how to be the top candidate for a job.

When you’re searching for a new job, it’s difficult to establish exactly what you should be doing to portray yourself as the most credible candidate to potential employers. With employers all wanting different things from their new recruits, how can you make sure you’re ticking their boxes?

When you have the right strategy, however, the task can become a lot more straightforward. Having a plan can boost your confidence, which will then put you in the best frame of mind for your job search.

Specialise your skills

LinkedIn’s Job Search Guide recommends that in order to turn your future role into “more than just a job”, you should specialise. The guide advises job seekers to make a list of their skills and to “know where they can take you”. It then says to “uncover what you’re best at and continue to hone those skills throughout your career”.

Working to specialise in a certain area will help to ensure that you are limiting your focus to jobs you actually want, rather than something to simply tide you over. It then becomes easier to share your passion for your industry, which will come across to hiring managers. Employers will then likely see you as more dedicated to your chosen career, which can give you an advantage over other candidates.

If you chose to develop a highly valued and in-demand skill, you’ll give yourself even more chance of landing your dream role. This is highly relevant right now, since there’s a serious skills gap in many markets across the world.

Plan your progress

Do you have a well thought-out answer to the common job interview question of where you see yourself in a few years? Planning out your career progress will help you come up with an honest answer, something that a lot of other candidates won’t be able to offer.

Setting out the milestones you think you should hit in your career can help you work out exactly which opportunities are right for you. LinkedIn recommends setting up a six-month, 12-month and two-year plan describing how you want your career path to go. Holding yourself accountable will help to ensure you are working towards your ultimate goal.

It will also provide you with a framework for evaluation. Have you not reached your goals for your two-year plan? Then it’s time to do something about that - whether that’s having a frank discussion with your manager or looking elsewhere for an opportunity that will allow you to reach the targets you’ve set yourself.

Optimise your application materials

Job applications need to be as tailored as possible, making it unique to the opportunity available. This serves to explicitly align your skills and experience to the role on offer. It will serve you well in getting through any automated application systems the company uses as well as making it easy for the hiring manager to decide who to call in for an interview.

However, your LinkedIn profile doesn’t have to be as tailored. This is one arena where you can elaborate on what you’ve done in the past. Share your accomplishments, your portfolio and any work you’ve done that will highlight your employability.

Make sure you use the right keywords on both your job applications and LinkedIn profiles. The former will also help to get you through any applicant tracking system, while the latter will boost your chances of appearing in any searches for that keyword. LinkedIn’s Job Search Guide explains: “It’s a living resume more than a statement of skills. Put this organism to work by optimising your profile.”

Be honest about what you know

Ensuring you’re upfront about what you know and what you don’t will prevent you getting yourself into a situation that could cause problems for both you and your employer. Have you heard stories of people who have claimed they could do something in their application to be confronted with that situation and aren’t able to deliver on it?

The Balance has reiterated how important it is to be honest in a job application, saying “if you're not honest, it's going to be an issue for potential employers”. Any possible awkwardness you might feel when being honest about something you don’t know will be outweighed by being found out to have lied.

If you’re worried about not looking knowledgeable enough in an interview, there’s a way of turning it into a positive. Be the first to bring up your lack of familiarity with something, and explain that you’re eager to overcome this and learn about the subject. Highlight previous instances where you’ve had to learn about something and completely mastered the topic. This will give a hiring manager some assurance that you’re capable of doing the job.

Following these tips should help to boost your credibility as a job seeker, giving you a good chance of outperforming other candidates and getting you one step closer to the career you always wanted. Eager for a new career challenge? Browse our list of extraordinary job opportunities by clicking here.

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