How to Make Your Application Stand Out (For the Right Reasons)


So you’ve been browsing free job boards for days, sending resumes and applications by the dozens, when you finally find it – the one.

Maybe you stumbled upon it on the board, or maybe you’ve been paying attention to your job alerts and one for today is perfect. The job you want – the job you really want – is staring you in the face.

What should you do to make sure the hiring manager notices you? It’s easy to overdo it, but that’s neither attractive nor effective. Instead, you need to know how to stand out and maintain an air of professionalism and class. In this article, we’ll go through some ways to do that.

A Creative Resume

This is an area where you really need to tread carefully. The line between creative and obnoxious can be thin, and depending on the industry and company you’re applying for, there may not be much room for creativity at all. But if you’ve done your research and you know the company is open to expression of personality – maybe it’s a quirky startup or a design agency – the right resume may get you through the door. Especially if you’re in a position where image matters, a well-designed resume can be an effective strategy.

Marketers, designers, photographers and more can put their skills to use by creating a resume that showcases what they can produce as well as their education and experience. Here are some posts on Business Insider with inspiration to get you started.

Industry-Specific Resumes

According to Ashley Faus on Mashable, “I’ve seen graphic designers turn their resumes into beautifully designed, infographic-style works of art, and marketing and communications professionals create ad campaigns with a tagline on how their skills match the open position.” This can be a great idea, particularly if you’re confident in your ability to create a killer campaign or infographic. If you’re still building your skills, it might be best to stick with a solid professional resume and leave the creative version for later.

Unconventional Creativity

Furthermore, it’s possible to take this idea and turn it around for use in other professions. It’s not as common in STEM fields to have a creative resume, and it can definitely help you stand out. Programmers can use code in their resumes, or even create a program that is itself a resume. The limits here are defined by situational appropriateness, your own skills and what you’re willing to do. If you’re a scientist who’s pretty sure that lab would love to see your resume in the form of a research report, go for it.

What About Extras?

If you’re in the running for a position with a lot of responsibility to produce results, you may want to consider delivering some before you’re even called back. This will show the company you’re extremely motivated to do well and that you have the skills it takes to follow through on what your resume promises.

In some fields, a portfolio is expected. Make sure the work that is most directly relevant to the position you want is front and center. For example, if you’re a designer who is interested in work at a brewery, you need to make sure any advertising material or other collateral you’ve done specifically for the food and beverage industry is featured early and often in what you submit for the employer’s consideration. If you don’t have anything like that, it may well be time for you to sit down and mock up a few things that fit the bill.

Submit Mock Projects

If you’re interested in going way above and beyond what other candidates will be providing, consider starting some projects for your prospective employer. Marketers can research and design some campaigns, for example. If you come in with or send a presentation speaking directly to the needs a business currently has, you’re bound to leave an impression.

Do Your Research

What all of these strategies for resume add-ons have in common, you may have noticed, is the need for heavy research. You can’t deliver a killer sample project unless you really know what the company is about, and what kind of issues it’s facing right now. The Internet can be invaluable in this effort, of course, but if you have any other way of finding information you should use it. Acquaintances in the field or at the company itself may be helpful.

Particularly for startups, you may consider using the product or service they offer. This will allow you to speak intelligently about it at an interview, but it also gives you the opportunity to provide meaningful feedback and suggestions in addition to your resume. If the startup’s founder is anything like most entrepreneurs, she or he will jump at the chance to work with someone with the kind of boldness and drive necessary to make that move.

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