As a career coach, I’m forever working with clients who want to enhance their hireability in the job market. They want to feel like they’ve got a good shot at all the jobs they’re applying for, that they’re presenting themselves as the kind of applicant that any hiring manager would want to bring onto his or her team right away.
And I’m always having to tell them that they’re going about it the wrong way. Yes, in broad terms, hireability usually measures how appealing you are to the general job market. But frankly, that’s not the best way to look at it—because what really matters is if you’re a clear fit at the right job. So I define it by how perfect you are for a particular position, not how desirable you can make yourself look on paper.
While I can’t wave a wand and make you more hireable for that role you’re dying to land, I can lay out some basic strategies that’ll make you more appealing in the long run. Plus, they’ll help you get clear on whether or not the roles you’re applying for are a good fit for what you’re looking for. It’s a true win-win!
The best part? You don’t always have to have a ton of spare cash to implement these ideas. I give you three options that range from free to “the investment will be worth it.”
1. If You Want to Invest Nothing: Take a Quiz
I love a good quiz! These free online assessments will help you get to know yourself better so you can more clearly articulate what you bring to the table in your cover letters and interviews. Not to mention, they’ll help you narrow in on positions and companies that are suited to your personality. (Now, of course, these aren’t official tests, so take them with a few grains of salt. At the end of the day, if you have any lingering questions about yourself, you should speak to a licensed professional.)
For example, not every role’s ideal for an introvert—no matter how awesome it sounds. Or, if you’re entrepreneurial-minded with a huge desire for workplace flexibility and freedom, then a rigid 9-to-5 desk job won’t make you happy for long. The better you understand and can explain your traits, your strengths, and your deep values, the more obvious it will be to you and to the hiring manager that you’re a perfect fit for a specific company culture.
A few of my favorites include The Passion Profile Quiz, which is about helping you get clear on your career values; 16 Personalities, which includes a section called “Career Paths” that may spark ideas for your ideal path; and the Photo Career Quiz which is based on the well-respected Holland Code theory, and best for visual learners. (For even more, check out these 14 free personality tests!)
The results you’ll get will give you personal insights and specific language you can use to explain why you’re a great fit for your ideal position.
2. If You Want to Invest a Little Bit of Money: Go to Coffee
For the price of two cups of coffee, you can connect with someone you really admire who’s working in the industry (if not the specific company!) in which you’d love to get a job. If this sounds like totally cliché networking advice, keep this in mind:
Informational interviews are not about trying to rub elbows with the right people and secretly hoping they’ll put in a good word for you (people can smell that kind of ulterior motive from miles away!). They’re about you connecting with someone you respect so you can ask questions and get to the core of what you truly want to learn, in order to determine if you’re a good fit. If learning more is your true motivation, it’ll shine through, and the other person is much more likely to be receptive to your invitation.
Once you get the inside scoop on what the company, role, or industry is like, you can use your knowledge and enthusiasm throughout the application process to increase your appeal to your desired company.
3. If You Want to Invest Whatever it Takes (Within Reason): Attend a Conference
If you want to become more hireable for a certain job, you’re going to have to get way more selective about the networking events you attend. In fact, I recommend you stop going to all of the countless free, general networking events out there. (Yes, it’s true, networking less may just be the ticket for you!)
These kinds of events tend to be filled with people who are focused on self-promotion or who are only there half-heartedly because they told themselves they have to meet some personal quota for the number of events they attend. Sure, you might find a quality contact that can lead you in the right direction, but that tends to be the exception rather than the norm.
Instead, get strategic and specific about where you invest your time. It might mean spending a few bucks to get into a more quality event, like one that’s specific to the industry you want to transition to. The absolute best way to discover the most valuable, relevant conferences in your industry is to ask for recommendations from people in positions or companies that you admire (in fact, it’s a great question to ask in an informational interview). But you can also always do your own research using sites like lanyrd.com, where you can search for conferences based on location, topic, or speaker.
The first step to increasing your hireability is to accept that it’s OK not to be the number one choice for every job. If you stop trying to game the system and instead spend your time learning all you can about what you most want to do, you’ll be the right hiring manager’s first pick.