6 Tips from a Hiring Manager

How to Stand Out in Your Next Job Search

Written by Kara Pappas, Chief Development Officer at Project Sanctuary.

Project Sanctuary is growing. We’re holding more therapeutic programs in more locations, and bringing more military families into the program than ever before. And to meet the demands of our expansion, we also need to expand our team. This means making solid hires for candidates willing to jump head-first into our mission and hit the ground running. As a product of my most recent hiring process, I thought I’d share six of my top tips on how to stand out to hiring managers the next time you’re on the job hunt.

1. Read and follow directions. – So you’ve found your ideal job – how exciting! Just make sure not to be so excited that you overlook critical requirements for the application. Is the hiring manager looking for a resume and cover letter? Are there specific elements he or she is asking you to include in an application? Who are you supposed to send it to? If you can’t follow the directions in the application process, you’ve already communicated to a potential employer the attention to detail they can expect from you on the job.

2. Learn about the employer. – Just 15 minutes can make a huge difference. Visit the organization’s website to learn about the mission, product and/or service being offered. Spend some time learning about the values, history and key staff. Review the organization’s social media posts and search for recent news articles to get a feel for current events related to the organization or industry. In addition to gaining knowledge about your prospective employer, this is also a great way to explore its culture and help determine if this is the next organization for you.

3. Tailor your application to the job. – Don’t even think about firing off the same generic documents you’ve used for the previous 10 jobs you’ve applied for (hiring managers can tell!). Your resume and cover letter should specifically address the requirements outlined in the position description and showcase how your experience matches up. Incorporating what you’ve learned about the organization in your cover letter (see #2) and why you would bring a special perspective, passion or expertise to the mission will ensure you stand apart.

4. Then ask someone to proofread for you. – It’s perhaps the oldest job-search tip in the book, yet the one I still see candidates overlooking ALL the time. When I’ve hired grant writers in the past, the cover letter was the first document I would look at. Mistakes in spelling or grammar, or disjointed sentence structure were automatic disqualifiers before I even reached for the resume. But this expectation isn’t exclusive to writers or English teachers. No matter the position, your application directly illustrates your communication skills, organizational abilities, attentiveness and countless other attributes.

5. Acing the interview – You’ve made it to the next round: don’t underestimate the value of preparation (again, see #2). My first screening question for any position is “What have you learned about Project Sanctuary?” And my second question? “Why are you interested in serving this mission?” Whether or not your next interviewer asks these questions, being able to connect your responses to general knowledge about the position and organization will demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. Heading into the interview armed with five thoughtful questions about the organization’s goals, the future of the position, workplace culture, or team structure further demonstrates your preparation and commitment.

6. It’s a two-way street. – Always remember that you’re vetting the organization just as the organization is vetting you. If at any point in the process you determine this isn’t the right fit for you, don’t be afraid to self-select out. DO contact the hiring manager to acknowledge his/her time and consideration. DO NOT simply stop replying to communications. Formally self-selecting out of a process is both respectful of your time and that of the hiring team.

With these tips in place, your profile stands a strong chance of landing at the top of the pile throughout the organization’s search process. You’ll also have a solid perspective as to what the position, organizational culture, and mission would look like with you in it, and whether that’s the best fit.

This listing is in no way exhaustive, though! What are your favorite tips for job-search success – either from the perspective of a hiring manager or applicant? Don’t stop here – let’s continue the conversation!