How to Stand Out as a Candidate in the Job Search

Advice on how to enhance your job search, featuring insider tips from recruiters, hiring managers, and successful job seekers on Elpha.

Looking for a new job can be an exciting journey, but it can also be tough when you’ve tried multiple strategies without much success. 

We’ve compiled a guide offering a fresh perspective on job searching, drawing from the experiences of recruiters and hiring managers from companies hiring on Elpha and women who recently secured jobs. 

This guide provides practical, straightforward advice to help you enhance your job search and ultimately land your dream job . ✨

We cover tips on how to:

  • Tailor your resume effectively

  • Optimize your LinkedIn profile

  • Diversify your job application approaches

  • Develop your online presence

  • Network authentically

  • Focus on interview preparation

  • Stay motivated during your job search

Tailor your resume effectively

Providing a tailored resume not only sets you apart from the crowd but also boosts your shot at landing a job interview. By taking that extra time and effort to customize your resume, you not only demonstrate a genuine interest in the job but also show that you understand the requirements and how you can be a perfect fit. 

One helpful strategy is to create a master resume and then tweak it to fit each job you apply for. Make sure to include language from the job description and numbers and stats supporting your accomplishments and qualifications.

Especially if you’re a career switcher, it’s a good idea to create different versions of your resume that are tailored to the different industries or roles you are interested in. This step will make the job search process smoother and more efficient. 

Product Manager Evelyn Vela applied directly through the employers’ platforms and tailored her resume to each product, program, or project management role. 

“At first, it felt like I was overthinking it, but I customized every resume anyway and started getting better results. About two calls for every ten resumes that I sent,” says Evelyn.

Keep in mind that recruiters are usually flooded with resumes to review. The easier you make it for them to quickly connect the dots and get a sense of your skills and accomplishments, the higher the chance of making a positive first impression and getting invited for an interview. ✉️

One simple way to stand out is by creating a one-page resume highlighting your most important work experience. 

However, we know it’s not always easy to create a focused resume. It can be hard to determine which parts of your work experience are most relevant to the role you’re applying for. This process requires you to have a clear understanding of your career path, both where you've been and where you're headed, according to Engineer Catt Tung .

“I used to be scared of removing things from my CV, especially when they were good traits. But you have to look at where you want to go, and whether the people there care about those things. If they don't, respect their time and drop those things. People don't remember what you did as a bullet point on a resume. They might be impressed with certain numbers you hit. But nothing sticks like a narrative about who you are and where you're going,” Catt says.

Part of that narrative may also be a fun skills or hobbies section in your resume – something Karishma Sharma , Recruiting Manager at Grow Therapy , says has made job candidates stand out in applications she reviews. 

💼 Explore the latest job openings at Grow Therapy .

Optimize your LinkedIn profile

Your LinkedIn profile is like your digital resume; optimizing it can increase your chances of being discovered by potential employers and recruiters. 

Reign Fields , an Account Executive at Alterity, found her last three jobs through recruiters who contacted her directly on LinkedIn.

“I never applied or knew about any of them before the recruiters reached out. I tell everyone to make sure their LI page is optimized for recruiters to find them.”

How can you optimize your LinkedIn? Here are a few suggestions from Lindsay Hemings , Marketing Leader.

“I noticed keywords in my subject line did make a difference - I added my industry to mine as one. I am a lifecycle marketer, but I also added "Growth" as a keyword. You could upload your resume to ChatGPT and ask for keyword suggestions or eye other LinkedIn profiles similar to yours to see what keywords they’re using.”

Senior Manager of Employee Communications and Experience Sonia Rose , found most of her leads on LinkedIn. Setting up job alerts was a key component of her job search strategy . 🛎

“I had job alerts set up on keywords that only showed new job postings from the past 24 hours. I also had alerts set up on companies I was interested in, so I’d see all of their new job postings. Once I found a role I was interested in, I checked first to see if I had any connections who worked there and could refer me. If the answer was no, I’d apply right away to be first in line.”

Diversify your job application approaches

To step up your game in the job hunt, diversify your approach. Don't put all your eggs in one job application basket. Here’s what has worked for other women in tech:

Be strategic with your cold applications

Cold-applying for jobs can also be effective. Some Elphas have found more success through cold applications than any other approach.

“It's funny that the way I landed my position was probably the strategy I put the least effort into. I will say, though, that I never did cold apps on LinkedIn. I'd used LinkedIn to farm leads for companies I was interested in, and then I would go directly to their website and look for roles/apply there,” says Natalie Lieurance, Associate, Analytics and Reporting at Goldman Sachs.

Senior Product Manager Brittany Hite shares that she found more success through cold applications when she was highly qualified for the job or had a unique qualification that set her apart. For example, she received an offer through a cold application at a company where she had previously worked with the company’s product as a client, which made her stand out in her application. 🌟

“Cold applications for a stretch job are naturally going to have much lower success rates,” she adds, and suggests, “You may find better luck in cold applying to roles that are in-person or hybrid to the location where you live because the applicant pool will naturally be smaller than those for a remote job open to candidates from anywhere, and many companies prefer someone who is already there rather than someone who would need to relocate.”

