The rules of the job search have changed considerably in recent years. It's not enough to be the most qualified candidate for the job. Successful job candidates understand that in addition to "having the goods," they need to know their "buyer," and how to sell to them. Think it sounds crass to compare a job candidate's skills and experience to consumer goods? It isn't. Rather, it accurately reflects the reality of the current job market.

Positioning Yourself to Get Noticed in a Crowded Job Market

The current job market is far more favorable for employers than it is for the average job hunter. An employer may receive hundreds of resumes in response to a single ad. The employer can then cherry-pick applicants with the experience, education, and skills they are seeking. So, how will you get noticed in a crowded job market? A strategic self-marketing plan will position you to get maximum exposure and boost your job search success, even in a highly-competitive job market.

Think about the last time that you walked into a grocery store. The top name brands with big budgets occupy the shelves at eye-level. The store brand sits right next to them with labels that proclaim that they are comparable to your favorite brand. On the lower levels you'll find the bargain brands. Which are you?

  • The top brand that commands top dollar?
  • The generic store brand that promises to do everything the top brand does, but for a lot less?
  • Or, the unknown, discount brand that easily goes unnoticed?

Before you respond, consider the quality of your current marketing efforts in your job search and how you are presenting yourself to potential employers in your resume and during interviews. A well-constructed, well-executed plan will position you to get noticed by potential employers, much like those national brands which occupy an optimal position on the shelf at the grocery store. Your strategic self-marketing plan should take into account all aspects of your job search - from the strategies used to the information included in your cover letter, resume, and other job search marketing documents. Taking a proactive approach to your job search can help you avoid many of the pitfalls that job seekers encounter:

  • A prolonged job search - now averaging more than four months.
  • The frustration of pouring endless hours into minimally effective job search methods.
  • Time wasted pursuing jobs that aren't a good fit.
  • An aimless job search that yields minimal results.

Job hunters typically favor the path of least resistance. Countless hours surfing online job boards and replying to newspaper ads coupled with the occasional job fair is a common theme for many of the frustrated job hunters I encounter. Unfortunately, these preferred job search methods are not the way that employers prefer to hire. Employers prefer to find new employees much the same way that we, as consumers, would look for a plumber, dentist, real estate agent, or hair stylist: through referrals.

A successful strategic self-marketing plan will take into consideration how employers prefer to hire; your unique career profile; your industry; and your personal situation. It will typically employ a mix of job search strategies rather than rely solely on a single method. This mix should allow you to tap into both the published and unpublished job market - where the vast majority of available jobs can be found.

Tapping into the Unpublished Job Market

'But how am I supposed to apply for these jobs if they aren't published?'

Fair question. You'll need to tap into your current network and work to expand that network. It requires diligence and a willingness to put yourself out there. Many job seekers quickly rule out networking because it takes them out of their comfort zone. Reliance upon others makes us feel vulnerable. Then, there is the fear of rejection. So, why should we step outside of our comfort zones and engage in networking? Because some figures put the percentage of jobs that get filled without ever being published as high as 80%.

Hiring a new employee represents a substantial investment for an employer. The employer wants some assurance that their investment will be well spent. Hiring through networking and referrals also yields a higher quality job candidate. Since employers prefer hiring through networking and referrals, it is important that job seekers integrate networking into their strategic self-marketing plans.

It is just as important to build a strong personal brand. Your personal brand is a consistent image that is distinctly you. It creates your perceived value and distinguishes you from your competitors. Whether you’ve consciously created a personal brand or not, you already have one. It is basically your reputation with co-workers, bosses, teachers, clients, etc. Work to build a consistent professional image that is authentically you and will attract potential employers.

Thoughtful networking and the ongoing process of building a strong personal brand can significantly boost your job search success. Networking and personal branding can:

  • Catapult you to the status of the name brand items that first come to mind when we have a headache, get a cold, or are in need of new sneakers.
  • Make potential employers aware of you and want to work with you.
  • Put you on the short list for jobs before they become available.

Boost your job search success by creating a strategic self-marketing plan that incorporates a strong personal brand and a strategic self-marketing plan. To learn more about creating your strategic self-marketing plan, visit and download an excerpt of The Savvy Jobseeker's Guide & Workbook: Five Steps to a Simply Successful Job Search.

Author's Bio: 

Roxanne Ravenel is a Job Search Coach; the author of The Savvy Jobseeker's Guide & Workbook: Five Steps to a Simply Successful Job Search; and the host of The Savvy Jobseeker weekly podcast. Visit for tips on finding your ideal work in less time.