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4 Ways to Stand Out When You’re Competing With Really Qualified Candidates

You’ve got your eye on an amazing opportunity. You update your resume, perfect your cover letter, and line up your references. So far, you’re doing everything right. But before you submit your application documents, ask yourself this important question: What sets me apart?

You may have an extraordinary cover letter and resume with strong references. Great—but there will probably be other candidates with very comparable documents. So if you really want the gig, you have to be bold and prove your worth—before you’re asked to.

1. Submit a “Pain Letter”

Follow the advice of Liz Ryan, and substitute a pain letter for your cover letter. A pain letter identifies a challenge the company is facing and explains how you, if hired, would solve that problem. This demonstrates an uncommon depth of company knowledge and your unique ability to solve problems—which can seriously boost your appeal as a candidate.

2. Showcase Your Skills

A cover letter and resume can only go so far to describe what you can do; a portfolio provides concrete evidence of those abilities. Have you done a lot of writing in your previous roles? Don’t just tell an employer that you have strong writing skills on your resume; include samples of your writing in your portfolio.

You can bring this portfolio with you to the interview, but that assumes you actually get an interview. Instead, do yourself a favor and build an online portfolio that employers can access immediately when they receive your application materials. Your portfolio then becomes a tool that helps you land the interview, instead of something you showcase at the interview.

Plus, an online portfolio also allows you to include media that a traditional portfolio doesn’t. Do you have experience developing proposals and securing funding for projects? Include a proposal, timeline, and photos or a time-lapse video of the project in your portfolio.

3. Demonstrate Your Value

In addition to an online portfolio, consider submitting additional documents that can demonstrate your value to the company. Think about what the company needs, and develop something unique around that. For example, you could develop a proposal for a new program, an out-of-the-box marketing tactic, or a grant opportunity. The opportunities are endless—you simply have to use your knowledge of the company and your creativity to develop something relevant and realistic.

This approach will demonstrate your depth of knowledge of what the company needs and your ability to realistically meet those needs. It also proves your effort and enthusiasm—qualities that any sane employer wants in every employee.

4. Ask Bold Questions

When you snag an interview, you’ll certainly need to prepare for the questions that interviewer will ask you—but don’t forget that the interview is a two-way street. You should prepare a few questions of your own to help you decide if this is the right position for you and show just how interested you are in pursuing the opportunity.

This doesn’t mean you should be overly aggressive—but being willing to ask straightforward questions will show you know what you want.

In your job search, you can submit the same old cover letter and resume like every other job seeker, or you can look for a way to stand out from the competition for all the right reasons. Will you make the investment in yourself?

Written by Caris Thetford

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