How to Stand Out When Applying for a Job

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This post was updated in June 2019.

Looking for a new job can be both exhilarating and challenging. Once you find a posting for a position you want, you’ll be competing with people with similar skills and experience for the role. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see applications targeted to the job they’re filling — so you need to create a strong application to set yourself apart.

Here’s how you can stand out from the competition when applying for a job:

Link your attributes to the job

Determine which of your qualities best relate to the job, and emphasize these on your application to show your potential employer why you’re a great fit. Read the posting to identify the attributes they see in an “ideal candidate” — both included and implied. For example:

  • If you’re applying for a human resources position, you may want to highlight verbal and written communication skills; empathy and understanding; and knowledge of benefits administration and workers’ compensation.
  • If you’re a programmer, you might call out the programming languages you know, as well as your technical background; problem-solving skills; analytical abilities; and math competency.
  • If it’s a managerial job you’re after, you can emphasize qualities such as good communication; innovative thinking; relationship-building; motivational skills; and the ability to delegate tasks.

These are just three examples. Take the time to think about what makes you a good fit for the job you want and make sure to highlight those skills on your application.

List measurable achievements

  1. List completed courses or certifications. If you’re applying for an SEO Specialist position, for example, list the Google, Yoast or HubSpot certifications you’ve completed.
  2. Show results. Imagine you’re applying for a customer satisfaction role. Saying that you “improved customer service” is vague. But “increased customer service response rates each quarter by 10–15%” proves you achieve results.
  3. Work in professional recommendations. Adding a statement from a supervisor about your success works well in a cover letter, or in your resume where you list skills and abilities. For example, if your manager said you consistently achieved sales targets and kept clients happy, call this out.
  4. Note foreign-language or sign-language skills. Being able to communicate in more than one language comes in handy for many positions — especially in customer service or education. Include the languages you know and how well you can read, speak and write them.

Build a strong cover letter and resume

Once you identify your relevant achievements, qualifications and attributes, assemble them into an easy-to-digest format, and make sure to include some key elements:

  1. Address your cover letter to the hiring manager or recruiter. Start by expressing your enthusiasm for the company. Add something newsworthy or admirable about them, and explain why you are applying. End with a hopeful statement and your signature.
  2. At the top of your resume, include your name, phone number, email address and a link to your website or professional network. If you include a summary or intent statement, put it next. Then add experience, skills and education sections, each with a bulleted list of relevant details.
  3. Keep your resume to one page in length, if possible — no more than two.
  4. Finally, always make sure to print and proofread your cover letter and resume to catch mistakes and formatting issues.

Don’t stand out for the wrong things

When you’re looking for a job, the quality of your reputation matters, both online and offline. You want to manage your reputation to avoid standing out for the wrong things.

How can you do this? The content you put online is a reflection of you, so use good judgment when publishing and engaging with the online community. Potential employers can easily find the posts, comments and reviews you leave on social media forums — both negative and positive. Comb through your profile and remove or replace unprofessional photos, handles and statements.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “never burn bridges.” That means making sure not to sever relationships or do things that might negatively affect how others view you. People want to work with people they admire and trust, so conduct yourself with integrity, both personally and professionally.

Prepare for your interview

Congrats, you’ve been offered an interview! You only have one shot at your first interview — so to stand out from others, prepare what you’re bringing, review past successes and practice your answers to key questions.

Print your cover letter and resume on high-quality paper for the interviewer, and bring extra copies for others you may meet. Bring a copy for yourself, too, so you’re all referring to the same thing.

Think about what skills, strengths and successes you want to weave into the interview. An effective way to do this is to use the STAR method when structuring your interview responses —  highlighting the Situation, your Task, what Action you took, and the Result of that action.

Practice interviewing with a friend, family member or colleague, or at a career fair or networking event. Preparation can help boost your confidence, calm your nerves and work out any kinks in your story.

Final note

Amidst a crowded playing field, you want recruiters to remember you. Link your strongest attributes to the job; include achievements with measurable results; follow best practices for cover letter and resume creation; manage your reputation; and practice your interview to make yourself stand out.

To learn more about job-searching and furthering your career, our comprehensive Indeed Career Guide offers in-depth information about everything from interviews to resume-writing to starting a new job.

You won’t need luck when you have the skills. You’ve got this!

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