Four Tips to Stand Out in Your Job Search

Finding a job can be one of the most daunting tasks someone can take on. It seems like every time I browse the headlines or scroll through my LinkedIn feed, I read about another massive layoff or a stagnant market. But don’t lose all faith—there are jobs out there!

A cartoon rendering of a job applicant celebrating their success on top of a podium.

Whether you are a recent grad, were just laid off or are looking for a career change, the following tips can help turn your job search nightmare into a job search success story. All of my suggestions can be boiled down to one message—PREPARE! Don’t go out into the job market without doing your due diligence. If you do, you may miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

Write a Relevant, Readable Resume

This is probably the most obvious tip and I know you have heard it a million times, but I can’t tell you how many resumes I have seen with obvious errors…or errors in judgment. Read, re-read and then have someone else read your resume before you send it out. Also, only put impressive stuff on there; mixing Kool-Aid is not an extraordinary skill (I seriously saw that on a professional resume). For your job experiences, don’t just list your duties or inflate them with buzz words or impressive-sounding jargon—instead, define concrete achievements that are relevant to the job you’re applying to and their outcomes.

Nowadays, it’s not guaranteed that a human will be the first to “read” your submitted resume. Many companies screen applications using automated applicant tracking systems Use online resume tools to ensure that your formatting is compatible with these systems. Also, consider using AI tools to double-check your resume for clarity and to suggest edits that would help you naturally include keywords related to the job.

For some jobs, it’s better to provide a CV. Read this blog post about when to use a CV versus when to use a resume.

Don’t Limit Your Job Search…Or Yourself

If you’re a scientist, you’ve spent all your time in school and maybe a few years after you graduated working on the bench. Why? Because that’s what you thought you were supposed to do as a scientist. But your next job doesn’t have to be in the lab.

There may be career paths out there that you never even thought of—what about a career in technical services or marketing or project management? To get an idea of what is out there, go to job board websites, type in a few keywords that describe your experience and browse the jobs that come up.

Read this blog post about one scientists’ transition from academia to industry.

Similarly, don’t limit yourself to the companies you always imagined yourself working for or the cities you thought you’d live in. Growing up in the Chicago area, I always assumed I’d get a job in the city. But when I was offered an amazing position in Madison, I jumped at the chance and discovered the city is a true gem. Open your mind and your search criteria. You may be amazed at what opportunities surface.

Tap Into Your Network

If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you are missing out! Join now and start building your professional network. If you know someone with a career path that interests you, invite them out for lunch and discuss how they got to where they are now. Or, set up a virtual call if you’re in different cities. You could also ask them to review your resume or forward your information on to their company’s recruitment department. Worst case scenario is that they say no, and you’ll still have had an informational meeting and strengthened your professional network.

Having a strong network and a strong LinkedIn profile makes you findable. You want to make sure you are part of a network where a recruiter can find you.

Practice Your Interview Responses

“What are your greatest strengths and greatest areas for improvement?”

I know it’s a cliché interview question, but interviewers can learn a lot from how you answer. Be honest and make sure your strengths are related to the job. When answering the question about your greatest weaknesses, be truthful but remember that you still need to put your best foot forward. “I tend to be late to work” is not a good response: it’s likely easy to fix and makes you sound unreliable. “I just work too darn hard” isn’t really a weakness. The best answers will show that you are aware of a weakness and have taken steps to address it.

“What is your anticipated salary?”

Saying that you don’t know or that the company can just pay you anything is a weak answer. You’ll sound like you have not done your research. Look through online forums and career web sites, ask professionals in the field and consider cost of living ($50K in San Francisco is not the same as $50K in Austin). Many don’t like to answer this question because they fear they will “low ball” themselves or be rejected because they overshoot. But if you have done your research, you should be fine. You can also ask the recruiter if that number sounds like it is in line with what they can offer. Let them know that you are flexible (but only if that’s true!)

“Tell me about yourself.”

Prepare a short (about one minute) elevator pitch about yourself. Keep your story work-related and highlight your major accomplishments. Do not elaborate on every paper you’ve written or every job you’ve held.

Prep for your next interview by reading about the five interview responses recruiters can see right through.

Prepare for Your Job Search Success Story

Being armed with these tips will help you in the job search. It is tough out there, but preparing and being open minded will give you a leg up on your competition. Good luck!

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Becca McKnight

Becca McKnight

Senior Recruitment Specialist at Promega Corporation
Becca is a member of Promega’s Emotional and Social Intelligence (ESI) team where she gets to coach employees, teach classes related to self-awareness, mindfulness, empathy and relationship management skills and teach yoga during the lunch hour. She earned her BS in psychology with a minor in dance at the University of Iowa. In her free time you can find her dancing with her toddler, practicing yoga or cooking.

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