You have seen a job that you want to apply for and feel like you have the skills and experience required for the job. But like you, so do many other candidates… So, how do you make yourself stand out without appearing cheesy?
It is impossible for recruiters to read every word in your application so you need to grab their attention. I have read that it can take as little as 2.5 seconds for a recruiter to determine whether you make it to the yes pile, or move it straight to the no pile.
Some hints that I have learnt or seen along the way include:
- Be creative with your cover letter and resume. Is there anything in your skills and experience that you can represent graphically to break up the text in your application? If you are going to be creative, make sure that whatever you do is related to the job you are applying for. A real life example that I have seen is someone creating a website to showcase their skills and experience for the role of web and social media officer or a graphic designer creating a resume portfolio as their application.
- Write your cover letter addressing the selection criteria – be specific about how your skills and experience relate to the job. Show them that you are the best person for the job. Tell them why you want to work for them, what you can bring to their business and how you can help them overcome any challenges they are facing.
- Be creative with your application – would it be suitable to create a video, infographic or webpage to send to them to show your skills and experience in a different way? There are lots of apps out there that you can use to showcase your skills and experience.
- Do your research! This involves more than looking at the home page of their website. Use your networks to see what you can find out or search online – you can find almost anything using Google or better still call the hiring manager to ask some questions to find out more information about the role. You can use this information to better craft your cover letter. While you are talking to them ask them what they are looking for in the ideal candidate and if you get a chance tell them briefly about yourself and why you would be best for the job. If you do this well, they will look out for your application.
- Use keywords that are in the job ad – sometimes applications are being scanned by computer technology to match applicants with essential criteria.
About a year ago I applied for the job of State Marketing Manager at McDonald’s. As I didn’t have experience in product marketing or in fast food, I knew I had to be creative to make my application stand out. I knew that a job like this would attract hundreds of applications (I later found out that there were over 200).
The hiring manager would have spent hours sorting through the applications so after considering many different options, I created a header for both my cover letter and resume that showed that I understood the business and highlighted in a creative way why I should be hired for the job using some of the brand values associated with McDonalds.
I have removed the contact details from my application in the image below but this is a screen shot of what I did.
The result is that I did stand out! I was successful in gaining an interview for the role. I couldn’t believe it. I applied not really thinking that I would make it to that stage.
When I went in for the interview, I was told that out of all the applications I was the applicant they were most looking forward to meeting. They said that after seeing my application, they had to meet me! Now that is the response you want to get from your job application.
I believe that had I not been creative with my application I wouldn’t have made it to the interview stage, as my skills weren’t directly aligned with the skills and experience they were seeking.
Although I didn’t end up winning the role, I felt like it was a huge achievement to make it to the interview stage with that many applicants. I did ask for feedback after the interview and was told that the person that was successful in gaining the job had more relevant experience.
Finally there are some key elements that are essential to a good job application;
- Your cover letter should be addressed to the hiring manager. If it is not in the job ad, phone and ask the question. It shows that you are taking the initiative and time to address it to the correct person.
- Only detail relevant experience in your job application. You don’t need to list all jobs that you have had. If you are a recent graduate you might want to include any part time, volunteering or internship opportunities you have been involved in.
- Give a good overview of your skills and experience as they relate to the job you are applying for
- Keep personal info short. Always put an address on your application.
- Create a LinkedIn profile and put the URL on your application – showcase other areas of your experience on LinkedIn. Show that you are engaged in discussions relevant to your industry.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread! Make sure you proofread before you send off your application. Even better, get someone else to proofread it. You don’t want a spelling or grammatical error to hurt your chances of success.
There is no magic formula to getting noticed and it all depends on the job you are applying for. It is tough to stand out but if you spend some time on your application, give it some thought it is possible to stand out amongst the crowd. Getting to the interview stage is your biggest battle – once you are there, there is less competition and it gives you a chance to detail your skills and experience and show why they should hire you.
I would love to hear what other people have done to make themselves stand out – please comment below.
Guest Post by Sarah Poppy