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Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Finding the Competition
There is a saying that you should “know thy enemy”. In job search, I wouldn’t exactly say the competition is your “enemy” but the meaning of the phrase is the same. You should know against whom you are competing and what they are offering employers so you can align your marketing message to be effective.

In a job search, do you actually ever see or meet your competition? Usually you do not. The competition is a nameless, faceless entity who is out there sending his/her resume in to employers for the same positions, talking to the same recruiters, interviewing with the same hiring managers. You might pass in the hallway on the way to the interview or maybe ride in the same elevator but you are usually unaware of each other. The competition is invisible.

It is important to understand the competition so you know if you are in the fight or just spinning your wheels. There are several ways to find out about the competition that can be helpful and improve the effectiveness of your job search.

Talk to those who talk to the competition. As resume writers, we know your competition very well. We see their resumes; we write new resumes for them; we coach them; and we see the qualifications with which they are entering the fight. We can honestly tell you if the approach you are taking with your resume and job search initiatives will compete well. We can tell you if your resume is weak compared to others in your field who are looking at the same type positions and same salary levels. We can tell you what is working for the competition as far as methods are concerned.

Recruiters see the competition, too. They can tell you if your resume is strong. Beware, though, that recruiters tend to tell everyone they have a “strong resume” just as a brush-off. It’s akin to “have a nice day”. It really has no meaning. To really find out recruiter opinions, ask them not what they think of the resume, but rather how you compare to other candidates they see. Ask if they would rate your qualifications on a scale of 1-10. Find out if they are seeing employers asking for criteria that are not showing on your resume. Specific questions elicit specific answers.

Ask the interviewer about the competition. After the interview, ask the interviewer if he/she sees any gaps in your qualifications that other candidates don’t have. Ask how they would rate you on a scale of 1-10. Ask for suggestions on how to improve your candidacy.

If you get beat out by the competition, contact the interviewer or hiring manager for the position and ask for an “exit interview”. This is an interview that provides you the opportunity to gain insight as to how you interviewed, how your qualifications stack up against the candidate that was hired, what was the deciding factor for the other candidate, and other information that would be helpful to you in your continued job search. Make sure the interviewer understands that you want the information so you can be better prepared for the next job you target and not that you are trying to continue your candidacy for the job that was filled. It’s a chance to gain constructive criticism from the interviewer that you can use to improve your presentation.

All these methods can help you gain insight on the people against whom you are competing in the market for open positions. You never meet these people and never see their resumes or get to listen in on their interviews. It is vital, though, to learn as much as possible about them so you are prepared. They might be invisible but they are there just like wind – unseen but very powerful.

November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 /


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