Four ways to stand out in the hiring process that don't involve your resume

Four ways to stand out in the hiring process that don't involve your resume
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo / Unsplash

As the job market becomes more competitive, employers are looking for candidates who are unique and memorable. With a little time and effort, you can go beyond the resume to make a lasting impression. Here are four things you can do to shine during your job hunt.

  1. Do your research. A candidate who takes time to learn about the company–its values, product or service offerings, and even some of its current challenges–shows that they are genuinely interested in the organization.

Before any interview, visit the company's website and LinkedIn page to familiarize yourself with the following details:

  • The company's culture and values
  • The key leaders in the organization
  • The company's core product and/or service offerings
  • Main clients and/or stakeholders
  • What types of skills and experience do they find desirable?
  • What types of conferences and events do they participate in?
  • Is there any recent news about the organization?
  • Find out who will be conducting your interview, look them up on LinkedIn or find their bio on the company website

Having some background information will help you create a meaningful dialogue during the interview and show that you're resourceful and thorough.

2. Get a Referral. Having someone from the inside vouch for you is one of the most impactful ways to stand out in the hiring process.

Do you know someone that works for the company? If so, reach out and see if they would be willing to connect you with the hiring manager or put in a good word for you. Even if they are not from the department that is hiring, knowing someone at the organization still sets you apart.

If you don't know anyone at the company, use your network! Ask people you know to introduce you to people in their network who work at the organization. You never know who may be willing to have a chat, do an informational interview, and help you make the right connections. LinkedIn is a great tool for this, since you can look up people at the hiring organization and it will show you any mutual connections. And as always, the key is to continuously grow and cultivate your network.

3. Provide samples of your work. Depending on your industry, a portfolio with samples of your best work can help make you a memorable candidate.

Having a personally branded, high-quality, online or hard copy portfolio will give the hiring managers a snapshot of your skills and experience. If a picture is worth a thousand words–a portfolio allows you to elaborate on some of your biggest achievements in a compelling way.

If portfolios aren't standard in your industry, there are other ways you can showcase your skills. One recruiter I spoke to said they were thoroughly impressed when a candidate took a problem the company was facing, and without being asked, came to the interview with an outline of a plan for solving it. Talk about showing initiative!

Get creative and figure out the best way to showcase your work. Start a blog or a website with press clippings, case studies or summaries of real-life projects. Include budgets, templates and project plans where you can.

4. Be an industry leader. Knowing about the latest technology, trends and thought leaders in your field can also set you apart in your online presence, networking conversations and during interviews.

Here are a few tips for keeping current:

  • Find and follow industry leaders on social media. Join the conversation by commenting on and sharing their posts and possibly even connecting with them directly.
  • Listen to podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to catch up on industry news and trends while you're driving, going for a run or folding laundry. You can choose the topics that interest you and fill gaps in your knowledge. Listening to podcasts can also help you become more fluent in industry-specific terminology giving you that extra confidence boost during the interview process.
  • Attend events. The best way to immerse yourself into an industry is to attend virtual or in-person events where you can mix, mingle and learn. And you're sure to impress your new employer when you mention that you saw their booth or heard their CEO speak at the last convention and "valued their ideas on X, Y, Z." Mic drop.

Putting in a little extra effort goes a long way in helping you gain the attention and respect of any potential employer.

Now get out there and shine!