The 4 Essential Stages to Becoming a Top Candidate

Posted by Danielle Walker On Jul 25, 2017 11:10:56 AM

The 4 Essential Stages to Becoming a Top Candidate.pngWhen applying to jobs, you are in competition with a number of other candidates who want the same position. To ensure that your resume is picked out of the pile, you are chosen for an interview, and eventually become hired, you need to be a leading candidate. Here are some helpful tips to assist you throughout all stages of the job search process and will turn you into that top candidate.

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1. Pre-Job Search Stage

Determine what you’re looking for in a new job and employer

When you start your job search, you need to take some time to determine what you want in a new job opportunity and what type of organization you want to work for. Do research on the different types of careers and organizations that coincide with your skills and experience. Company culture also plays a role in determining a new job opportunity. Are you looking for a more structured corporate environment or more of a free spirited start-up setting? Do you want to be able to work from home or remotely?  Do you want the opportunity to move up in the organization and possibly take on a leadership role some day? These, along with many other factors, need to be taken into account when trying to decide your next career move.

Clean up your social media profiles

Current job search trends are a lot different than they used to be, especially now with so much information online. Your social media profiles and what you post on them will likely be looked at by a potential employer. Although it can be time consuming, you need to review your accounts and delete any inappropriate content or photos. You do not want one picture to define you in the eyes of an employer.

Get your references in order

Once you start applying to jobs, you will need to be prepared to provide references for an employer to contact in order to get a better sense of your skills and work ethic. Before you start applying, create a solid list of at least two or three references from previous jobs where you made good impressions. Be sure to tell your references that you are using them and that they will be contacted so if/when they do receive a call, they can also be prepared.

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2. During Job Search Stage

Update and tailor your resume

Instead of sending the same resume to all jobs you apply for, it’s best to edit each one for the specific job. Employers look for certain attributes and indicators that demonstrate you are a potential match for their position. When writing your resume, highlight your accomplishments and responsibilities in each role that you’ve had.  Try to also use as many numbers as you can on your resume, as quantifying your skills is a great way to draw attention to your strengths.

Prepare any other materials for your job search

Depending on the job you are applying for, you will be requested to submit a variation of writing samples or an online portfolio. Search through your files to determine your best work examples and have them ready to share. Think of any other materials you may need to have for your job search or when you are getting prepared for an interview; such as business cards, a daily calendar, an updated voicemail message, a professional interview outfit, and more.

Build your network or start networking

Many jobs are found through common connections and people you know. Take a look through your current established network (friends, family, past coworkers, alumni) and reach out to see if they know of any available opportunities. Start making connections in your industry or through those you meet at career fairs or networking events. Add people to your network on LinkedIn to try and get your foot in the door at a certain organization as well. You never know where a simple connection could lead you to in the future.

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 Top Candidate 3 Interview.png3. Interview Stage

Prepare before the interview

Before going in for your interview, remember to review the job description again and know your resume inside and out. Look over your resume and think of instances from each of your past experiences that showcase the skills that the employer requires. For example, if you need strong Microsoft Excel experience, be sure to specifically explain to an interviewer how you completed data entry and analysis. Don’t just simply say that you can use the tool.

It’s common knowledge that you need to do your research on the organization itself before heading into an interview. Gain a solid background on the organization, search for any current news to reference, and explore their social media pages for topics to discuss. Also have questions prepared to ask the interviewer about your role and day to day responsibilities. It’s crucial to keep the interview conversational and show your interest by asking more about the organization and job itself.

Make a strong first impression

In order to stand out during the interview process, you need to make a strong impression. Always maintain a friendly attitude with everyone you meet, from the receptionist, to your interviewer, and anyone you meet in between. Coming into the interview strong, with a positive attitude, instills a great first impression and sets the mood for the entire interview.

After sitting down with the interviewer, make sure that you provide a copy of your resume. Even if the employer doesn’t tell you to bring one, always have a few copies on hand in case you need them. Also, have a list of your references ready for when your interviewer asks for them.

Stay focused throughout the interview

During your interview, you want to show that you are highly interested and enthusiastic about the job opportunity and potential employer. Maintain eye contact when the interviewer is speaking, as well as nod your head to show you’re paying attention and understanding the information being discussed. Body language plays a big role in the interview stage, so be aware not to yawn or allow your mind to wander. If you would like, take a couple of notes also demonstrates your interest.

The interview is the time where you can truly show how your experience, skillset, and attitude are the best fit for the organization. Employers not only want someone who is qualified, but they also want someone they can get along with since they’ll be working with you. Use the information you prepared before to know how to answer difficult questions and keep the conversation flowing.

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4. Post-Interview Stage

Thank everyone you interview with

Once your interview is complete, it is absolutely crucial to send thank-you follow up messages. You need to get the name and contact information of every person you met with so you are able to send one to each of them. Make sure that each message is personalized and is sent within 24 hours of your interview. Thanking your interviewers reinforces your interest in the position and will further highlight your commitment. You can also utilize a thank you message to reinforce your skills or cover something you may have forgotten to mention during the interview.

Prepare for a second interview

If you are requested in for a second interview, make sure you are prepared for this one as well. Typically, employers will ask you more specific questions and continue to deep dive into why you will be a good fit. This part of the interview should continue to be a two-way street with both you and the employer learning more about each other. Come prepared with more in-depth questions that focus on professional growth within the organization, management styles, and cultural fit.

Stay connected

Once you’ve completed your interview and sent thank you messages, you can also connect with those you’ve met on LinkedIn or other social media platforms. Although they may have already seen your profile, this is a way to look at it again and think about you as a top candidate. Even if you don’t land the job this time, these network connections may be beneficial for your career down the road.

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Each stage of the job search process is important in its own way. In order to become a top candidate, you must practice and be prepared for all aspects along the way so you’ll be able to land the job.


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