Do you fantasize about walking into a job interview, anticipating every question, delivering slick, well-polished answers, and then walking out like Robert California? Everyone does, especially when they’re on the job hunt. While there’s no real trick to it, there is one way to really separate yourself from the rest of the pack, and leave a lasting impression in a prospective employer’s mind.
Create a ‘hook’.
You know, like how movies and TV shows have a hook — or, something so intriguing that you need to see and hear more about it? The X-Files had aliens. Game of Thrones leaves you wondering who’s going to die next. You? Well, your hook is whatever you want it to be — as long as it’s genuine.
Now, your hook can be anything, but its main purpose is to leave an impression and help you stand out. Think about it in terms of advertising: we’ve all heard the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’. Essentially, that means that as long as you’re talking about whatever company or brand a marketing gimmick featured — and no matter how awful or offensive it turned out to be — you’re still talking and thinking about it. It made an impression.
Obviously, you don’t want to make a bad impression, and have your stunning incompetence or penchant for swearing up a storm in a professional environment be your hook. So creating and conceptualizing what your hook is gives you a way of controlling your own image. It’s controlling your own personal brand.
On the flip side, companies and recruiters are also trying to ‘hook’ you, or other talented applicants, with their own spin. It’s a whirlwind of doublespeak, marketing, and agenda-pushing from both you and the companies looking to hire. And by developing and controlling your image, you’ll be a step ahead of the other applicants you’re up against.
In order to create your hook, you can simply take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, or even just look at your resume. Do you have any work experience that is incredibly unique? How about any skillsets that you know not many other applicants probably have? Those both can be starting places, and by building off of them, you can weave your own narrative into a resume or cover letter.
If you feel dead in the water (or extremely ordinary) looking at your resume, you can branch off into your personal life. Everyone has a hobby of some sort, or maybe a side project, business venture, or artistic calling that we chase away from work. Whatever it is, that specific thing is probably unique to you in some way, and can also be used to create a hook.
If you’ve found yourself in an interview, for example, you can find a way to bring up that unique thing you do outside of work — and if you can sell it right and make it sound interesting, suddenly the interviewers are fascinated in what you have to say, and there’s less time for them to pick apart your weaknesses.
But having a hook isn’t just crucial once you’re in the room with a hiring manager — it may be of the utmost importance on paper. For many jobseekers, finding a way to make their resume and cover letter stick out from the pile is a huge challenge. By creating and sticking with the hook and personal branding identity that you’ve built for yourself, you can make your documents magically rise to the top, and create some chit-chat among potential employers.
The whole key here is to find a way, by using your own creativity and experience, to electrify your job search. By being ‘that guy’ in a stack of resumes, you can put yourself miles ahead of the competition, all by simply re-framing or refocusing attention onto certain aspects of your background or personality that you choose. Instead of merely being swept along with the tide in an interview situation, you can wrestle some control, and keep prospective employers focused on what you want; not where your skillset comes up short.
Get creative, and think of your job search as a marketing campaign. How will you hook the consumer?
Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger