7 Ways to Stand Out in the DC Job Market

Many career opportunities exist in the D.C. market, yet you'll find a lot of competition for some of these jobs. If you want to stand out, you need to make an effort to dazzle hiring managers. Here are seven ways to help you shine:

7 Ways to Stand Out in the DC Job Market

1. Construct a base resume

While there are a number of available jobs in the National Capital Region, you'll need a strong, eye-catching resume to highlight your qualifications. Create a modern and attractive resume, be sure it's not out-of-style or filled with clichés. Also, be sure to dump the antiquated "objective" section—use that visible place to sell what you can do, not what you hope to gain.

Tip: If you aren't getting any nibbles, consider hiring a resume service.

2. Research each company

While you need a strong basic resume when applying to jobs, ditch the idea of sending out a one-size-fits-all document to D.C. employers. Instead, do some homework on each organization and customize your awesome base resume, tailoring it to each position.

  • Learn the company mission
  • Look at the finer lines of each job description
  • Modify each cover letter too!

True, it's time-consuming, but presenting yourself as custom-fit for the position is worth the investment. Plus, if you're invited to an interview, thanks to your research, you'll already know the right stuff to keep the conversation flowing.

Tip: Go the extra mile to learn current topics affecting the company so you'll be able to talk about things that matter to the employer, making you more memorable.

3. Pay attention to keywords in job listings

Did you know a good percentage of applications might not initially be seen by a human? If not, you should know many companies and agencies in the D.C. region send resumes and applications through an applicant tracking system (ATS) as the initial scan. What the ATS does is seek out words listed in the documents. If they don't appear, it's possible your resume/application may not get in front of a hiring manager's eye. To get past the ATS and get your stellar qualifications seen by a hiring manager, be sure to pay meticulous attention to any keywords and industry-descriptive words. Incorporate these into your documents before you submit them.

Tip: Don't overstuff keywords, if you pass the ATS a human will be reading next, and you don't want someone reading a spammy-sounding document.

4. Create an attractive LinkedIn profile

Employers almost always turn to the Internet, including LinkedIn, to research candidates, so you want to make sure your online portfolio shines. When you create your profile be sure to include:

  • Professional-looking photo
  • Detailed work experience and educational background
  • Any aspirations

Establishing a professional presence online is important these days. Look to connect with D.C. locals and be sure to share relevant and compelling content on the network.

Tip: Don't note in your profile you're job-hunting. A recent UCLA study found there is a bias when it comes to hiring the unemployed (courtesy Forbes).

5. Join local groups

To stand out in the D.C. market, get involved in local and industry groups. In the District, networking is a way of life, be it a formal gathering, lunch, impromptu cup of coffee or bumping into someone at the Metro. Some local industries are pretty close-knit, so get to know people and become a familiar face. Many of the opportunities don't come from what you know, but who you know. Always be prepared to network!

Tip: Keep tabs on D.C. area happenings so you have interesting conversation to share.

6. Attend job fairs

A number of job fairs take place in the D.C. region throughout the year. At these events, you can directly meet with company representatives, make important connections or learn more about the different opportunities offered. If you plug "job fairs D.C." into Google you'll find many job fairs. Eventbrite usually has local job events listed too. Research the companies who will be represented at the career fair so you know who you’ll be talking to.

Tip: Don't forget to dress for success and bring copies of that newly polished resume!

7. Monitor your online reputation

Did you know roughly 70 percent of U.S. employers routinely check candidates on social media and in search engines? Be mindful of your Internet appearance. Your overall online appearance will matter to D.C. employers. Keep in mind, many regional jobs also require a security clearance, and it's probable no one will want to sponsor a candidate with a bad online rep (it's hard enough to get sponsored even with a good rep). Be sure to run an "online health check up" to make sure you have a professional appearance. Clean up anything that presents you in a negative light ASAP.

Tip: Be careful with politically-related posts, you never know who knows who in D.C.

The D.C. job market is growing faster than the national average. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from July 2016 to July 2017, 22,900 new jobs were added to the metropolitan area. While the jobs are many, competition in certain industries can be tough. The more you stand out, the better your chances will be to land the job.

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