18 strategies to make your job application stand out to employers

18 strategies to make your job application stand out to employers was originally published on College Recruiter.

Job seekers, understandably, almost all hate the process of searching for a new job. The process can be dehumanizing, is almost always filled with far more rejections than acceptances, and job applications often seem to disappear into a black hole so vast and so dark that candidates aren’t even sure if anyone ever looked at them.

We recently asked 18 thought leaders for advice on how job seekers can make their applications stand out to potential employers.

  • Demonstrate Understanding of Employer’s Needs
  • Personalize Your Application
  • Align Resume with Job Description
  • Customize and Optimize LinkedIn Profile
  • Create a Personal Introduction Video
  • Include Relevant Volunteer Work
  • Craft Personalized Impactful Cover Letters
  • Establish a Strong Online Presence
  • Tailor Application to Job Description
  • Follow Up Thoughtfully After Applying
  • Build a Personal Professional Website
  • Highlight Quantifiable Achievements
  • Ensure Resume Readability
  • Prioritize Relevant Experience on CV
  • Exhibit Personal Projects
  • Show Passion and Industry Understanding
  • Incorporate a Skills Infographic
  • Narrate Your Unique Contributions

Demonstrate Understanding of Employer’s Needs

Amidst a deluge of generic resumes, differentiation stems from demonstrating you understand an employer’s distinct challenges and then positioning your unique value as the solution. Early on, I mistakenly advised candidates to craft one-size-fits-all applications, emphasizing general qualifications. Quickly, I learned hiring managers crave specificity around how a prospect’s particular strengths map to their pressing priorities. Now, I guide job seekers to become sleuths—scour company blogs, earnings reports, and even customer reviews to pinpoint pain points. Then, tailor your narrative around how your niche blend of skills and experience can catalyze transformation in those targeted areas. Perhaps you’re an AI engineer who has navigated scaling machine learning initiatives across legacy IT environments similar to theirs, deftly building buy-in for new technologies by translating technical jargon into business benefits. Suddenly, you’re no longer just another coder but a critical change agent. The key is doing deeper due diligence to decode needs, then strategically packaging your background as the bridge to aspirations. Stand out by helping them envision outstanding results through your singular lens.

Lou Reverchuk, Co-Founder and CEO, EchoGlobal

Personalize Your Application

Tailor everything! Don’t just send a generic application. Read the job description carefully and highlight the skills and experiences that directly match what they’re looking for. Use keywords from the description throughout your résumé and cover letter, but naturally.

For your cover letter, go beyond your résumé—mention a specific company project or achievement that shows you understand their needs and can add value. By taking the time to personalize your application, you’ll stand out from the crowd and grab the attention of hiring managers.

Manobal Jain, Founder, Trainerfu

Align Resume with Job Description

To make your application truly stand out, prioritize clarity and alignment with the job description. Most companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen resumes and shortlist candidates. Tailor your resume by mirroring the specific keywords and skills mentioned in the posting. This demonstrates your suitability to the ATS and ensures you reach a human reader. Additionally, emphasize quantifiable achievements with numbers and data points to showcase the impact you’ve made in previous roles. A well-structured, ATS-friendly resume is your first step toward making a strong impression in a crowded job market.

Jyoti Tewari, Director HR, Webuters Technologies Pvt Ltd

Customize and Optimize LinkedIn Profile

In my years of experience matching qualified individuals with challenging and rewarding careers in government and the public sector, I genuinely believe that my two cents on this matter could be useful.

What I’d suggest for job seekers is to customize their resumes and cover letters for each job they apply to. By showcasing skills and experiences that directly match the job requirements, candidates can effectively demonstrate their suitability for the role. I encourage them to use powerful action words and quantify their achievements to make a stronger impression on potential employers.

Moreover, I advise them to optimize their LinkedIn profiles to mirror their resumes and cover letters. This not only provides recruiters with a comprehensive understanding of their professional background but also shows proactive engagement. After submitting their application, I encourage them to follow up with recruiters via LinkedIn to express continued interest. This approach not only reinforces their commitment but also helps nurture professional connections. By staying active on LinkedIn, candidates can further cultivate relationships and stay on the radar for future opportunities, ultimately increasing their chances of success in a competitive job market.

