You’ve heard the phrase, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” This is how it feels when you’re constantly almost the right candidate for the job. You’ve got the skills and experience, but you’re passed over for someone with just a little more of whatever the employer wanted.
There are a million reasons why employers choose one candidate over another. It could be as obvious as following application instructions or as nebulous as giving off a good vibe. You may never know why certain employers passed on you, but you’ll have a better chance of being the first choice next time if you try some of these tips.
Focus on the Longer Term
Employers want to know you’ve done the work before, but they also look for people who think big and look forward. If you’re worried your background isn’t exactly what the employer wants, get out of the present and focus on what you can do over the long term.
Distract employers from potential weaknesses by talking about your attraction to challenges, your plans to learn new skills, or how your current skillset could be valuable in helping to streamline a department or expand into new markets. By looking beyond the position, a less-than-qualified candidate could look more attractive than even the proverbial perfect fit.
Brush Up on Your Interviewing Skills
Sometimes, the interview is the factor that tips the scales. Maybe the top pick smiled more or gave a more insightful answer to, “Why should we hire you?” Improve your interviewing skills to get a leg up and become the best candidate, not just a decent, qualified one.
You already know what kinds of questions they’re asking — prepare better answers for them. Don’t forget to come up with a few questions of your own so you appear engaged and curious. Also, make sure you don’t commit any major mistakes. You’d be surprised how often a great candidate is passed over for arriving late or looking at their phone too many times during the interview.
Renovate Your Resume
Maybe you’re not the ideal candidate, but your resume should at least present you as a viable option. If it doesn’t, it might have less to do with the contents of the resume itself than how it’s presented. Be mindful of the expectations of the industry before sending your resume.
Nowhere is this more important than in government, where your application won’t even be considered if it’s not presented in a federal format. Most organizations aren’t that exact, but they’ll likely favor a resume in a style they prefer. Conservative fonts and layouts are great for Wall Street, but look staid and dull if you’re looking for a job in graphic design.
Find an Advocate
A good network is the job seeker’s best weapon. You rely on people you already know, but are you also making contacts within the company offering the position? Reach out to employees, vendors, or anyone familiar with the company and ask how you can make an impression. They might even offer to put in a good word for you.
Employers are looking for the whole package, not just a great resume. If your job search has turned into a series of near-misses, build that perfect package and you won’t be an almost-ran for long.
Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and designer based in Pennsylvania. She has been passionate about career development ever since her college years — all four of which she spent interning in her college’s career center. Now that she is her own boss, she shares the practical advice that she finds works in her own life. To see more of her work, visit her design blog.