Heather Huhman wrote a great post about the personal qualities that hiring managers don’t like to see in a candidate. But it’s the Smart Brief link title that caught my eye: Are you too boring to hire? Huhman writes: “Hiring managers don’t want to see a candidate who has no additional interests or personality beyond what’s required to get a job in their industry. You need to show you’re a human being, not a robot. Hiring managers love to see candidates with hobbies, or even those who have taken on a second job—it shows you’re able to make good use of your free time to expand your skills and interests, and this is a quality that’s likely to spill over into your professional life.” One of your biggest challenges as a job candidate is to have something to show for the time you’ve been out of work. There are several ways to give yourself something to talk about in the interview and stand out from the crowd.
- Catch up on your reading. This is a great time to dive into professional development books or industry journals that you never had time for when you were working. Clip articles about your occupation or news about companies you’re targeting. You don’t need to invest much to keep up; libraries carry many publications, and you can follow thought leader blogs online at no cost. Whether you’re in an interview or attending a networking event, you should always have a great answer to my favorite conversation-opening question, “What are you reading right now?”
- Volunteer. Volunteering doesn’t just fill up your day; it’s a way to build your skills, add to your resume, expand your network, and perhaps, ask for meaningful endorsements and references. All community service is good, but service that makes the best use of your talent also makes the best use of your time. If you’re in marketing, offer to work on a PR campaign or organize events. If you’re in management, offer to help manage volunteers or document office processes. The most important thing you can do is treat your volunteer service as you would a job. You’ll be showing people not just what you can do, but also who you are. Show up when you say you will and do your best work (or skip volunteering altogether.)
- Improve your skills. If you can, enroll in a class that relates to your job – is there a certification that would improve your marketability? Is there a software program you never had time to master? (Be sure to add the training to your resume.) If traditional training is beyond your budget right now, invest some time in building a portfolio of your work or using volunteer work to learn something you need to know. If you have a financial background, for example, you can volunteer to prepare income taxes through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Here’s a link to the local volunteer sign up.
- Improve your online footprint. If you’ve always claimed that you were too busy for social media, you have a chance now to find out what all the fuss is about. Dig into LinkedIn and create a robust profile that will help recruiters find you. Join groups and participate in discussions. Set up profiles in online job boards that have quality postings for your industry. Huhman writes, “Thirty-seven percent of hiring managers check candidates’ social media sites these days, and the number is only growing. If you lack a solid online presence, this could show you don’t pay attention to detail, aren’t truly engaged in your industry, or at the very least, don’t care about how others perceive you. Make sure you’ve got some sort of presence online, and that it’s a positive one. Start a professional Twitter account or blog, and look into the specifics of how to brand yourself. The last thing you want is for your Google search results to stop your job search short.”
Your online profile is the one part of your brand that is entirely within your control. Make it your New Year’s resolution to be a more interesting – and marketable – candidate in 2013.