Your competition. There's an interesting notion as an umemployee. As you cop a squat at your computer and battle the odds for a shot at the coveted interview, how much time do you actually spend thinking about the other people who are going to score the interview for that same job. They must be pretty good.
Based on a recent survey of jobs per unemployed person, there are 4.3 unemployees per job opening. But when you count people who are employed but trolling and the teeming masses of underemployed you wind up with more like 8 people per job opening.
That's eight people who are going after the same exact job that you are. And that's just the average including the manhole cover salesman jobs that nobody really wants. Where I used to work, CBS Interactive, there would be several hundred resumes submitted for every job opening (at least that's what the recuriters told me). About 15 of those resumes will get reviewed by a hiring manager. Most of those resumes will be wrong for the position and one or two of them MIGHT be interesting. Most often, though, those jobs are filled through networking. That's how I got in.
Personally, I think it's helpful to think about who your competition is and try to personify them in one single identity. As a writer/Creative Director, John Dougherty (not his real last name) is my competition. Now, I actually know this guy. I've worked with him. He's a GREAT guy. As writers go, he's very very good. Clients LOVE HIM. His experience is broad, he has a good portfolio, management experience and a very diplomatic demeanor.
If he lived in San Francisco instead of LA, we actually would be competitng for the same jobs. Surely there are other John Doughertys out there in San Francisco vying for the same gigs. So I need to be better than John. That means I have to come into the interviews better prepared than John would be, knowing more about the interviewers than John would know, have better follow up than John would have (and John would be very good with follow up. His thank you letter would probably be laugh out loud funny and yet still poigniant).I need to project the nicest, most honest, and most easy going version of myself that I can possibly be. I need to have an example handy for every question that I'm going to get asked. I can't be as tall and good looking as John (alas), but I'll have to best him in every other way.
With John as my theoretical competition, my real competition would be hard pressed to beat me out for a job. So get yourself a John or Joan and paste a picture of him/her above your desk. That's the person you have to be better than every single day.