Subtle Tactics That Help Job Seekers Stand Out

Subtle Tactics That Help Job Seekers Stand Out

by Clea Badion, Robert Half International

Every job candidate wants to stand out from the crowd, especially in today’s competitive employment market.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 6 unemployed workers competing, on average, for each job opening. That’s the highest level since the bureau started tracking these figures nine years ago.

If you’ve been searching for a new position and haven’t seen much success, you may be tempted to try more creative ways to get noticed. But beware: You can attract a prospective employer’s attention in the wrong way.

When Robert Half International asked executives to describe the most unusual thing they had seen or heard an applicant do to distinguish him- or herself on the job hunt, examples included a candidate who sang during the interview and another who brought a 10-page binder detailing his work history.

Instead of these types of over-the-top tactics, try the following ones, which made positive impressions on the executives we surveyed:

Ask Questions

Most job seekers research a firm before being interviewed there, but many stop digging once they show up for the meeting. When speaking with the hiring manager, ask questions to gain a deeper understanding of the position and company. One executive in the survey noted that a job seeker “turned the table and wanted to know all about me. The tactic worked.”

Some questions will come up naturally, but you also can prepare some for the hiring manager beforehand, such as “How did you start with the company, and what has your career progression been?” Or you might ask about the firm itself: “I recently read about the company’s new location in Europe. Does the firm have plans to continue expanding internationally?”

Dress Up

What you wear to the job interview can significantly influence an employer’s impression of you. If you show up to the interview dressed sloppily, even if the firm is known for its laid-back atmosphere, the hiring manager may question your professionalism or interest in the opportunity.

It may seem old-school, but it’s typically best to wear a clean, well-pressed suit whenever you meet with a potential employer. Keep accessories to a minimum and choose neutral colors so you’re not remembered as the candidate who wore bright pink.

Say Thanks

Following up an interview with a well-thought-out thank-you note can distinguish you from other applicants because many job candidates forget this step. Reiterate your interest in the position and remind the hiring manager of one or two of your best selling points. Customize your note by referencing something from your conversation with the potential employer, such as your mutual love of Thai food. One way to truly stick out, according to an executive we polled: Send a handwritten thank-you note as opposed to email.

With fierce competition in the job market, you need to distinguish yourself from others who may seem similar to you on paper. By following the above advice, you can leave hiring managers with a lasting, positive impression, improving your chances of moving on in the interview process and ultimately securing the job.

Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit For additional workplace articles and podcasts, visit

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