When was the last time you walked down the cereal aisle at the store?

All those brands, all those colorful boxes (some with toys inside!) competing for a coveted spot in your shopping cart. It’s glorious and overwhelming at the same time. Some days, you know exactly which box you want and, other days, you do a little window shopping looking for something to catch your eye.

Well, this is exactly what happens when you are in the job market – you are that box of cereal. You might be the job seeker, or you might be the hiring manager but either way, you need cereal and sometimes it’s very specific and other times you are opportunistic.

So, how do you make yourself stand out from all the other options in the jobs market?

You have to do the same thing the cereal is doing.

Establish your brand.

For a job seeker looking for professional jobs, this means having a complete LinkedIn Profile and resume that matches it. Your brand might be “professional who has been there, done that”.

For a blue-collar job seeker, it means filling out the job application completely and making sure all your licenses and certifications are up to date.

Your brand of “qualified and experienced” will help a hiring manager feel at ease with you and, if you go the extra step and also have a resume, you will stand out for sure!

Once you have your foot in the door and get the attention of the person who is going to make the hiring decision, be prepared. Dress professionally in a way that is appropriate to your industry and the level of job you are seeking. Some industries are totally OK with blue hair, ink, and piercings and some aren’t. If this is you, that’s fine, just know you won’t be everybody’s box of cereal but to the right person, you will be exactly the box they want.

Being professionally prepared means having a working email that you check regularly and a phone where you can be reached and from which you can do phone interviews. And, be sure to keep it charged. There is nothing worse than being the box of cereal they want but then you make it impossible for them to reach you.

The person looking to make a hire also needs to think about what kind of cereal they want to be and then make sure they stand out in their category. Both Kellogg’s and Post make a raisin bran type cereal, both sell well, both taste pretty much the same. What causes a cereal aficionado to have loyalty to one or the other? It’s the brand reputation.

So how does a company stand out? Like cereal, companies have a brand. For example, there are many banks in town, and they all hire tellers. Perhaps one has a reputation of being very involved in the community and the other has a reputation as a great place to start a career. Each will attract people at different stages in their career and that’s OK.

As with cereal, you have to position yourself to get noticed. This starts with your company brand reputation, flows through your job description and career page, and then the responsibility lands with the people you put on the front line who are choosing the job seekers (the cereal) they want. Every interaction builds your talent brand reputation.

Regardless of if you are the job seeker or the one with a job to fill, knowing your brand is key and then putting yourself on the shelf in a way that you can be found, like the box of cereal, will lead to a successful hiring outcome for both sides. (PS – Want to dig a little deeper into this analogy, check out an old blog post from one of my mentors, Bonnie Gillespie.)

About the Author

Marie Watkins is CEO of Polaris Talent Inc. She has 25 years in HR and Talent Acquisition for companies from 2 people to 200K. She is passionate about helping companies find the right talent to hire and in helping job seekers find a job they enjoy going to on Monday morning. Marie is a subject matter expert in entrepreneurship and volunteers her time helping emerging companies grow.

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