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How to make your job application stand out
In the digital era, applying for jobs has never been easier. However, a consequence of this – along with the effects of COVID-19 on employment – is that applications per role are sky-high.
In a competitive job market, a standout job application is worth its weight in gold. A study revealed recruiters spend just 7.4 seconds looking at the resumes of job seekers – so being able to make an impression quickly is essential.
So, what can you do to make your job application stand out from the pack?
Follow these tips to make changes to your job application and improve your chances of success for a job interview.
1. Tailor your application to the job
This first tip is the most time-consuming, and as a result, the most ignored. However, to get noticed, it’s crucial to make your application relevant to the specific role you’re applying for.
Generic cover letters and CVs that do not highlight the required skill set will be overlooked, and yet, recruiters and hiring managers continue to 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 takes time. But it’s important to tailor your resume to the role to make your application stick out, and show that you’ve done your homework and research about the company and the role. It quite simply could mean the difference between getting a new job or not.
2. Make your resume easily skimmable
Imagine you’re a hiring manager and you receive over 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.
CVs and cover letters featuring large blocks of text, hard-to-read fonts, tiny words and messy formatting 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 will end up in the rejection pile.
3. Use the right keywords
One of the best ways you can make your application stand out is to make it more findable.
This 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 the main skills and qualifications from the job description that apply to your experience and qualifications.
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 somewhere on the page.
4. Proofread, proofread, proofread
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 sabotage your chances with a lazy mistake before you can even 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 job application 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. Have a strong online presence
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. Use the STAR technique
The STAR technique is a proven method of conveying important information clearly. It helps provide context and demonstrate your capabilities in a concrete, measurable way. When describing a skill or capability, use the following formula:
Situation: Describe the situation in which you completed a task or faced a challenge at work.
Example: My team was tasked with conducting market research for a new high-value client.
Task: Describe your responsibility or role in the situation.
Example: I was responsible for collecting, sorting and summarising survey results from target markets in eight locations.
Action: Describe how you completed the task or met the challenge.
Example: I used X system to identify relevant survey participants and collect responses. I then visually presented common themes and insights to the client and made recommendations as to next steps.
Result: Explain the outcomes or results achieved by the action taken.
Example: Based on my research methodology and strategic recommendations, the client doubled their budget with our company.
8. 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, hiring manager or decision maker within an organisation can go a long way to support your application.
Your follow-up job application email or call 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), it’s reasonable to check in.
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 extra effort and demonstrating that you are truly interested in this specific role, you’ll give yourself a better chance of success.