Applying for jobs is a competitive and often stressful process. You’re required to prove you can fulfil the day-to-day requirements of the role as well as exhibit passion, dedication and a capacity to fit into the organisational culture - all in a way that’s distinct from other candidates.
It sounds like an overwhelming process, but it need not be. Standing out from the crowd is about really selling yourself. It’s about being targeted and knowing your audience, that is, your future employer and their organisation. Here are six ways to stand out from the crowd and secure that role you’ve got your heart set on.
1. Regularly update your resume
This one may appear to be no-brainer, but it’s tremendously important that your resume is updated every time you start a new job, whether you’ve adopted new technical skills, accomplished something significant in your role, or undertaken specialised training. Many candidates fail to update their resume with the soft skills that play a critical role in determining emotional intelligence and capacity to fit in with an organisation’s culture. To ensure you have this covered, where possible, detail short examples of how your soft skills – such as communication, adaptability and collaboration - helped you achieve goals or improve relationships, noting that you’re always working to improve them.
2. Stand out from the crowd by asking for recommendations
Asking for recommendations from senior staff or industry leaders you’ve worked with is a great way of standing out from the crowd in an increasingly competitive job market. They can provide verification of your skills and capacity, attest to your reliability, and reveal the valuable people in your network. If for example, you rolled out new software to 300 staff in record time and with no reportable issues, ask your manager or an IT executive to write you a recommendation. Perhaps you haven’t worked on large-scale projects, but have consistently reduced operation costs for clients over your seven-year tenure. In this case a recommendation could be sought from colleagues, senior staff or even your clients. These endorsements don’t have to be long but can be used across your resume and all online profiles to really stand out from the crowd.
3. Use your cover letter to convey personality
While cover letters are important, some candidates fall into the trap of making them generic. It’s critical you use this space – ideally no more than a page – to talk about what attracted you to the role, why you’re such a passionate candidate, and what you’ll bring to the job and organisation that no one else can. There are many ways to design and write your cover letter, but whatever you do, make sure yours is unique and is a strong representation of the things that set you apart from other candidates.
4. Show your unique knowledge
Simply put, this one is about research. Browse the internet, scour industry publications, speak with existing employers and research people connected to the industry. You should make an effort to learn about the organisation, its history, processes and values, and also about the people interviewing you. You might discover that you studied at the same university as your prospective manager, or that a member of HR is an award winning professional. Being armed with unique knowledge like this will allow you to stand out from the crowd as you weave it fluidly into your application documents or interview conversations.
5. Demonstrate how you’d make the company better
There are many ways to practice for generic job interview questions, but imagine how much you’d stand out from the crowd if you could offer a financial institution innovative solutions to increasing engagement with investors? What if you prepared a document detailing a particularly efficient way to audit records for an accounting firm? These actions show you’ve not only done thorough research for the interview process and the organisation you’re applying to work for, but also displays initiative and industriousness - two attractive qualities for employers of any sector.
6. Send a thank you message
Being courteous is always looked upon fondly, and sending a brief thank you note, whether electronically or in hard copy is a great way to close the loop on a job interview. Often, it will be an opportunity to reinforce skills and qualities you referenced in the interview. Did you say you had great attention to detail? Then mention something you learned about the organisation, its strategies or people in the interview. Issuing thanks is a small gesture that goes a long way to impressing employers and helping you stand out. It's also a great technique to follow up on a job interview and know where you stand.
Standing out from the crowd can be easily achieved by treating the application process as a personal, always-on marketing campaign. Running this successfully (that is, securing the role) doesn’t necessarily require you to be the loudest or most garish candidate. It means understanding clearly what employers are looking for and knowing how to tailor your skills and application to their needs. It means being strategic, top of mind, professional and consistent, all of which can be achieved with the simple tips above.