What makes one person stand out from the rest in a job application and/or interview if everyone has similar backgrounds, experience and education? Being creative with your application is one way you can achieve this – but that doesn’t mean a scented application on coloured paper with a cute gift. It means articulating your value to the organisation in a way that resonates with the recruiter and helps them understand why you’d be a good fit. Some examples of how to do this include:
- Talking about your achievements: Career achievements sell you to potential employers but many people struggle to convey these in their application. The recruiter doesn’t know (yet) how fabulous you are, so your content should be tailored to make an immediate impact. And immediate impact can only be achieved by showing them how valuable you could be to their organisation. Achievements don’t always have to be money or number focused – although it is great if they are. Think about things you do in your day-to-day work that benefit the business, the customers, and/or colleagues. Sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm ideas where you have done things that you were commended on or that made you feel proud. Think about positive feedback received, times when you solved a business issue, projects completed, or new processes implemented. Maintaining an ongoing file with positive feedback or notes when something goes well will help.
- Aim for quality over quantity: This applies both to the length of your application as well as the number of applications you send out. Our research suggests 3-5 pages for a Resume is ideal and keeping your cover letter to one page is optimum in the Australian market. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, particularly where selection criteria needs to be addressed or for particular fields where certain information must be included. As a rule of thumb, keep your documents to this length and target jobs that you are a) interested in; and b) suitable for.
- Tailor your message: Casting your net far and wide with generic applications only waters down your success. This applies to applications for specific roles as well as generic ‘feelers’ or ‘contacts’ via LinkedIn or other social networks. With applications, tailor your message to suit the role. Go through all the ‘requirements’ of the role and make sure you’ve covered off how you have the necessary skills, qualifications and capabilities by demonstrating previous accomplishments in those areas. Likewise with professional networking, if you’re reaching out to someone cold about a position within the company, respect their time. Tell them your name and why you’re contacting them with a brief description of what you’re hoping to learn from them or achieve. Utilise your existing network too – check whether you know someone within the organisation you’re targeting – or even associated with that organisation in some way, and reach out to them first to ask for a referral.
- Solve a current issue: Conducting some research into the company you are interviewing with means you might be able to provide some educated insight into solving a problem for them. Showing how much you care about the role and the company during the interview by knowing about the organisation, the market, its competitors and customers will ensure you leave the recruiter with the knowledge that you’d be a valuable employee. By researching the company beforehand and preparing a list of relevant questions or perhaps highlighting a potential solution to an issue being currently faced is a great way to stand out.
- Make your application easy to read: This includes structure, content, format and grammar/spelling! Use bullet points, sections, headings, achievements and white space to make your application appealing – and don’t be tempted to make it too fancy. Make sure you proofread your documents, and have someone else do it as well. Ensure the application is cohesive, clear, concise and accurate – and focused on why you’re an ideal fit for the role.
- Be punctual, organised and professional: This might seem obvious but you’d be amazed how many people just don’t place the right emphasis on this point. For a physical interview, plan to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early to allow for any last minute issues, research transport/parking options prior to the interview day, and dress neatly and appropriately for the company. Take a copy of your resume, the position description, a pen and note paper. Don’t be afraid to take notes and ask questions to find out more about the role and the company, as well as providing a chance to highlight your interest in the role and stand out to the recruiter.
Our research indicates that while some recruiters do appreciate creativity and unconventional approaches, many do not. What is essential is that you can demonstrate that you have done your research and can show how serious you are about the opportunity. It takes a recruiter between 5 and 30 seconds to decide whether to read your application in more detail, so give them every reason to do so.
Would you like help making sure that your next application or interview helps you stand out in a crowded job market? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services or Interview Skills Training Service.