There aren’t really hard-and-fast rules for landing the job you want—if it were that easy, everyone would already have the career they dream of. Like any industry, hiring changes over time and the tactics that might have scored you an interview just a few years ago will get you nowhere today. Here are some of the trends that recruiters and HR experts are seeing in the field right now that could help you score the job you want:
1. Brand Yourself
From the moment you initiate contact with a would-be employer, everything and anything you do and say is fair play. “You should always be thinking about branding yourself as an expert in your field,” says Henry Goldbeck, president of Goldbeck Recruiting in Vancouver. Just as you dress for the job you want, craft your personal brand—that is, proud owner of the gig you want—and start presenting yourself that way in advance. Aspiring to IT? Tweet about tech issues. Finance? Brush up on the global economy. Interior decorating? Fire up that Pinterest mood board.
2. Do a Social Media Houseclean
“Individuals just don’t pay enough attention to their digital footprint,” says Julie Farnsworth, human resources consultant with Peak HR. Once upon a time, this meant keeping your social media self as inconspicuous as possible. These days, that’s a red flag. “No digital footprint at all? Are you a serial killer?” says Farnsworth, who checks social media for a first impression almost 100% of the time. Scrub the drunk selfies, but show off some personal quirks to keep it relatable and breezy.
3. Get the System Working for You
At least 65% of medium and large companies use applicant tracking systems (like Taleo, Jobvite or PeopleFluent). It’s discouraging that your resumé won’t be seen by a human, but smart applicants use the machine to their advantage. Farnsworth has a strategy: “Read through the job posting with an old-fashioned highlighter to find key action words.” Then tailor your resumé to prominently feature all these keywords. Just watch: The robots are likely to choose you every time.
4. Get Creative (But Not Cute)
The Internet is full of super creative resumes in Lego, candy bar and board game form. Especially for those in graphic design, public relations or advertising, such hijinks can be a great way to get noticed—provided you have the chops. “If you’re not qualified for the job, it doesn’t matter if you deliver your resumé via jet plane,” says Goldbeck. The wackier your schtick, the more impressive you should be. If you must swing a stunt, he suggests delivering your resumé with a box of chocolates.
5. The Personal Is Professional
“The most memorable interviews are the ones where you make a personal connection,” says Toronto HR consultant Lisa Kay. Many companies are moving away from the usual questions (“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”) in favour of ones that reveal personality. “An interviewer recently asked, if you were a character in Game of Thrones, who would you be?” says Kay. Such open-ended questions are an opportunity to bond with your interviewer beyond work, so be ready.