Candidate Differentiation in a Competitive Market

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…

With this in mind, does the following sound familiar?

Apply for job. Application declined (or not responded to). Make another job application. Application declined (or not responded to). Repeat

We have previously offered insight on “successfully selling yourself with your CV”, “how to get yourself headhunted”, “how to build your online personal brand” and “how to stand out in an interview” so I won’t cover old ground. What I would like to do though is share some thoughts and ideas, gathered over the 6+ years I’ve spent in the HR Recruitment industry, as to how you can differentiate yourself in what remains a highly competitive marketplace…

I’m not going to suggest for a second that anything in here is new or revolutionary, however there are still lots of people out there who don’t follow these principles. It goes without saying then that if you apply some of this you will be in the minority (which in this context is a great thing!)

Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes you can do everything right and still not get noticed by the person / people you want to be noticed by (which can be for a variety of reasons) however I’m confident that applying the below principles certainly won’t do you an harm if applied correctly.

1. Be clear on what your ideal role is (and don’t spread yourself too thinly)

This may seem counter-intuitive given the highly competitive nature of the current HR market however ‘throwing your hat in the ring’ for every role going (irrespective of location, salary, sector / company, functional discipline etc.) is likely to either make you anonymous or get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. It also means that when you are shortlisted for opportunities you risk not channelling the right level of energy towards the right things, therefore actually reducing your chances of being successful.

Taking the time to really think about your key strengths, the things you enjoy the most, the areas you want to develop around and the type of environment you thrive in, will really help you to hone in on the roles that best suit you (and therefore the roles you are most likely to be best suited to).

2. Be proactive and think differently

Once you know the type of company you want to work for and the type of position you want then take the initiative.

  • In the modern age it is all too easy to send out loads of applications, sign up for job alerts, register on careers sites etc. so why not pick up the phone and try to have a conversation
  • If you know people in your network who work for the company you want to work for (or you know people who know people) then pick up the phone and speak to them (good Recruiters, agency or ‘in-house’ can often be really useful here)
  • When was the last time someone sent you a letter instead of an email? Would you remember if they did? I know I would…

3. Demonstrate your commercial acumen

  • Did you help your business increase revenue and profits? If so, by how much?
  • Did you help the organisation save money? If so, how much?
  • Did you help improve employee engagement? If so, what was the commercial impact of this?
  • Do you understand business mechanics (and more specifically the business you work for)? Do you know what the financial performance has been / is? Do you know what drives revenue and profit? If not, then why not?
  • What is the commercial significance of your role?

If you know all of this stuff, and you can prove it, then make sure it is centre stage on your CV and make sure you have tangible examples to use in an interview. This for me is the single biggest differentiator I believe you have at your disposal!

If you see yourself as (or aspire to be) a true business partner and leader within an organisation your primary concern should be driving commercial impact. There are lots of HR professionals out there who have fantastic knowledge however there are many less who can demonstrate the commercial impact and ROI of what they do. Make sure you are in the minority!

If any of you reading this have other ideas, suggestions or case studies of where the above tips and/or other things you have tried have helped you land that perfect role then please leave a comment below (assuming you are happy to give away your secrets!)

Andrew White

Written by , Director

Having graduated from the University of Leeds with 2.1 degree in Physiology and Sports Science, Andy spent his early career in the Health and Fitness industry before joining Oasis HR in 2008. Since then Andy has progressed through the ranks from a Researcher to Director, with current responsibility for managing all permanent recruitment and leading a team of Consultants and Researchers. Andy has an extensive network across the HR space with particular exposure spanning a number of sectors including Online / Digital / eCommerce, Technology, Media, Retail and Engineering (particularly Oil and Gas and Defence). Andy has always been a fanatical sportsman, having played Football and Golf at County level (and still playing to a reasonably high standard despite a dodgy knee!) and his natural competitiveness is manifested in a real drive to ensure he and his team can offer the best possible service to candidates and clients alike. Andy’s refreshing honesty has led to the development of many long-standing professional relationships.

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