists the projects you've worked on, their size and scale. “If I'm looking for a Project Manager that can deliver a $1m project, I'm going to look for candidates that have had experience in delivering a project of this size”, says Phil Wilkinson.

Is less really more?

Everyone has heard the saying ‘it's a numbers game', and people often think this is true when applying for jobs. However, this isn't quite the case. If you have fallen into this trap, Nathan Coller, Senior Account Manager at Paxus recommends that, “You should rethink your application strategy. The biggest problem we see are people sending the same resume to hundreds of roles. You may get away with this in a normal market, but it's much more difficult now. People often panic and apply for everything, but this actually works against them. Spend the time to review each role and amend your resume so it highlights the skills they're looking for. Target the roles you think you can really sell yourself into. Don't expect the recruiter or hiring manager to read between the lines, and don't assume that they know your background.”

It's also important to note that there are only so many recruiters and hiring managers out there. If you're sending out the same resume over and over again to roles that are completely irrelevant to the experience you have, your application may automatically get discarded.

So, should I only apply for roles where my experience matches exactly? No, not quite. Phil Wilkinson advises, “to hedge your bets and go for somewhere in the middle. Apply for anything where you might be able to have a conversation. If you have transferable skills – apply but make sure your resume is relevant for that position.”

Are cover letters worth it?

All three of our experts agreed that cover letters are not as important as your resume. Your priority should be to personalise your resume to the position you're applying to. At times, cover letters are not even read.

However, when they are read you still want to ensure that it doesn't raise any red flags such as spelling errors, inconsistencies and so on. Plus, it should also address any specific requirements of the role, but don't forget to also include these in your resume.

Prepare, and prepare again.

If you get through to an initial screening call or interview, preparation is key in progressing further. Nathan Coller recommends, “to always do some research on the hiring company. It's most likely you'll be asked what you know about the company, so prepare some key talking points. Also have some scenario or example-based responses prepared that demonstrate your experience or key abilities and attributes the hiring manager is looking for. You should also ask the recruiter for any information or tips for the interview. Occasionally, some recruiters are so busy they forget to pass this information on”.

Presentation is everything, even during a pandemic.

Your LinkedIn profile is often where you make a first impression with a recruiter or hiring manager, so always use a professional photo for your profile image.

Also, if you haven't had an interview for quite some time, Rob Hart recommends, “Practicing with a friend and researching tips for interviews. You can also record yourself so you can see how you're coming across, like are you speaking too fast or in a monotone?”

During the pandemic, most interviews are being conducted via video conference, but this doesn't mean that you shouldn't treat it as a normal interview. Dress as you normally would for an interview, be mindful of what's in the background, check the lighting, and it's also best to sit at a table rather than on a sofa.

Now with large numbers of people vying for the same jobs, it's even more important to do what you can to land that next role. Reach out to your network and to companies where you would love to work. Update your resume with accurate information and customise it for each job you apply for. If you do get an interview, treat it as you normally would if you were going into an office for a face-to-face interview. Finally, always reach out to your recruiter for advice. They have years of experience to take advantage of and will be happy to help.

How Paxus can help

If you’re looking for a new role, Paxus can help. Visit our Job Board to browse our open roles or signup for Job Alerts so you’ll be first to know when the perfect opportunity becomes available.

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