by Lydia Dishman, PayScale.com
It's a competitive job market out there--the unemployment rate is still unpleasantly close to 10 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and you can bet that the seasonal employment pool will be well stocked with qualified candidates during this year's holidays. Here's how can you set yourself apart from other applicants.
Stick to the basics.
Robert Hosking, executive director of the staffing service OfficeTeam, reports that a recent survey by the company found applicants willing to wield any weapon in their arsenal to stand out--from spritzing resumes with perfume to parking them inside toy trucks.
But Hosking says these methods are not the best approach: "While unconventional methods can be hit or miss," he says, "one surefire way to stand out is by going the extra mile to showcase your skill set, professionalism, and enthusiasm for the position."
He said the executives surveyed responded most to the candidates who offered excellent references and could demonstrate actual achievements. "No matter how relevant or impressive your skill set, employers want to see how your expertise and efforts will affect the company's bottom line."
Do your homework.
Even though the job is seasonal (and temporary), you need to prepare for the interview, advises Dianne Shaddock Austin, principal at Easy Small Business HR. "Do your research on the company or the industry and be prepared to provide actual or hypothetical work-related examples that highlight your understanding of the job or the industry," she recommends.
Conduct market research.
Kim N. Carswell, founder of Persona Affairs, LLC, advocates preparing your own personal brand statement or elevator pitch to fit each company's brand message. "It shouldn't include 'I just need a job,'" she says, but should highlight your commitment--for example, "I'm open to full-time employment once my competency has been demonstrated." Carswell also suggests branding each of your resumes based on accomplishments, credentials, and overall potential to make it employer-friendly. "Tweak resumes for each company and include social media marketing ability if applicable," she says.
Polish your appearance.
Carswell says it's important to dress appropriately, even if you are interviewing at a retail store. And your presentation doesn't end there, she says: "Have your resume printed on bonded paper to leave with a manager even if they have an online application." She also suggests asking for a business card and following up by sending your resume via email within 72 hours. "Don't forget to make a mental note of the operations--mood, customer service, product line, and so on--so you can comment on your visit in your note," says Carswell.
Even though the job may be seasonal, Austin cautions applicants not to say they're interested only in a temporary position until something else in their field comes along. "Every hiring manager wants to know that you're excited about their job, no matter how mundane the role may be. They don't want to feel like you're only interested until something better comes along," she explains.
Go the extra mile.
Personal gestures can go a long way, whether you're just beginning to network or after you've been interviewed. Taking time to find out more about the potential employer's business, names of top executives, and who competitors are can be useful in setting yourself apart during initial conversations--especially if you've reached out via social media. Hosking says one executive really liked when the job seeker turned the table and wanted to know all about him. "The tactic worked," he admitted.
After you've snagged an interview, Hosking advises sending a thank-you note or a pertinent news article to follow up. "It can make a lasting, positive impression," he says.