Finding a Job

11 Strategies for Standing Out in a Competitive Job Market

February 22, 2021

In a competitive job market, you need the right combination of education, experience and skills to stand out among other candidates. It's even important to develop your own personal brand. Learning about different strategies for standing out from the competition can go a long way toward finding the perfect job for you. In this article, we discuss what it means to be living in a competitive job market and share 10 strategies to help you stand out from the competition.

What is a competitive job market?

A competitive job market refers to the amount of competition there is for open positions. A job market can shrink or grow based on the demand for labor and the number of employees available in the economy. When there is a competitive job market, it generally means there are more employees waiting to fill roles than there are positions available.

How to succeed in a competitive job market

Here are some strategies you can use to stand out in a competitive job market.

  1. Get relevant work experience.
  2. Engage in voluntary work.
  3. Enhance your education.
  4. Network.
  5. Customize your resume for each job.
  6. Build a professional online profile.
  7. Obtain leadership skills.
  8. Stay up to date on market trends.
  9. Prepare for your interview.
  10. Join professional associations.
  11. Have good references.

1. Get relevant work experience

If you are pursuing your first professional job, you can stand out from the competition by securing some work experience or an internship. Look for internship opportunities—even unpaid internships—that can give you the invaluable skills employers look for in candidates. You could also search for entry-level roles in the industry or department you want to work within, even if it isn't exactly what you want to do. Again, the experience and skills you learn in these roles can transfer into any future position you hold.

2. Engage in voluntary work

Volunteer work is a great way to gain experience while you are pursuing a degree or after college. Because recruiters expect candidates to have work experience, engaging in volunteer work can be a great way to gain a competitive edge over others who are vying for the same role you're applying for.

Voluntary work is also beneficial for those who have professional work experience but are looking to enhance their experience or even pursue a different career path.

3. Enhance your education

Having a degree can increase your earning potential and qualify you for more advanced positions. Many industries, such as banking or business, even require candidates to hold a degree, although many may accept experience as an alternative to a degree. Stand out from the competition by completing your bachelor's degree.

Another way to further your education, particularly if you have a bachelor's degree already, is to pursue a certification. Evaluate the different certifications that would enhance your resume and potentially qualify you for more advanced positions.

Related: Impress Recruiters with These Desirable Professional Certifications

4. Network

While experience and education can go a long way toward helping you stand out in a competitive job market, networking can also play a big role in helping you find the right opportunity. Attend networking events and engage others in conversation. Stay in contact with the people you connect with the most, even if you're not currently looking for a new job.

5. Customize your resume for each job

Your resume gives potential employers insight into your qualifications. Update your resume regularly to include your most current skills and work experience. Every time you apply for a new job, customize your resume so it emphasizes the experiences and skills the employer is seeking in a candidate. You may even want to remove experiences that aren't relevant to the position you're applying to.

6. Build a professional online profile

Develop your professional profiles online, updating them with a professional headshot and ensuring they have been fully updated with your work history, skills, certifications, organizations and education. Regularly update your profiles by sharing the latest research for your industry as well as projects you've completed and achievements you have made. It's standard for most employers to search your name online before calling you in for an interview, so be mindful of the information you are posting on the internet.

7. Obtain leadership skills

Most employers are looking for candidates who have leadership skills. Companies will actively seek out candidates who have the ability to lead teams. Candidates who have a demonstrated history of using leadership skills in prior positions are more likely to stand out from the rest.

Leadership qualities can be developed over time. Look for opportunities to take on more projects. Mentor a newer or younger team member within your department. Keep learning and looking for ways to benefit your own department or the company.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

8. Stay up to date on market trends

Identify trends in different career sectors that are relevant to your experience and skills, and determine whether your skills are current. You may need to update them to stay competitive in your industry. Some of the top skills to maintain include management and computer skills.

Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a Resume

9. Prepare for your interview

One of the best ways to stand out from other candidates is to make sure you're fully prepared for your interview and can walk into the room with confidence. Research the company as well as the position you're applying to. Prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer so you'll be ready when they ask if you have any questions at the end of the interview.

10. Join professional associations

Stand apart from your competition—and gain the opportunity to network with others in your industry—by joining an industry-related professional organization. Many professional organizations are comprised of both industry professionals as well as experts. Not only will belonging to an organization enhance your resume and demonstrate a commitment to your professional development, but it will also give you access to the latest trends in the industry as well as give you firsthand information on new job openings.

11. Have good references

While you generally will not need to provide references until asked, it's important to be prepared in advance with a list of references. If possible, include the names of previous employers as well as coworkers you have worked with personally who can speak to your skill level and work ethic.

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