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Stand out in a crowd of job seekers

Q. In a job climate that is currently loaded with Human Resource candidates,
how do I go about standing out in the crowd and even having my resume reviewed? I have 12-plus years experience in recruitment, training/performance development, and organizational development being my main focus areas.

A.Your question could actually be about any specific functional role for job seekers, not just human resources. The market is more competitive than ever, and every interaction you have needs to be powerful, memorable, and better than every other job seeker out there.

To make that happen, you need to have an impactful "brand", and Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0 - Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (Kaplan Publishing) has advice and an action plan to offer on personal branding and career success.

Building your brand, and making sure people recognize you for the strengths you bring has certain low tech followers in people who are skilled networkers, and those who select their references for diversity in addition to preparing them perfectly to sell their skills. Dan helps those entering the high tech and very current world of social networking make themselves known in the most positive and proactive ways.

Developing the brand becomes the "how-to" - but first you need the content of your brand - regardless of what your functional specialty is. Since you asked about human resources, I asked 3 outstanding HR colleagues to share their thoughts about achieving success in this job market for human resources staff. For people with other functional specialty areas, I encourage you to approach respected colleagues and ask the same question. Susan Treadway, Dave Denaro, and Penny Locey outlined the focus for hr professionals:

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HR job seekers will be best served by their ability to demonstrate the link between their accomplishments and business objectives and results. Business leaders, when surveyed, often cite concerns that HR professionals do not adequately demonstrate knowledge of the business and therefore sometimes “miss the mark” when delivering HR solutions. First and foremost, be sure you can articulate the fundamentals of the business.

The irony of this market is that because there is such strong talent available, companies are attentive to the possibility of “upgrading” where they may feel an incumbent is weak. They also, as you allude in your question, are swamped with resumes. So networking becomes more important than ever as the way to make yourself known to them. Find ways to connect with senior HR leaders through professional organizations or mutual contacts, especially in ways that are mutually valuable.

Research the company and read between the lines of any job posting for potential concerns/issues that you believe they may be having -- areas where you might be able to add value. Offer up in your contact with the company some ideas/approaches/potential solution. (Is there a talent gap in some area that you have some ideas how to address through recruitment or training? Are they beginning to work cross-functionally – a time when the team-building you’ve done for similar teams could be an answer? Are they expanding globally, where you have experience helping teams with cross-cultural awareness?) Often these conversations can lead to consulting engagements that can lead to permanent opportunities as well.

Make sure at least one of your references is a business partner who can back up your business contributions and savvy. Ultimately, how you differentiate yourself is to frame your accomplishments in terms of business results. This will get their attention.


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