Michael Hurwitz, CEO and Co-Founder, Careers in Government

Create a Personal Introduction Video

Drawing from my experience, I can share insights into making job applications stand out in today’s competitive market. Utilize video resumes or personal introduction videos. In a market where personal connection can make a difference, a well-crafted video can help you stand out. It allows you to showcase your communication skills and personality, giving employers a glimpse of who you are beyond the paper resume. This approach not only differentiates you from a sea of applicants but also provides a dynamic platform to communicate your enthusiasm, creativity, and suitability for the role. A well-executed video can significantly enhance your application, offering a more holistic view of your potential fit within the team. It’s an opportunity to directly engage with potential employers, making a memorable impression before the interview process even begins.

Alari Aho, CEO and Founder, Toggl Inc

Include Relevant Volunteer Work

Including relevant volunteer work on an application can showcase a candidate’s commitment to their values and their willingness to invest time in causes or projects that matter to them. In my opinion, this experience can provide additional context to the candidate’s skills and interests, especially if the volunteer work is aligned with the professional field or demonstrates transferable skills. It also highlights a well-rounded character, showing employers that the candidate is motivated by more than just personal gain.

Grant Aldrich, Founder, Preppy

Craft Personalized Impactful Cover Letters

One highly effective strategy for job seekers to make their applications stand out is crafting personalized and impactful cover letters. Rather than using generic templates, tailor each cover letter to the specific job and company. Clearly articulate how your skills, experiences, and values align with the organization’s needs and culture. Share specific examples of achievements that demonstrate your qualifications. Highlighting a genuine passion for the industry and company can further set you apart. Additionally, go beyond the job description to showcase how your unique contributions can add value. A well-crafted, personalized cover letter not only captures the attention of employers but also reflects a thoughtful and invested approach, signaling your genuine interest in the position.

Steven Mostyn, Chief Human Resources Officer, Management.org

Establish a Strong Online Presence

I recommend establishing a strong online presence; it is crucial for job seekers in today’s digital world. Regularly updating LinkedIn profiles with detailed job roles, key projects, and accomplishments, and engaging with industry-related content demonstrates expertise and a proactive attitude. Participating in discussions and sharing insights not only increases visibility within professional circles but also attracts the attention of potential employers looking for candidates who are active and knowledgeable in their field.

Phil Strazzulla, Founder, SelectSoftware Reviews

Tailor Application to Job Description

A standout strategy is tailoring your application to the job description. Highlight specific skills and experiences that match the role’s requirements. Additionally, including a personalized cover letter that communicates your enthusiasm for the job and how your background makes you the ideal candidate can make a significant difference. This approach shows employers your genuine interest and effort, helping your application stand out.

Ana Alipat, Recruitment Team Lead, Dayjob Recruitment

Follow Up Thoughtfully After Applying

After submitting an application, a thoughtful follow-up can keep a candidate top of mind for employers. Sending a brief, polite email expressing continued interest in the position and reiterating how one’s skills and experiences align with the company’s needs can demonstrate enthusiasm and professionalism. However, it’s important to balance persistence with respect for the employer’s time and process. I suggest ensuring that any follow-up is done considerately.

Chad Sultana, Founder, Chad Sultana

Build a Personal Professional Website

I recommend establishing a personal website that allows job seekers to compile their professional portfolio, resume, and personal blog in one accessible location. This not only provides a comprehensive overview of their skills and experiences but also offers a platform to express their personal brand and professional insights.

A personal website can serve as a dynamic supplement to a traditional application, giving employers a deeper understanding of the candidate’s capabilities and personality. Additionally, it demonstrates technical savvy and a proactive approach to personal marketing.

Bert Hofhuis, Founder, Every Investor

Highlight Quantifiable Achievements

In my experience, one of the most impactful ways to stand out in a crowded job market is to tailor your resume and cover letter to each specific position you apply for. This shows employers you’ve taken the time to understand their needs and how your unique skills and experiences directly address them.

Furthermore, highlighting quantifiable achievements showcases the value you can bring. Use metrics and numbers to demonstrate the impact you’ve made in previous roles. Recruiters often look at quantifiable results to assess your potential, so framing your achievements with data strengthens your application.

