Competitive Job Market: Definition and Tips for Standing Out

Updated February 3, 2023

A competitive job market is one in which the number of individuals looking for employment exceeds the number of available positions. In this type of market, you need the right combination of education, experience and skills to stand out among other candidates. Learning about different strategies for distinguishing yourself from the competition can be a useful tool in helping you find the perfect job.

In this article, we discuss what a competitive job market is and share 13 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.

Related: 21 of the Most Competitive Jobs Right Now

13 tips to help you succeed in a competitive job market

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

1. Be patient

When looking for a job in a competitive job market, patience is important because it can help you maintain your job search efforts over a long period of time. To help maintain a patient attitude, you can:

  • Remind yourself of your goals

  • Celebrate minor accomplishments like receiving an interview or making a useful new professional connection

  • Create a community of other job seekers to foster mutual support

Read more: 5 Ways Being More Patient Can Help Your Career (With Tips and Techniques)

2. Get relevant work experience

If you are pursuing your first professional job, you can stand out from the competition by securing some related experience. Here are some types of experience you might pursue:

  • Internships: Look for internship opportunities, even unpaid internships, that can give you the invaluable skills employers look for in candidates. 

  • Entry-level roles: 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. The experience and skills you learn in these roles can transfer into any future position you hold.

  • Assistant work: Working as an assistant for a professional in your desired field can be a great way to gain relevant work experience and valuable connections early in your career. 

Read more: What Is Relevant Experience? Definition and Examples For Resumes

3. Engage in volunteer 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 to which you're applying. 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.

Read more: How To Add Volunteer Work On a Resume (With Examples and Tips)

4. 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. In these industries, companies may also accept experience as an alternative to a degree. You can distinguish yourself from the competition by completing your bachelor's degree. 

You can also continue to further your education after graduating in the following ways:

  • Pursue a certification

  • Attend a lecture series

  • Read new journals and literature

  • Join a discussion group

To decide which post-graduate educational options to pursue, evaluate the different opportunities that may enhance your resume and potentially qualify you for more advanced positions.

Related: Impress Recruiters with These Desirable Professional Certifications

5. 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. Here are some tips to help you network successfully:

  • Attend networking events and engage others in conversation. 

  • Collect contact information or business card and follow up with interesting individuals. 

  • Arrange informational interviews to learn more about an industry and create a stronger connection with a successful professional. 

  • Join online groups relevant to your career goals. 

  • Stay active on online professional networking websites. 

  • Stay in contact with the people you connect with the most, even if you're not currently looking for a new job. 

Read more: The Complete Guide To Networking

6. Customize your resume for each job

Your resume gives potential employers insight into your qualifications. Here are some important sections to include on your resume:

  • Contact information

  • Professional summary

  • Work experience

  • Skills

  • Education

  • Certifications

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 to which you're applying.

Read more: 10 Resume Writing Tips To Help You Land a Position

7. Build a professional online profile

Develop your professional profiles online by updating them with:

  • Professional headshot 

  • Work history

  • Skills

  • Certifications

  • Organizations

  • Education

  • Volunteer work

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.

Read more: How to Write a Professional Profile (With Examples)

8. Obtain leadership skills

Companies may actively seek candidates who have a demonstrated history of using leadership skills. Leadership qualities can be developed over time. To develop your own, you may look for opportunities to:

  • Take on more projects

  • Mentor a newer or younger team member

  • Ask for advice from leaders you admire

  • Take a leadership course

  • Read about leadership skills

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

9. 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 

  • Communication

  • Computer skills

  • Social media skills

Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a Resume (With Examples)

10. 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. Here's how to prepare:

  • Research the company as well as the position to which you're applying.

  • Practice your answers to common interview questions. 

  • Role-play the interviewer with a friend or colleague. 

  • Prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer, so you can be ready when they ask if you have any questions at the end of the interview.

Read more: 21 Job Interview Tips: How To Make a Great Impression

11. Join professional associations

Joining an industry-related professional organization can help you gain network opportunities and insider industry knowledge. Specifically, this type of action can help you:

  • Connect with industry professionals and experts

  • Enhance your resume 

  • Demonstrate a commitment to your professional development

  • Gain access to the latest trends in the industry

  • Discover new job openings

Read more: 57 Professional Associations To Boost Your Resume

12. 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.

Read more: References: Types, What To Include and How To Get Them

13. Be flexible 

A flexible attitude can help you succeed in a competitive job market. Here are some flexibility practices to use in your job search:

  • Consider accepting a position that is different from what you originally envisioned and adjusting your career plan accordingly. 

  • Think about which skills might help you succeed in a competitive market and look for a job which uses those skills. 

  • Remember that you can continue to look for an opportunity to move on to your dream job when the market is less competitive and that the work experience you develop in the meantime may help you do so.

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