Employers want to hire someone who will help their team succeed — someone who is passionate, knowledgeable and not afraid to give it his or her all. They want new hires who are eager to learn, can think critically and will contribute ideas that take them to the next level.
That all seems pretty intuitive. But there’s reportedly a huge mismatch between what employees are bringing to the table and what employers look for in candidates. Why? We think it’s a matter of messaging.
Research actually shows that everyone has the potential to be the rock star who takes work from good to great. But the real trick to being a standout candidate is helping your potential come across — on paper, online and in person.
If you’re in the job market (or even if you’re not!), here are our six best tips to be a better candidate, by tomorrow ... and one that could land you your dream job today.
1. Revamp your resume
We think the resume is outdated, but it’s still a must if you want the job. A great resume can propel you to the top of the pile, while an average one can deflate your accomplishments. If you’re dropping off a resume in person, your demeanor can really help you shine. But if you’re uploading it online, with hundreds of other job-seekers, the material has to be top-notch. And, considering that the average corporate recruiter only looks at each incoming resume for a grand total of six seconds, there’s no room for error. Proofread it. Format it. Tailor it to the position. This one sheet of paper deserves serious attention.
2. Call up some colleagues
Getting in touch with professional contacts can bolster your job hunt. They can recommend open positions you should apply for. They can also help you brainstorm what makes you stand out from the crowd. They can help you define your true strengths, as seen by your leaders and peers. Ask a close colleague what you excel at, and we bet they’ll have an answer more thoughtful and original than a blanket term like “leadership.” Teamwork makes the dream work: The best projects come out of collaborative efforts, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
3. Do your research
Due diligence is important, especially when you’re trying to convey how interested you are in an open position. With all the online tools available, it’s easier than ever to look up your company, its business, and even your hiring manager. Check out Glassdoor. Peruse the company’s website. Find your hiring manager on LinkedIn (you may even have some contacts in common who can put in a good word for you!). Make yourself familiar with the ins and outs of the mission statement and the basic business model, so you can truly answer “Why do you want to work here?”
4. Become a storyteller
What’s the secret of a great conversation? Keeping the story going. An interview is no different. Research shows that the most compelling speakers and orators rely on storytelling to keep audiences captive. Relate your work triumphs with a narrative arc. Practice with a friend or spouse so that you answer questions in a conversational, professional tone. And don’t forget to leave time for natural breaks, too.
5. Give yourself a pep talk
If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Before you walk in the door for an interview, bolster your confidence with a pep talk. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that pep talks aren’t just for sports teams. In fact, saying short, positive phrases delivers an immediate performance boost for athletes and professionals alike. Something as simple as “I can do this. Yes, I can!” will do the trick. And then keep it running through your mind as you’re headed in for an interview.
6. Clean up your online presence
Applying for a job in the 21st century? Get ready to be Googled. It’s the reality: Employers check up on potential candidates’ social media profiles before they even step into the office for an interview. Make sure there aren’t any old pictures or posts that could embarrass you. If this sounds like old news, this may shock you: In 2015, 48 percent of companies turned down a job candidate based solely on content in his or her social media profile. Spending just 20 minutes cleaning up your online act pays dividends.
For any job in any industry, these easy tips will get you on the road to being a better candidate by tomorrow. But, there’s something better we’ve found that really makes you stand out from the crowd and proves you’re the perfect fit.
7. Add value before you’re hired or interviewed
If you really want to go above and beyond and prove you’re the best fit — find a way you can be a problem-solver, a relationship-connector or a hurdle-remover for the team before they hire you. Try to discover your new team’s pain point and make a plan to relieve it. Fellow contributor Liz Ryan shares some great advice on writing a pain-letter instead of a cover letter here. Taking action and creating value (and not just communicating it) on the company, team or manager’s behalf without being asked speaks volumes more than you could ever write.
What are your best ideas for how to stand out from the crowd and be interview ready? Share with us below.
Learn more about The New York Times best-selling book "Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love."
This article originally appeared at Forbes.com.
David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom work with the O.C. Tanner Institute. Learn more about The New York Times best-seller "Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love" (McGraw-Hill) at www.greatwork.com.