Anyone looking for employment today knows that the job market is NO JOKE. As a recruitment partner, I interview and coach Millennial candidates daily and often share with them tips on what’s needed to take their candidacy to the next level.

The advice I share comes from a very real place. I can remember my own challenges around trying to “get noticed” after months of applying, no callback and an auto-response so quick you’d think I was on a “no fly” list and trying to work for the CIA.

I have been in your shoes and know how demoralizing it can be when you start to doubt yourself, your abilities and feel like somehow you can’t possibly stand out from the competition.

But I’m here to tell you that you CAN!

Here are 3 keys that will help you stand out in today’s fierce job market:

Key #1: Do Your Research

I cannot tell you how many times I have interviewed candidates who when I ask “why this company” they start to read off the first line of Wikipedia’s description about our organization. Doing your research means more than telling me what I already know and can see from our publications online. It’s about telling me WHY our organization resonates with YOU. Why you would want to work here? What part of our values, vision and goals speak to your own core values, vision and goals? I know how big we are, how much profits we make and our physical footprint – what I don’t know is why you would want to work for us. What experiences (maybe as a customer, a young child or new immigrant) have impacted your choice to want to work for us and what you can bring to the company culture. I’m looking for a human connection when I interview candidates.

I still get taken aback by the candidates who have not only done their research on the company but also on me! It shows me that this person has taken it one step further and is trying to make a real connection between our business, our partners and the industry.

Key #2: Know What You Want & Show That You Are Actively Pursuing It (Before You Have The Title)

In all fairness, most of the candidates I interview are young professionals and students who are still trying to figure out what they want from their careers AND life. However the candidates that leave an impression on me are usually the ones who have done their research, put themselves out there, built relationships in that space and have taken on passion projects that resonate with the work.

I recently interviewed a candidate who demonstrated her strong interest for working in a specific business group. She shared with me her knowledge of the industry, the names of people within that group whom she connected with on LinkedIn (and met for coffee) and how she had taken her passion for that work offline through her extra-curricular activities. She came in strong and continued to demonstrate in our call how her experience could add value to the organization. Suffice to say, she got a second interview and was hired by the manager who equally saw her determination, work ethic and passion for the role (even before she had the title).

This candidate stood out because she knew what she wanted and took the necessary steps before the interview to “get noticed” by key players in that industry.

Key #3: Stop Trying To Be The Perfect Candidate

Though I know many recruiters and hiring managers can get hung up on trying to find a unicorn, the reality is: there is no perfect candidate. Each candidate has made mistakes, learned some very hard lessons (whether in their career or life) and has lived to tell the story. They are a testament to what is possible when you get back up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. Whether it’s a gap in work history, limited career experience in that particular industry or a career setback, the key to successfully turning that negative into a positive is sharing what that experience has taught you and how you’ve remained resilient in spite of it.

Trying to say what recruiters want to hear or positioning yourself as the perfect candidate may work. Some recruiters will eat that up, move you along and you may even get hired. However what I know for sure is candidates who have shown faith, resiliency and patience in the face of challenge will be more prepared for life in a big organization. They have staying power and are often the employees left standing throughout the highs and lows of any career journey.

My advice: Don’t strive for perfection, strive for excellence in whatever you do and work towards becoming the best version of yourself daily – that’s your real competition.

Now I want to hear from you – what career keys have helped you stand out in the job market?

Leave your comments below!