How-to: Be the best candidate for a job

It’s a fact: lots of people are looking for work right now. The economy isn’t doing so hot and a potential employee needs to do everything they can to separate themselves from the (increasingly growing) pool of applicants. Luckily, with the right equipment and a little gusto, it’s easy to make yourself the stand-out choice during a job search. Here are some helpful tips:

The Resume
Your resume and cover letter are most likely going to be the first thing a potential employer sees of you, and likely the last thing left on file after your interview has come and gone. Employers will look at it and see if they even want to meet you, and after they have, they’ll look to it for reminders of why they thought it was a good idea in the first place. It’s your first line of defense in the war on unemployment, and too few resume writers take it seriously enough.

Your first step is obviously compiling your list. Every resume will use some standard elements: skills list, job history, education experience, and so on. How you present these skills needs to be tailored to the job you’re seeking, and there are plenty of resources online to help with that. Here is a list of ten resume writing tips that I’ve always found really helpful. Look around a bit and you’ll find no shortage of other lists that will help you craft a resume that’s perfect for the job you’re seeking.

Now here’s the part that a lot of people don’t think about in this digital age: how your resume is printed. A lot of the time you’ll be able to get by sending your resume through email, but if a job requires a printed resume, think of it as a bonus: you get the chance to make it stand out that much further. I’ve always been a fan of Southworth Credentials Linen Paper because it’s got a rich, natural feel and it’s slightly heavier than standard printer paper. Anything that can give your resume some tone and a little extra heft (look for something higher than 20lb. paper, the linen linked above is 24lb., for example) will make it that much harder to overlook in a stack of identical inkjet copies. Granite is also a good choice for resumes, as it has a bit of slate coloring to make for a rich, professional appearance.

Business Cards
On the subject of printing, one of the things a lot of people overlook is the idea of making your own business card. Most individuals aren’t willing to shell out the high startup costs of having silkscreened business cards made, considering that any time the information on the card changes (address, phone number, etc.) an entire new set of cards needs to be made, complete with new startup costs.

Thankfully, companies like Avery (one of the biggest names in do-it-yourself labels) produce high-quality printable business card stock that allows anyone to print up professional-looking cards for a fraction of the price of pre-mades. I first learned of this when I made some cards with the dubious title of “freelance journalist”, but let me tell you, when “freelance” means “unemployed and broke”, it was cool being the only one in the room with a business card.

Just recently in fact, my boss found himself en route to a trade show and realized he didn’t have any business cards. Whereas a re-order from a major supplier might take weeks, he was able to sit down with a .pdf template and print himself off a stack before leaving the house. And in my opinion, the best part is the freedom self-printing can offer. I’ve known art students who recreated classic paintings on their business cards, theater folks who put full-color headshots in the corner, and lots of other equally amazing designs that were printed for the price of ink. Plus, you can print off a run of black-and-white basic cards to drop in fishbowls to try to win free sandwiches. Any product that comes with the potential to get me a free sandwich is A-okay in my book.

Envelopes and Address Labels
Once again, this is something that seems to have gone by the wayside in this digital age, but a hard-copy follow-up letter can go a long way to cementing yourself in your future employer’s mind as someone who is serious about the position. Even if your letter is basically a dressed-up version of “thank you for your time”, receiving actual correspondence from you after the interview is a way of letting them know you appreciate the opportunity and look forward to hearing back from them. Again, style goes a long way.

Use the same kind of high-quality paper you used for your resume, and pick up some matching envelopes to make sure your letter stands out from the junk mail. Next, you have another opportunity for creativity to shine through: custom address labels.

Once again Avery steps up the plate with a whole line of DIY products. If you just want to use a nice font and keep it simple, I’d go with the clear labels to let the quality of your envelope shine through. Or, you can pick up some opaque labels and do a little graphic design to make your return address really stand out. Tie it in with your business card and you’ve got a cohesive package that tells the job world that you’re a professional, or at least an accomplished amateur with all their affairs in order.

Lastly, and this may seem silly coming from a blog about office supplies: keep your chin up. Times are tough all over and lots of people are getting desperate for a job. And while it may seem like someone who is literally begging for work would be appealing to an employer, it’s much more important to have confidence in your abilities and skills, and showcase that in your interactions with your future boss. Play it cool and stand on your own merits, and you’ll be fine. Good luck, I wish you all the best.

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