Competition is always fierce for coveted roles at the hottest organizations, but even more so now, with a booming economy and tight job market. Yet with the possibility of an economic downturn in our future, now is a good time to make sure you’re well-positioned for your next job.

“It's better to be at the top of your game than it is to be knocked off your perch when you begin the job search,” said Taylor Cotterell, an executive recruiter, in Forbes. “Passive job hunting assists in networking and meeting people, helps confirm that you are in a good position, and accelerates your career.”

In a recent survey by City Square Associates for Harvard Business School Online, we asked employment recruiters what makes a candidate stand out. Here are some important tips to help you get noticed and find your next job.

Tips to Help You Find a Job

1. Refresh Your Resume


According to our survey, 90 percent of recruiters prospect for at least some of their hires, which means they proactively search for and find candidates before they apply. So, having an updated, comprehensive, and creative online profile, particularly on LinkedIn, is crucial. In fact, it’s the most critical step a candidate can take to stand out.

Not only should you make sure your resume is up-to-date and posted on LinkedIn and other job sites like Indeed and Glassdoor, but make it easy for recruiters to find you. To make your resume stand out, research the skills and qualities that are most in-demand and highlight what makes you unique. Use catchy headlines and give details about each job and what you achieved. And perhaps most important, make your profile search-engine-friendly by optimizing with keywords and phrases you think a recruiter may be searching.

You should also consider increasing your online presence through a personal website, a blog, and social media posts. The more places you appear, the more likely you’ll be found.

By following these steps, you’ll ensure your profile rises to the top when prospective employers are searching for a particular background or skill set.

2. Make the Right Impression


Equally important to making your resume easy to find is making the right impression once recruiters find you. Our survey revealed there are certain red flags on your resume that can wreck your chances of getting hired. Lies, omissions, and spelling or grammatical errors are top recruiter pet peeves and some of the quickest ways to get your resume rejected.

In a job search, some things are out of your control, but being fastidious, using spellcheck, and finding someone to proofread your work are easy steps you can take to ensure you stay in the running.

3. Build Your Network


You likely hear a lot about the value of networking, but what exactly is it? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary , networking is “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions, specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” According to our survey, networking is the top way recruiters find candidates—through referrals from people they know and fellow employees.

So, if you’re not doing so already, start networking. Befriend your neighbors or people you know at work or church. Volunteer or join the local softball team. Great contacts can come from anywhere; it pays to be nice. In fact, establishing and maintaining strong relationships in your current and past jobs is important, too. Our survey shows bad references from a previous employer is a top reason why candidates get rejected.

One of the most useful aspects of networking is that it helps you find a contact within a desired organization who could vouch for you or put your resume on the right desk.

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4. Know When to Apply


One of the more tiresome aspects of employment recruiting is weeding out candidates who aren’t qualified for a particular role. The recruiters we surveyed said if you don’t have the skills or experience for a certain job, please don’t apply. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should scrap opportunities if you don’t have every listed requirement, but make sure you can realistically do the job.

In an article on Glassdoor, Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, president and CEO of Great Resumes Fast, weighed in on when it’s OK to apply.

“If it’s a 10 percent match for skills and experience, don’t bother,” Holbrook Hernandez wrote. “You’ll be wasting both your time and the recruiter or hiring manager’s time. If it’s a dream job at a dream company and you’re the perfect culture fit, and your qualifications are an 80 to 90 percent match, I would advise that you apply.”

5. Nail Your Interview


It should go without saying: don’t be late. Being punctual for a job interview seems like common sense, but recruiters report tardiness as their number one pet peeve.

Nicole Cavazos of ZipRecruiter compared being late for an interview with wiping out during a skating competition.

“No matter how flawlessly or gracefully you skate, falling down can overshadow the rest of your performance and diminish your chances of winning,” said Cavazos.

Once you’ve arrived on time, there are other things you can do to make a good impression. Recruiters report sloppy dressers and bad attitudes as other top pet peeves. So, do you need to wear a suit? Probably not. Most organizations now subscribe to a business casual dress code, but being polished and professional still matters. You want to show prospective employers you’re serious about the opportunity. Find out what employees wear to work and step it up a notch.

Beyond looking the part, don’t be a jerk. Nerves can bring out the worst in people, but a positive attitude is crucial to a successful interview. Hiring managers are looking for candidates who can not only do the job but will get along with the rest of the team.

Making a positive impression is paramount to getting hired, so make sure you nail your interview by setting your alarm, giving yourself plenty of time to get there, dressing for success, and turning on the charm.

6. Sharpen Your Skills


Taking an inventory of the skills needed for a desired job can help candidates recognize holes in their background. You can get experience you don’t already have by volunteering at a school or nonprofit. Online certificate programs are another convenient way to bolster your resume.

According to our panel of recruiters, 85 percent said listing a certificate on your resume helps candidates stand out. And 50 percent say certificates from top schools are even better. There are thousands of free courses online, or you can learn vital business concepts through Harvard Business School Online.

Preparing for Your Next Job

So, while your background and skill set are fundamental for prospective employers, there are many other things you can do to make sure you stand out as a strong candidate.

Some career experts believe you should always be looking for your next job, even if you’re perfectly happy where you are. These tips should help position yourself for career advancement or at least steady employment.

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