Career & Finance

Don’t Apply for Your Next Job Without Reading This First


Have you heard those tales of the “old way” of job hunting? When people would march into an office lobby—resume in hand—and park themselves in a chair until they could shake hands with a decision maker and express interest in a job?

Sure, it probably wasn’t the most effective way to go about landing a new gig. But it did have one major benefit: You were able to actually meet somebody. You could look them in the eye, state your case, and make an impression.

Today? Well, you know just how challenging it can be to get to that stage of the game. Instead, you spend hours submitting online application after online application. After you’ve sent your resume into what feels like a black hole, you cross your fingers and wait to receive an email inviting you to interview for the position.

There’s no doubt about it—it’s a pretty impersonal way to job hunt. And it makes it that much more challenging to stand out and separate yourself from all of the competition applying for those very same roles.

Yes, standing out is difficult today. But it’s definitely not impossible! Here are five ways you can set the right impression and rise above all of that job search competition—no hours of waiting in the office lobby required.

1. Tailor your resume.

You’ve heard the advice before: You should tailor your resume for every single position you apply for. And yet so many people continue to blanket the world in the same generic document!

This basic first step is one of the best ways to separate yourself from the pack and prove you’re a no-brainer fit for the job—without having to do anything completely drastic or over the top.

Take a fine-tooth comb to the job description and pull out any keywords or major responsibilities that seem important. Then, make sure that those are reflected in your own document (as long as you’re honest, of course!).

Doing so will help you to get pack any Applicant Tracking Systems the company might have in place, and will also make it obvious that you’re a qualified fit for that open role. It seems basic, but it’s an important part of the process that you don’t want to skip. When it comes to job applications, remember quality over quantity.

2. Show your personality.

Yes, there are some places when a more formal and rigid cover letter and resume are your best bet. But if you’re applying for a job with a company that seems to have a more relaxed culture, showing some of your personality (especially in your career documents) can be a great way to make yourself memorable.

Perhaps you want to open your cover letter with an anecdote about how you discovered your passion for sales when you helped your childhood lemonade stand achieve a profit margin of $5. Or maybe you want to add a “P.S.” note at the bottom stating you’re confident you’d be a frontrunner in the company’s annual guacamole contest—proving you’re familiar with the employer’s culture and traditions.

Find subtle ways to sprinkle your personality into your resume and cover letter.

Find some subtle and professional ways to sprinkle your personality into those otherwise stiff and dry documents, and you’re sure to make an impression on the hiring manager.

3. Find an in.

Are you tired of that cliché: “It’s not always what you know, but who you know?” Like it or not, it holds some water—particularly when you’re job searching.

If you’re really eager to make a connection and leave a memorable impression with a company you’re interested in, it’s best if you can find an “in” with that employer.

This connection doesn’t always have to be obvious—after all, if your best friend or professional mentor worked at that company, you likely would’ve already thought to reach out and ask them to put in a good word.

Instead, LinkedIn is where you’ll want to turn when you want to build a relationship. Start by searching for the profile of the hiring manager of the team’s department leader you’re hoping to work on. Do you have any connections in common? If so—and you know that shared connection fairly well—reach out and ask him or her to make an introduction for you.

Don’t have any shared connections? It’s not the end of the world! You can still gather your courage and request to connect with a personalized message. Bonus points if you can include a professional group, association, or volunteer cause you’re both involved in (that’s all information you can find on LinkedIn as well!).

Just making the effort to get beyond the anonymity of the job application process will help you build some name recognition and stand out.

4. Send a cold email.

Did you know that 70-80% of jobs are actually never posted? This is exactly why—along with submitting standard applications—it’s smart to put yourself out there and build relationships with companies that you admire.

In fact, my very first job was a role that was never actually advertised. There was a commercial photography and videography studio that I really admired, so I sent a cold email to the studio’s president letting her know I much I admired the work that they were doing and that I was a recent college graduate who would love to work with them.

She got back to me a couple of days later, invited me into the studio to meet with her, and then offered me a job helping with production schedules and generally keeping things organized.

Of course, you won’t always get those results with a cold email. But if there’s a company you really respect, why not reach out and let them know how much you love what they’re doing? It can’t hurt to express your interest in working there!

There’s not a lot of competition for jobs that aren’t advertised, so you’ll be a step ahead of the curve. Plus, what’s the worst that could happen?

5. Follow up creatively.

You likely already know that it takes a certain amount of pleasant persistence to hear back about a job you’re interested in. But instead of sending the standard “Just checking in on the status of my job application,” why not try something a little different?

No, this doesn’t mean you need to send a singing telegram or a bouquet of flowers. However, adding some value to your follow-up message will make you stick out that much more in the hiring manager’s mind.

Add value to your follow-up message to make a memorable impression.

Try ending your email by passing along an article you think they’d find interesting. Maybe it’s a news story about something that pertains directly to their industry. Or perhaps it’s a blog post about a certain marketing strategy that would apply.

Find something that would offer a benefit and include it in your follow-up message. You can politely check in on where you stand in a way that still adds some value to their workday.

In today’s impersonal job hunting landscape, it’s increasingly tough to stand out from the sea of competition. However, it’s not impossible—as long as you’re willing to get a little creative. Give one (or all!) of these five methods a try and you’ll make yourself that much more memorable.

Do you have a surefire way to set yourself apart from other job seekers?