Rochelle Turner , who leads Consumer Marketing for Live Events at Blavity, used a mix of strategies in her job hunt. Her approach included participating in a job acquisition program, doing outreach for referrals and informational interviews, and submitting cold applications within her primary field of event marketing and in targeted areas where she aspired to grow, specifically in brand and experiential marketing.

She shares some tips for cold applications:

  • Make sure your resume is free of errors and typos. As often as we rewrite, update and adjust them, this is where it helps to have someone look over it with a fresh eye.

  • Double-check your formatting. I love a Google Doc, but I wasn't aware that when downloaded as a PDF, my 2-pager was creeping into 3 and 4-page territory!

  • Be sure to quantify your successes. If you're like me and could have had better record-keeping, look up some examples or work with a coach or recruiter who can share samples of ways they like to see achievements quantified. It will help jog your memory and amplify your resume by leaps and bounds.

  • Apply for jobs on the company website directly

  • Where possible, find a common connection and let them know you're interested in applying. Here’s a message template you can use:

“Hey [Name], I hope you've been well! I just saw ''x" job was posted and it's so aligned with my experience and interest - I'm excited to apply. I'm wondering if your company has a referral process and if you'd be willing to submit one on my behalf.”

  • Try to be targeted in your search. Remember, it's a numbers game! Keep submitting and applying. Really lean into roles that align closely with your demonstrated experience, especially if they're niche. 

  • And lastly, don't get discouraged. Find a place where you can break through and stand out for your expertise.

Leverage your network

Jess Phoa , a Senior Product Designer at Postscript, took a slow networking approach when she was searching for a job: cold messaging folks within her communities or requesting intros to contacts via her friends.

One of her main takeaways from this approach has been to ask herself, “‘What's the worst possible outcome if I don't message this person? Can I manage said outcome on an emotional level?’ Chances are the worst outcome is never getting a reply — which is the same as if you don't message them in the first place. Is that something you can handle? Most definitely!”

As it turns out, Jess landed her current job through a referral from a friend.

“I was referred by a friend. Before I was officially put into the system, I requested an informal coffee chat with the hiring manager to level set expectations and ask questions in a safe environment. 12/10 would do again,” she explains .  

Reaching out directly via email 

Consider emailing the company directly for a more direct and personalized job application. Whether it's reaching out to a hiring manager in larger organizations or using the contact email for smaller companies and startups, this strategy can set you apart from other candidates. 

“I saw the job posting on LinkedIn, but emailed them instead of just quick-applying. It’s funny because I was originally going to pass it up when they reached out for an interview because I thought I was going to be promoted at the job I had at the time, but they passed me over, so I reached out to the interviewer. So glad I did!” shares an Elpha member.

Develop your online presence

Building a strong online presence is key to boosting your visibility, expanding your network, and unlocking new opportunities, especially in the tech world. It’s an excellent way to showcase your skills, interests, and expertise to a larger audience, which multiplies your ability to stand out and form unexpected connections.

There are plenty of ways to carve out your digital footprint. For example, tweeting your thoughts, ideas, and interests can be a powerful way to engage with like-minded individuals. 🐦

“I had tweeted about some of my interests/experiences along with things I had noticed while dabbling in tech. The then COO at my current company DMed me on Twitter and asked if I was interested in hearing about a People opening they had. We had a few calls and I was offered a role! Been with the org about 2 years now,” says Rachael Amy, HR and People Operations at buidlbox.

Another way to showcase your expertise is by publishing newsletters.

“The CMO of the company where I interviewed subscribed to an industry newsletter I produced bi-weekly at a previous company. Given that the newsletter was only one small part of my job there, it was an unexpected “in.” Not only did he love my work there, but he’d been expressing for years a desire for his team to write more content like that. It's incredibly rewarding when your work speaks volumes before you even step through the door,” explains Nicole Witowski , Senior Writer at Definitive Healthcare.

Displaying your work on a website or blog can also help you establish yourself online. ✍️

“In my most recent role, I had written an article about the company a few years prior for a content piece I did for one of the organizations [I was volunteering at]. When I saw the position open up I instantly recognized the company and referred back to the article. Showcasing and harnessing this excitement and enthusiasm for the industry through my volunteerism, and specifically this company in my work, landed me the role,” says Lindsay Hemings , Lifecycle Marketing Manager.

Network authentically

We know that the thought of networking can make a lot of people uncomfortable . This may be because people tend to associate networking with disingenuous and transactional interactions. Catt Tung , however, describes networking as quite the opposite, she says, 

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of networking effectively is humility - you are approaching them, they don't have to give you their time if they don't want to.”

Your focus should be on building genuine connections and nurturing relationships, rather than just seeking something in return.

💌 Check out these networking notes which include sample messages for cold connection requests.

“I'm part of several networking groups, and they all have their strengths. One is particularly engaging and pleasant, but it's like that because of the people involved. You get back what you put into networking. It can't be focused on getting something. You have to be willing to give your time and experience without an expectation of reciprocation. It will come back to you,” explains Cynthia Armistead Newman , Senior Customer Solutions Engineer at CivicScience. 

