By David Rose

I spoke with a candidate the other day. He was worked up – agitated and frustrated like a caffeine addict weaning off the java. He sent his mediocre resume with an unimpressive work history, and without any frame of reference, he felt he was the best candidate for a job he knew nothing about.

While he deserved a quick nod for his follow up, he did so minutes after submitting his resume and was bothered that I hadn’t stopped what I was doing to review his resume. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s sadly true. This knucklehead may be talented, but being talented isn’t enough anymore. Everyone is talented, and it’s a good candidate’s job to separate himself from the competition throughout the interview process, every step of the way.

How do you distinguish yourself when you don’t know your competition?

You must first acknowledge – like it or not – that there are other people interested in the same company and/or position as you. Even with the most sophisticated technology, the process of reviewing resumes takes time. It’s reasonable to think that your resume will be reviewed within 24 hours. It’s not reasonable to expect that your resume will be reviewed in 24 minutes. Patience is a challenge whether your 5 of 55, but demonstrating patience, reasonable expectations, and follow through at the right time are simple ways to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Next – and take a moment to let this sink in – forget your competition.

You will never know whom you’re up against in an interview process. Instead, start thinking about the things you’ve done (and do consistently) that have built the skills you possess today. Think about the messages your mentors have drilled in you. Think about the challenges you’ve overcome. It is through these experiences that your character and professional acumen are developed.

Strong character leads to strong decision making, investment in career, and escalated competence. With the right preparation, you can demonstrate each throughout an interview process. If you’re successful in delivering your unique imprint, then you will begin to create distance between you and your competition.