Breaking Into a Competitive Industry: What Job Seekers Need to Know

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Healthcare. Technology. Startups, in general. There are some industries where the competition to be the top company is insanely high. These organizations move at an exciting pace and are at the forefront of trends that are changing the world. Because of this, working for these companies is invigorating.

It’s also more difficult for job seekers to break into these industries. Employers are more selective when assessing job seekers because employees in these fields need to work twice as effectively and efficiently. If you want to transition into a highly-competitive industry, you cannot simply approach the job search the traditional way.  

Here are three tips to help you stand out as a job seeker in a competitive industry:


1. Highlighting your people skills

Often, when picturing what it’s like to work in a competitive industry, people think that every man will be out for himself. One has to do whatever it takes to beat the competition — even if that means stepping on co-workers.

The reality of these workplaces, however, is completely different. There is, certainly, competition between organizations in the industry. But within an organization, cooperation and teamwork among co-workers are essential to company success.

In fact, 2018 research from the University of British Columbia found that working in a competitive industry fosters greater trust between co-workers. So it’s essential you prove you can mesh with a team by showcasing your people skills during the hiring process.

Understand that it takes a blend of skills to be a great team player. You need to explain specifically what you bring to a group. Then back up your claims with anecdotal evidence from previous jobs. If you’re not sure which skills you should focus on, ask questions to reveal where the team may have a gap. Be prepared to show your abilities in some of these skills:

  • Communication
  • Mediation
  • Organization
  • Creativity
  • Teaching
  • Active listening
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving

2. Identifying and solving a problem

Whenever you’re trying to break into a new industry, you have to prove you can transition seamlessly and drive company success. One way to show you have what it takes is taking the initiative to complete a project during the hiring process.

Take the story of Jason Shen, CEO and co-founder of Headlight. In a TED Talk, Shen explains how he was able to land a tech job at Etsy, despite having no experience in the industry. He researched the state of the company, then designed a new company website and shared ideas for new features. This gumption impressed the hiring managers and helped him land the job.

In most cases, you can find innovative ways to show what you can do in the same manner. While researching the company, take note of where there are opportunities for improvements. Then pick one that interests you and develop a plan of action to share with the employer.

Note, you’re not trying to prove you’re better than the company’s current employees. Rather, you’re demonstrating you can be a valuable asset to help grow the team’s success. So be professional and respectful when you present your ideas during the hiring process.

3. Focusing on humility and hard work

When applying to work in a competitive industry, many job seekers think they need to exude tons of confidence during the interview process. Yes, it’s important to be self-assured, but your presence needs to be balanced with a great work ethic and humility.

In competitive fields, successful companies are focused on the bigger picture. Quality employees are motivated by how they contribute to the team’s purpose. If you want the job, you need to show you’ll work hard, but not for personal glory.

Make it clear what your priorities are when answering interview questions. It’s okay to take credit for your accomplishments, but be sure to also talk about how your work benefited the entire organization.

For example, say you were able to double your sales one quarter. Don’t just focus on what you did. Talk about how this impacted the company. Also, discuss how you were supported by others to show you know it takes the entire team to reach organizational goals.



It’s not easy to break into a competitive industry. Companies are looking for unique qualities in candidates. But if you understand how these employers approach the hiring process differently, you will prove you have the skills and drive necessary to be an asset to their company.

Job seekers, want more tips to stand out in your job search? Check out what career influencers you should be following!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution that gives job seekers complete control over their job search. It's available for individual users, university and military career services centers, libraries, and corporations seeking to offer outplacement assistance to former employees. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.