September 2, 2010
by oDesk’s Erica Benton
Whether you’re applying to be a remote contractor or an in-house employee, you can make the employer’s decision an easy one by following these steps to make yourself a top candidate every time.
1. Assess yourself against the job description. With a world of opportunities out there, you can think of yourself as Goldilocks – you want to find the ones that fit “just right”! The job post is how you can assess fit and it can be your ticket to the top of the applicant list. A good job description will tell you a lot about the role, the employer and the must-have skills for the position. The best way to stand out among other applicants is to read the post carefully and make sure the fit is spot on. Do you have all the skills they are asking for? If not, this position may not be the right one for you – moving on will net you more time to find the one that fits your particular talents. If your resume fills all the needs laid out in the job description, make sure you address the must-haves in your cover letter to pass the initial resume review.
2. Bring all of your talents to the table. There are a lot of talented people out there – especially when employers are willing to fill the position remotely. How do you compete? Once you’ve highlighted the must-have skills from the job description in your cover letter, the next step is to think ahead. What else do you have in your arsenal that would add value to this position? If you’re going for a marketing position, also being a published author could serve you well. Development and an eye for design is also a great pairing for value-conscious employers. What sets you apart is your ability to see how other skills you have would be an asset to the employer, and presenting them as needs the employer didn’t realize they had.
3. Give them a taste of your expertise. Savvy employers will be interviewing their top candidates – so let them know you’d love the opportunity to discuss the position in more detail. Don’t just ask for the interview, give them a hint as to what you’d like to discuss to tease them into giving you the nod for an interview. Present a few examples of standout activities you’ve done in similar roles, or ideas you have to take the assignment over the goal line on-time and under budget. I once had a writer tell me about his idea for blog post in a cover letter, and suggest that he’d be happy to discuss it in more detail during his interview. He not only got the interview, he got the job!
Bonus points: Tell them the best days and times to reach you for an interview up front. Got a busy schedule? Let them know you’re happy to find a time mutually convenient to talk. Employers tend to squeeze interviews in between other obligations, so being flexible and available may automatically put you at the top of their list.
4. Close the deal. Once you’ve made it to the interview phase, you should get a good sense from the employer where you stand among other applicants. Employers with a number of qualified applicants may decide to hire them all for a brief assignment. Take the initiative and let them know you’re not only interested in a test hire, you have ideas on ways you can prove your worth to them. Note: This is not an offer for free work or custom samples – you should always be paid for your time and efforts! Open to a offering a discounted rate for the first few days? Tell the employer that – its a great way to build their confidence in your abilities and prove that you are worth every penny of your full asking price. Let your work speak for itself, and show the employer how easy you are to work with!
5. Know your skill sweet spot. Let’s face it, if you’ve never worked on this type of position before, you’re not likely to nail it the first time through. The interview phase can be the most instructive – ask lots of questions and don’t be afraid to admit where your skill set may fall short. Top candidates are the ones who know their skills inside and out, and can truly sell themselves to the employer as adding value to the position. Be confident in your abilities and honest about your experience. While your skills may not get the job this time, sticking to your area of expertise will earn you the respect of the employer – and the invitation to interview when they are hiring in your sweet spot.
Got tricks that make your own application process successful? Let me know in the comments!
Erica Benton brings nearly a decade of experience as a small business owner, freelancer and independent contractor to her position as the editor-in-chief of the oDesk Blog.
5 Steps to be a Top Candidate