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How to make your job application stand out
It’s always interesting to gauge the current job market based on interest in available positions, and we’re currently witnessing a significant rise in the number of applications for each job advertisement we post.
There are a couple of main reasons for increased application numbers – firstly, the number of jobseekers on the market has grown, and secondly, applying for jobs has become a very simple process.
This means that it’s become much harder for job applicants to cut through the noise and get noticed by a recruiter or hiring manager. Meanwhile, those on the receiving end of the applications are implementing new systems and processes to avoid missing out on that one great candidate – and to quickly cut out those who aren’t a good fit.
So, how do you make your job application stand out from the crowd?
1. Tailor your application
This first tip is maybe the hardest, and as a result, the most ignored. To get noticed, you have to make your application relevant to the role you’re applying for.
Generic cover letters and CVs that do not highlight the required skill set will be quickly overlooked, and yet we see a lot of cut-and-paste jobs. A recruiter can quickly spot these types of applications, and it usually means it will go straight into the ‘no’ pile.
It’s understandable – applying for a job is difficult and time-consuming. But it’s crucial to tailor your resume to the role to make your application leap out, show that you’ve done your homework and that you’ve researched the company and the role.
2. Make your application readable
Imagine you’re a hiring manager and you receive 100+ cover letters and resumes to sift through to find the right person for the job. With that kind of volume, applications that are clearly laid out using the right font and paragraph breaks are most likely to get noticed. Those that offer large blocks of text, hard-to-read fonts and tiny words may well be ignored immediately.
The bottom line: don’t make it difficult to decipher your application. If it’s not succinct and logical, it may end up on the reject pile.
3. Make your application findable
One of the best ways you can make your application stand out is to make it more findable. That involves using specific keywords for skills that recruiters or hiring managers might be looking for in your resume and cover letter. If you’re not sure where to start, pick out main skills and qualifications from the job description that apply to you.
That way, if search tools are being used to search a database for a potential candidate, yours will show up in the search results. Be sure to integrate these words and phrases into your application naturally in sentences, rather than awkwardly listing words at the end of the page.
4. Make sure there are no errors
Hiring managers aren’t very forgiving when it comes to spelling mistakes. In fact, just one or two errors or typos in your application could mean that your application is rejected entirely.
It’s hard to come back from this kind of error – particularly if ‘attention to detail’ is a requirement of the job or one of the items you list as a ‘strength’ – so don’t hamstring yourself with a lazy mistake before you can make a good impression.
Ideally, you will have a pedantic friend or family member proofread your application before you send it away. If you’re happy to do the spellchecking yourself, take a break or wait a day after writing the letter to ensure you’re approaching it with a fresh set of eyes.
RELATED: How to write the perfect resume
5. Be results-focused
Hiring managers are looking for someone who can get the job done and deliver results. Show that you are that person by using statistics (“increased sales by X%”) or action words (“steered transformation project”) to demonstrate the results you can achieve and what kind of soft skills you have that will benefit their team and organisation.
If applicable, you may even include a short quote from a referee. This can be especially good to highlight soft skills where statistics aren’t possible, and it offers something unique for your cover letter as well.
6. Supplement your application with an online profile
Even with a sleek resume template and a creative cover letter, there are only so many things you can do differently with your application. In some cases, you won’t have the space to share some of your skills and experiences, and in others, the format is simply not suitable to demonstrate all of your attributes. Whatever the case may be, you can help your application stand out by building an impressive online profile to supplement your cover letter and resume.
The first and most obvious option is to build a strong LinkedIn profile. This allows you to flesh out your resume with additional information, references, and other skills, as well as to reiterate all of the employment history, skills, and education found in your CV.
Another option is to build a website that hosts all of this information in a unique and creative manner. This is especially useful for creatives who can use this medium to showcase images, written content, and videos to showcase their work, but it can be a fun way for anyone to present themselves.
7. Follow up
If you are genuinely suitable for a role (i.e., you have proven experience in the majority of the required criteria), a follow-up phone call to the relevant recruiter or decision maker within an organisation can go a long way to support your application.
Make sure you’re not a serial caller on every job application – your follow up needs to be relevant – but if you’re sure that you’re a good contender for the role and have not heard anything for a number of days since you applied (or after the application closing date), check in with a polite call.
First, confirm that your CV has been received, and then be ready to explain succinctly why you believe you are the right person for the role. This follow-up not only highlights your CV in what may be a cluttered inbox, but it also shows that you have a genuine passion for the position. This sets you apart from the applicants who are applying for anything and everything and will give the recruiter a chance to ask a couple of quick questions straight away.
By putting in that little bit of extra effort and demonstrating that you are truly interested in this specific role, you’ll give yourself a better chance of success.
For more advice on how to optimise your job application, check out our resume advice hub.
With so many applicants for every job listing, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd. To give yourself the best chance of being noticed, you should:
- Tailor your application specifically to the role you are applying for
- Follow up with a call to the recruiter or decision maker for roles you think you're particularly suitable for
- Ensure your application is error-free and results-focused
- Supplement your application with an online profile