Lindsay Hemings describes networking as “planting seeds” so that each time you do your job search, it’s easier than the last.🌱

“Job searching has proven to get easier and more efficient as I've switched from short-term to long-term strategies. By that, I focus more on continuously building my network and contributing to organizations for women in my industry, so that each time I find myself in need of a job I can lean on my network for referrals and introductions, while also contributing to something very rewarding.”

Focus on interview preparation

Preparing well for a job interview is crucial to make a great impression on the interviewer and increase your chances of success. Think about how you can streamline other parts of the job search so that you can focus your efforts on preparing for the interview. 🙇🏽‍♀️

For example, Evelyn Vela used two automated resume-matching platforms during her job search, which landed her interviews. 

“I built my master product management resume, which I loaded onto the automated application platforms. I used Sonara and Hired. I got more screening calls and interviews from that process than anything else,” she comments.

She would select the job listings from a list of suggested matches provided by the platforms, and the platforms would then send out her application on her behalf. 

“I used the time the apps saved me to prepare for interviews and learn more skills. I prepared really well for interviews; my elevator pitch was tailored to the position I was applying for, and my stories were also picked to match the experience they were looking for,” she explains.

👉  Learn how to leverage ChatGPT in your job search so that you focus your energy on interview preparation.

Recruiters and hiring managers who hire on Elpha share some common mistakes made by candidates in interviews.

“The most common mistake I see in interviews is when candidates give a very long-winded explanation when asked to walk through their background. The summary of your work experience should be no longer than 2-4 minutes, quickly covering your highlights and what you're looking for in your next role,” says Karishma Sharma , Recruiting Manager at Grow Therapy .

Nova Syed , VP of Product at Mekonos , says,

“The most common mistake job candidates make tends to be some variation of not doing their research. This can manifest in not doing enough self-reflection or learning about their potential employer. When a candidate isn’t able to provide examples after multiple follow-ups or can’t clearly articulate their motivation for applying, it’s an automatic flag.” 🚩

Nova recommends that job seekers should spend time self-assessing throughout the year and compile a personal inventory of examples. During an interview, if you become nervous or need some time to think, don't hesitate to ask for it. As a hiring manager, she explains that this demonstrates self-awareness and thoughtfulness.

Stay motivated during your job search

Job hunting can be a long and frustrating process, and it's understandable to feel disheartened by it. However, there are ways to maintain your motivation during this time. Here are some tips from fellow Elphas:

Since many factors are beyond your control during a job search, focus on what you can manage. 

“You can't avoid motivation wavering throughout the process, and you can't put pressure on yourself to find a job in a certain time frame with a difficult market. However, you should remind yourself that rejection is redirection and a mutual fit will come your way, and set goals that you can control (ie. 'Schedule 5 coffee chats', as opposed to 'get hired in the next two weeks'). Some conversations may not go as you'd expect, but you will eventually find a hiring manager and team excited about your background,” says Lindsay Hemings .

Reach out to your friends and family for emotional and tactical support. 🤍

“They would remind me of my strengths and abilities and just generally would be my cheer team. I also deeply appreciated when someone would send me a job opening that I probably would not have seen: "Hey, saw this job pop up on XYZ, thought it's up your alley!" It's nice to have more eyes than your own when looking for something new,” says Rachael Amy .

Getting a mentor can also be helpful. They can provide guidance and feedback that will help you improve your chances of finding a job.

“I am fortunate enough to have personal mentors in my life who have so much experience and can tell me if there's something I can adjust that will make me even 1% better than I am, because a lot of times I really do think that's the determining factor,” says Catt Tung .

💡 Consider these three points when looking for mentorship.

Take a moment to appreciate your progress during your job search. Reflect on the conversations you've had and how far you've come. If you're feeling overwhelmed, try using humor to cope just like Sonia Rose did. 

“I thought I could turn my experience into something that might make others laugh and wrote a song parody about my experience to the tune of Adele’s and posted on LinkedIn. It was honestly therapeutic as I was laughing the whole time. Others got a good laugh out of it as well and on a positive note, it helped showcase my creativity and communications skills which landed well for the roles I was applying to.”

Keep in mind that the job search is a long game. Even though you may not be able to control how quickly you see the results of your job search efforts, you can keep building and fostering relationships with people. Some of these connections may evolve into more meaningful opportunities years down the road. Remember that connections and relationships grow over time.

We hope this guide provides a fresh perspective, acts as a friendly reminder of advice you may already know, or serves as a starting point for enhancing your job search and finding a job that aligns with your career goals and aspirations. 💜

💼  Explore the latest job openings at companies hiring on Elpha in our official job board .

💰To benchmark your pay and negotiate your next salary, visit the Elpha Salary Database .

👀  Want companies to reach out to you? Create a profile in the Elpha Talent Pool .

✨  Looking for support to help you through your job search? Join Elpha - a free community of 100,000+ women succeeding at work together. 💙

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Burned Out From the Job Search? Here’s What You Can Do

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