Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Standing Out Amidst the Job Candidate Sea of Mediocrity

You're looking for work. Feeling the squeeze. You're pulling out all the stops, but the number of decent positions is dwindling - seemingly by the day. You're getting some action, but not the kind of interest you'd like.

Some days your job search can seem so miserably futile. The odds are terrible; too many people are vying for that sliver of pie.

But take heart.

There's a sea of competition out there, yes. It's getting larger every month. But a lot of those candidates are, frankly, mediocre. (Not to mention the small, but always interesting, pool of really terrible candidates).

Lest you think my assessment is cruel, I underscore that I'm talking about candidates. A person who is a mediocre candidate may be a very strong employee. Hardworking, Industrious. Dependable. Loyal. Productive.

The terms "good candidate" and "good employee" are not automatically synonymous - in fact, it's not unusual at all for a "good employee" (even a "terrific employee") to be a "not so good" candidate.

Therein lies the rub. Far too many employees - sometimes really good, valuable employees - have no idea what they need to do to transform themselves into stellar candidates.

Hiring managers are drowning in abysmally written resumes. When they invite people in, a fair number make some of the same stupid interviewing mistakes candidates have been making since the days of typewriter ribbon and mimeograph machines...along with a few entertaining newer entrants to the "stupid mistakes" category.

Why am I telling you this?

And why should this put a spring in your step?

Because it's great news.

You don't have to be one of those people. You can be a great employee and a great candidate! Maybe you already are.

If you know how to distinguish yourself from the masses - if you know what's unique about you and how to articulate it on paper (on your cover letter and in your resume) and verbally (while networking and interviewing) - if you know how to get inside the hiring manager's head and position yourself in such a way that you're a solution to her problem - then you're well on the way to being one of those strong candidates.

Which means you will eventually cut through the noise and perform like the star that you are. It may take longer because there is unquestionably more clutter these days, but you will do it. It's only a matter of time.

No doubt about it...there are a lot of people looking for work right now. But don't let that get you down. A sizable number of them are mediocre candidates. And you're going to leave most of them behind in the dust.

Rebecca Metschke helps professionals improve their marketability. The author of The Interview Edge (, a comprehensive career guide to career management, she also writes a daily blog posting strategies, tips and advice for those whose careers are in transition

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