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How to Stand Out When Applying for Jobs | 5 Unique Ways

If you want to stand out during your job search, you’re going to have to think outside the box. That’s where we come in: by the end of this eight-minute article, you’ll know five unique ways to stand out.

stand out when applying for jobs

Look at it. Staring at you from across the room. Go on, say something. That’s your dream job over there.

Okay — unfortunately, getting your dream position isn’t quite the same as saying ‘hi’ to someone at a party. We’ve all been there: endless applications, weeks without hearing back, eighty-seven slightly different versions of your resume in your Recents folder.

During your job hunt, you’re competing against dozens, even hundreds, of other candidates. If you want to stand out, you’re going to have to think outside the box. That’s where we come in: by the end of this eight-minute article, you’ll know five unique ways to stand out during your job search.

Five Unique Ways to Stand Out During Your Job Search

We all remember the cookie-cutter best practices:

  • Address your cover letter to an actual person, not ‘To Whom It May Concern’ (Ms. Concern actually just got fired, so it’s kind of an awkward situation).
  • Use numbers, data, and statistics in your resume.
  • Do as much research as you can on the company’s current projects and challenges.

You’ve probably read these tips before. And for a good reason — they work! But if you want to stand apart from the rest, you’ll need to go the extra mile. Here are five unique ways to do just that:

  1. Leverage your contacts and referrals
  2. Build an online portfolio
  3. Make a video explainer
  4. Solve the company’s problems
  5. Follow up with a thank you note or email

Let’s dive deeper into each one.

1. Leverage your contacts and referrals

Did you know that 85% of open job positions are filled via network connections? It pays to know people. Think about it — would you rather shoot your shot at a stranger or a friend of a friend?

If you know a guy who knows a guy at your dream company, it’s well worth your time to ask for a recommendation or referral. Your goal here is a warm intro, where someone you’re connected with (a classmate, family friend, relative) introduces you to someone they already know. When you have common ground, your chances of an interview skyrocket.

If you’re missing that part of your network, don’t worry — we all start somewhere! Start by being active on LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with people in your dream industry. Or take it to the real world and attend industry meetups and conferences.

2. Build an online portfolio

Everyone has a resume; only the chosen ones have online portfolios. Okay, we’re exaggerating, but the point remains — a digital record of your past experiences and projects is a great way to show employers what you can do.

Applying for a software position? Go ahead and build yourself a personal website from scratch! Even if you’re not very technical, you’ve got plenty of options. Use Bluehost hosting and WordPress for a fast and affordable setup, or use a Squarespace or Wix site to get started.

Don’t want to create a whole website? No worries — use social media to your advantage. Create a public Instagram showcasing your projects, post your experiences on LinkedIn, or write a blog on Medium. Hiring managers will take notice as long as you can show visual and written proof of your experiences and skills.

3. Making a video explainer

Quick: your SO wants to go dress up as the two main characters from Lord of the Rings for Halloween, but you have no idea what the heck they’re talking about. Do you:

  1. Read the book.
  2. Watch the movie.
  3. Change your identity and move to Berlin.

You’re probably leaning towards b), and understandably so — watching is easier than reading. The same principle applies to your job search. 

Hiring managers go through dozens of job applications every week. Make their day easier (and more interesting) by adding a quick video introduction to your resume. Keep it short, between 30 seconds to 2 minutes max, and deliver a compelling personal pitch. Try to show off as much of your personality as possible! It doesn’t need to look like a Nolan movie: a video from your phone or webcam will do the trick.

The core idea here is to be unconventional and stand out. Bonus points if you can align with the position itself. If you’re applying for a sales position, try to deliver your application like a pitch. Going for a UX internship? Make your resume look like a mockup for an app. How about content marketing? Structure your application like a marketing campaign, complete with forecasts and targets.

4. Solve the company’s problems

Everyone can do research. But acting on it? That’ll help your application stand out. Do some digging on what the company’s top challenges or problems are at the moment. Then put your skills to work: 

  • How would you tackle this problem? (Talk about timeline, objectives and key results, etc.)
  • What resources would the company need to provide for you to solve it?

When you start the job before actually starting, you demonstrate initiative, resourcefulness, and dedication. Your hiring manager will appreciate it too: for one, they get a feel for exactly how you can contribute. Secondly, they’ll see that you know what you’re doing, so your induction period will be smooth.

Applying for a marketing position? Write a campaign slogan. Graphic design? Produce a few advertisements. How about strategy? Put together a report on a recent competitor.

One strategy is to compile these ideas like you would a blog post. Use all the pictures, graphs, and statistics necessary. Then, throw your draft into an email and send it to the right person (hell, maybe even CC the founder and CEO, if you’re feeling spicy).

5. Follow up with a thank you note or email

One simple thing that most job seekers forget is a simple thank you note. Most applicants fail to follow up after the interview, which is a big mistake — it might just be the thing that helps you get noticed.

Look, we know the unspoken rule of online communication: never double text. But the law is wrong! Yeah, we said it. 

A quick ‘thank you’ email to the hiring manager post-interview isn’t just a nice gesture: it’s also a great way to help them remember you. Since they deal with so many job applications, staying at the top of their inbox is always a great idea. Plus, if you forgot to mention something during the interview or have an idea that can help the company (see #4), this is a great place to include it!

It’s Time To Get Your Dream Job

Let’s quickly recap:

  1. It’s a lot easier to start a job application warm rather than cold, so try networking and searching for a connection who can give you a direct referral.
  2. A digital portfolio of your accomplishments is a powerful asset. It doesn’t have to be high-tech — you can start with an Instagram page.
  3. Differentiate yourself with a video explainer or a different, unconventional job application. It’ll help you stand out and give you a chance to show off that charming personality.
  4. Start working before you even get the job. Find the company’s current issues and show them you have the chops to solve their problems.
  5. Always follow up with a thank you. The gesture never goes unappreciated, and it may be enough to sway some votes in your favor.

Apply these strategies during your job search, and you’ll be (in the immortal words of Swae Lee) unforgettable. Want more info on networking, job applications, and adulting in general? Subscribe to our newsletter for more tips on how to make adult life easier!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make my job application unique?

Try to tailor the medium of your application to the industry or job itself. For example, you could do an infomercial-style personal pitch if you’re applying for a sales position. If it’s a graphic design role, maybe send over an impeccable slide deck resume. UI design? Try a resume that looks like an app’s interface. If all else fails, a simple video of you talking into the camera is a surefire strategy.

What’s the best way to stand out during an interview?

Interviewers appreciate it when you research the company and position in advance. In-depth preparation will also help you answer their questions: try sticking to the STAR framework. Whenever you’re asked a question about your past experiences or skills: 

  • Start by describing the situation
  • Detail the task you had to execute
  • Talk about the specific action you took
  • Describe the quantifiable results of your actions.

How do you convince a hiring manager to hire you?

You need to make it easy for the hiring manager to say yes. Instead of just describing your skills, also talk about how they map to the company’s current goals. Research some of the firm’s current challenges and offer your ideas on how to solve them. Follow up after the interview to show your appreciation for their time.

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