Beyond your resume, consider building your online presence by creating a simple website showcasing your skills and experience. This gives you more control over your professional narrative and allows you to present yourself in a dynamic way. Additionally, actively curate content on LinkedIn. Share relevant industry articles, engage in discussions, and showcase your expertise. This demonstrates your passion for the field and positions you as a thought leader, making a lasting impression on potential employers.

Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded

Ensure Resume Readability

In my experience, the quality of your writing is more important than the content itself. Literacy and writing skills are universally desirable, particularly in white-collar professions and knowledge work. But even in blue-collar occupations, weak writing skills are likely to cause problems eventually, making them a priority for employers. HR professionals and hiring managers may, therefore, use resumes as a proxy for a candidate’s writing ability, scrutinizing the spelling, grammar, and overall flow of your resume, using it to infer writing ability. Therefore, provided you meet the minimum requirements of the role, you should focus your efforts on improving the readability of your resume, as this often determines the interest you receive from organizations.

Chloe Yarwood, HR Manager, Test Partnership

Prioritize Relevant Experience on CV

One tip I’d give everyone is to optimize your CV to have the most relevant experience first. Chronology in work and academic experience is the norm, but tweaking the subheads to ensure the recruiter sees what they need to first is important, as it gives you a better chance of getting on the interview pile. Similarly, don’t feel like you have to include every job you’ve ever had on your CV. If it does not relate to the field, leave it off and share it in person when you get to the next stage—but only if you think it will add to your chances.

Manasvini Krishna, Founder, Boss as a Service

Exhibit Personal Projects

Showcase personal projects to highlight your unique value. At CoinLedger, our distinct solutions and dedication carved our niche in the skeptical crypto realm. Nobody believed crypto taxation was a thing a few years ago, but now we have thousands of users. Your application must mirror this strategy—exhibit fervor and devotion instead of just skills. Showcase projects that demonstrate deep investment in your expertise. Personal projects are your narrative; they narrate your learning, innovation, and tenacity. Let these projects articulate your readiness to contribute from day one. Just build bridges between your personal projects and the employer’s potential pain points: ‘I believe that your company would benefit from A; I did A in my project. Please, look at this chart.’

David Kemmerer, Co-Founder and CEO, CoinLedger

Show Passion and Industry Understanding

A great way for job seekers to stand out is to show their passion and understanding of the industry. However, this doesn’t mean that you should have a one-size-fits-all approach; the way that you demonstrate this shouldn’t be generalized. I also recommend having key points in a skeleton saved in a note for yourself, and tailor every point to fit the scenario that you’re applying for—a checklist of your most unique offerings.

Don’t just list experiences and skills; showcase specific examples of understanding how the company’s sector operates. Showing how you applied these skills in a relevant context provides insights into your knowledge, expertise, and fluency with certain tools or processes, not to mention an invitation to seeing your potential for innovative problem-solving.

Depending on the industry, it might be even more relevant to show an awareness of current trends and ongoing challenges, especially for a niche company. There’s always value in showing that if hired, it’s about more than just getting the job and that you’re engaged and curious about the industry.

Stefan Campbell, Owner, The Small Business Blog

Incorporate a Skills Infographic

A standout strategy for job seekers is incorporating a Skills Infographic in their applications. Create a visually appealing infographic showcasing your key skills, achievements, and qualifications. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing role, illustrate your proficiency in social media, content creation, and analytics. This visual representation captures attention and quickly communicates your strengths to potential employers.

In today’s competitive job market, a Skills Infographic sets you apart by presenting information in a concise and engaging manner. It provides a visual snapshot of your capabilities, making a lasting impression on employers with limited time to review applications.

Jon Torres, CEO, Jon Torres

Narrate Your Unique Contributions

Turning your application into a narrative that highlights your unique contributions and problem-solving skills can make you stand out. Rather than just listing qualifications, tell a story that showcases your impact in previous roles. For instance, rather than saying ‘experienced in content writing,’ share how you ‘crafted a strategy that increased website traffic by 40% in six months.’ Additionally, tailoring your application to each specific role and company by expressing genuine enthusiasm and aligning your values with theirs makes your application resonate more deeply. This strategy shows your dedication to the role and the company, helping you leave a lasting impression in a crowded field.

Shawn Manaher, Founder, The Content Authority

By College Recruiter
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