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4 Insider Tips to Get Noticed and Hired in Today's Job Market

Resume and cover letter are no longer enough, survey of employers finds

A resume and cover letter on a desk with a computer and pen

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En español | Getting the attention of recruiters and hiring managers often can be the hardest part of getting the job you want. That can be particularly true for older job seekers, who might not be making use of newer job-search strategies that help younger candidates shine. But there are a few simple steps you can take to up your chances of getting noticed.

Accountemps, a staffing service owned by Robert Half, recently surveyed more than 2,400 senior managers at businesses in 28 major U.S. cities. The poll identified a handful of techniques that job seekers can use to catch an employer's eye:

1. Use social media to connect with people in the company.

One of the best ways you can get a sense of what it's like to work for an employer is to chat with people on the inside. That approach also might help the hiring manager notice you. According to the survey, 49 percent of senior managers said they are most impressed by candidates whose social network profiles show connections with people who already work at the company.

Use social websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to find out whether you know anyone who works at the companies you are interested in. It's also smart to take a few moments to make sure your LinkedIn profile is as sharp as possible.

2. Write compelling cover letters.

Even in the age of emails and texts, a well-written cover letter is still a great opportunity to tell employers why you are the right person for the job. The survey found that 58 percent of the respondents said cover letters were very helpful when they looked at candidates.

Use your cover letter to make your “elevator pitch.” Or you might consider getting help with your cover letters (and resume) from a professional service.

3. Don't get too colorful.

“Steer clear of including anything that could be considered distracting or unprofessional, such as flashy fonts and images,” says Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps. According to the survey, senior managers said the things that hurt candidates’ chances the most were the use of colorful fonts, backgrounds, caricatures or cartoon images on application materials.

But that doesn't mean you have to completely hide any creative or visual talents you might have. Forty percent of the participants in the survey said that a smart infographic that highlights accomplishments would tip the scales in your favor.

4. Create an online portfolio or personal website.

This one takes more effort, but building a simple website that highlights your professional accomplishments can make a difference, according to 47 percent of the respondents. “A strategic job search requires much more than putting together a polished resume,” says Steinitz. “In addition to learning about candidates’ skills and experience, employers want to see a strong online presence."

Watch: 3 Top Changes to Job Hunting