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Ask The Career Coach: How To Get Employers To Notice You

October 4, 2013

Denise.RiebmanToday’s blog post comes from our “Ask the Career Coach” Column by Denise Riebman (AmeriCorps ’94), Director of Career Development and Alumni Services for the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University. Each month Denise takes questions from our LinkedIn Group and responds in our “Ask the Career Coach” column.  If you have a question for the AmeriCorps Alums “Ask the Career Coach” column, you can submit it here.

I’d like tips on how to make myself more noticeable to employers.  Maybe what I need is resume advice, but I feel like I have a pretty good resume format, one that I usually tailor to each specific employer and/or job I’m applying for with a company.

Why should YOU be NOTICED?

2013.10.Stand Out From The CrowdLet’s start by turning your question around to bring it back to you and ask, “What is noticeable about YOU?”  While jumping headfirst into writing cover letters and resumes is initially faster than taking the time to assess your own unique strengths, it ultimately puts you on the slow track for landing a job.  Without knowing what make you noticeable, it’s easy to get stuck using clichéd resume terms, lackluster cover letters and vague goals when networking.

Here are some questions to get you thinking about what makes you NOTICEABLE:

  • What is it about the combination of your strengths, skills, experience and innate qualities that makes you unique?
  • Why would an employer get excited to choose you over other candidates?
  • What are positive words that colleagues have used to describe you?
  • What praise have you received during performance evaluations?
  • When have you been at your best professionally?   When have you felt the most “alive” at a job?

A few years ago, when I was on the job hunt, I realized that based on my AmeriCorps VISTA experience of “working myself out of a position,” one of my unique skills is that I’m always about pragmatic, funded programs that are sustainable in the long term.  I also recalled a former boss calling me an “organizational guru.”  You can bet these unique qualities worked itself into my resume, cover letter and interviews!

Are you getting OTHERS to NOTICE you?

Create a list of 10-20 target employers and 3-5 priority fields/causes (e.g. higher education reform; watershed issues; alternative transportation) which will serve as your focus for building social capital to connect you to jobs.  Now that you have your lists, here are some approaches to building social capital to get you NOTICED:

  • 2013.10. Be In The KnowBe in the Know.  Follow employers on Google news/LinkedIn and sign up for e-newsletters to learn about what’s current in the field and who are the thought leaders.
  • Be Known.  Tweet on topics or retweet what others are saying.  Write a blog post.  Answer questions in a relevant LinkedIn Group. Present at conferences.  In addition to the often quoted statistic of over 90% of recruiters using LinkedIn to recruit for candidates, 93% use it keep tabs on potential candidates and 92% use it to vet candidates pre-interview.  Imagine if the hiring manager read in your LinkedIn Profile how you are tweeting, blogging, presenting in ways that are relevant to their organization and the field.  (Source:
  • Attend Known Events.  One example in DC is the website,, which lists all the think tank events around the city which attract high profile speakers and attendees.   Other sources include your local United Way, community foundation, industry associations and chamber of commerce which often host prominent events and have community calendars on their website.
  • Get Involved.  Whether you volunteer, join a Board, young professionals group or a professional association committee, find a way to get yourself immersed with priority employers and causes.  I was once hired at an organization whose Executive Director said that she noted which applicants for the job had signed up for their annual day of community service PRIOR to the job announcement and who registered AFTER.
  • Meet Lots of People.  Grab lunch, treat someone to a cup of coffee, meet at their offices –no matter how many times I expound on the power of networking meetings, people resist saying it doesn’t feel “authentic” or that they are not comfortable with it.  They are actually just genuine conversations with people doing work you are interested in which is something everyone can do and is easier than you think.
  • Meet A Few People.  As you build your career, you want to find people who you have authentic relationships with who can champion you to an employer.  It doesn’t matter if they work there now, used to work there or just have a relationship with people there, if they know and respect you, they can help you get see by those key people you want to NOTICE you.

Is your RESUME and COVER LETTER in the 5% that get NOTICED?

2013.10. 5 percentA recent study showed that while 90% of people think they have a good resume, recruiters say that only 5% of resumes stand out.  And from the hundreds of cover letters that I’ve reviewed (and often covered with red pen corrections), I’m guessing that the percentage of compelling cover letters is about the same.  What is it about that 5% that gets noticed?

  • Overused buzzwords are NOT used. (  Instead of saying I’m “entrepreneurial” or “a problem solver” or the ever popular “a team player,” include concrete examples in the accomplishment and professional profile section that highlight those skills.
  • Lead with results.  It’s the difference between this, “Developed bilingual information sessions and neighborhood meetings to recruit more parents to volunteer for Saturday tutoring program,”  and wowing them with this, “Increased by 25% parental involvement in Saturday tutoring program through launching first ever bilingual information sessions and neighborhood evening meetings to accommodate working parents. “
  • Compelling stories.  I worked with a student applying for a job at a national emergency management organization who had been a student at Tulane during Hurricane Katrina.  While most of her cover letter focused on how her skills aligned to the job, she did include one line about how she served 40,000 meals as part of the relief efforts.  There is no doubt that any hiring manager reading her letter would know that she had a personal connection to this issue and would bring a passion that others might lack.  Your compelling story doesn’t need to be as dramatic as that but provide concise, convincing stories that will make them want to bring you in for an interview to hear more!

This three pronged approach of knowing why you are NOTICEABLE, getting others to NOTICE you and ensuring that your documents are NOTICED can shift the entire job search process. Trust me….you’ll NOTICE the results!

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