Beyond The Resume: What Makes You a Good Candidate

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You’re keenly aware of the competition out there. You have an impressive resume but so do other applicants. Step to the head of the line by knowing what catches a recruiter’s ears and eyes. Here’s how to be a standout candidate beyond your written credentials.

First Contact

Writing for The Muse, Jim Belosic shares his tips for finding great talent. First, he looks for a thoughtful cover letter, one tailored to the job description. To spark an employer’s interest, preface your resume with a captivating letter.

One week after submitting your resume, call the recruiter. Confirm the receipt of your documents, and ask if you can schedule an interview.


Visit the company’s website, and jot down key information about the business. Identify its mission and what distinguishes it from similar organizations. Note its geographic scope. Make a list of buzz words and company lingo.

Next, investigate the job. Write down the specific skills, abilities, and requirements of the position. If you’re not thoroughly familiar with the occupation, read about it online.

Your notes can serve as “talking points” during the interview. If questions come to mind while researching, document them. Pose them at the end of your interview, and you’ll impress the recruiter with your initiative.


Interview Preparation

You’ll shine during the interview by giving insightful responses to commonly asked questions. The questions may not be anything special, but your answer is very important. Here are a two important questions, and some tips on how to answer them.

Tell me about yourself.

Although this question is broad, make a succinct reply, limiting it to one minute. From researching the company and job description, tailor your answer to the requirements. Briefly describe your work experience, showing you meet the criteria. Enthusiastically state why you’re seeking this position.

Do you have any questions for me?

Don’t say, “No, I think you’ve covered everything.” Such an answer gives an impression of laziness, lack of motivation, and being unprepared. This is your chance to show you’ve done serious homework! Ask about something that intrigued you from the company website. Avoid inquiring about salary and benefits this early in the hiring process.

Here are sample questions that can earn you bonus points:

  • What are your organization’s most pressing concerns?
  • Can you further describe what I would do in this position?
  • What are your performance expectations?
  • Would I be working on a team, and if so, can you brief me on it?
  • Do you provide training?

Mock Interviews

To thoroughly prepare for the interview, practice your answers with a friend until your responses are fluent. Dress in business attire, and keep each answer to under three minutes. It can be beneficial that you also play the part of the interviewer. The role reversal will help boost your confidence.

You might also videotape practice sessions. Playback gives clues for how to improve non-verbal communication. Assess your smile, energy, enthusiasm, voice, posture, confidence, hand gestures, and other body language. Place yourself inside the recruiter’s mind to gauge your presentation. Keep a notebook handy for recording your observations and your friend’s feedback.

Polished Presentation

Arrive a few minutes early, equipped with three copies of your resume, your references, notebook, and work samples, if applicable. The most important suggestion, nowadays – turn off your cellphone.

Smile while offering a firm handshake. Tell the recruiter it’s a pleasure to meet them, addressing them by their name. While not staring, maintain eye contact throughout the meeting. Avoid fidgeting which indicates anxiety.

If given a question you don’t understand, ask for clarification before speaking. Don’t be afraid to pause and contemplate answers to questions you didn’t anticipate. Try to keep responses positive.

Likability Factor

Polish your likeability. Hiring managers choose candidates who demonstrate passion and zeal. They also look for a can-do attitude and poise under pressure.

Portray a strong work ethic with examples of how you rolled up your sleeves in past positions. How did you help fellow workers? What initiatives did you author? How did you enhance productivity? Now, convey how you aim to meet the current company’s needs.

Above all, they want people eager to learn. Big egos with swelled heads get rejected. Says the recruiter for Adobe, “If I learned something new during the interview, I know we have an ideal candidate.”

Final Impression

Before the interview ends, summarize your understanding of the job. Reiterate your interest, and ask for the next step in the hiring process. Ask how long it will be before a decision is made.

Also, request the recruiter’s business card for reference when writing your thank-you note. Close the meeting with a bright smile and handshake. Thank them for their time and consideration.


Within two days of your interview, send a thank-you letter. To jog the recruiter’s memory, cite specific statements made during your meeting. Affirm your interest and attributes.

If a week passes without any response, call the recruiter. Say that you just want to follow up and see where they are in the decision-making process. Now, put your mind to rest, having done your absolute best.

Pre-Job Anxiety

You may find yourself getting antsy, whether you got the job or not. It may be the fear of not knowing, or nervous thoughts about how you will perform. There isn’t much to do about the indecision, but if you asked about how new employees are trained, you may be able to put your pre-hired mind at ease.

Hopefully, the company will have an employee training program. For example, at Young Automotive Group, the Center of Excellence trains, mentors, and grooms employees to work at their maximum potential. Workers hone skills concerning communication, time management, accountability, and leadership. Working through a dedicated program for a company can help you gain a knowledge of the operation and culture of your new workplace.

To summarize, arrive early, fully prepared, with your cellphone in silent mode. During the interview, present yourself as likeable. Smile, be polite, and maintain eye contact. Show passion and enthusiasm, with convincing examples of your strong background and work ethic. Focus on meeting the company’s needs, and you’ll be a standout candidate!

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

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