Trying to stand out as the leading candidate in the competitive job marketplace can be an uphill climb. The last thing you want is to waste time and energy—or miss out on an amazing opportunity. With the influx of different job boards, applicant tracking systems, and application tools, candidates can quickly get buried in the shuffle. But there are several things you can do to establish yourself as the leading candidate for the positions you’re applying to.
Here are a few tips for submitting job applications and making a memorable impression.
How to Stand Out Among Job Candidates
1. Conduct extensive research.
Before you even begin applying for jobs, conduct extensive research. You’ll spend a little extra time per job application, but it’ll pay off in the long run.
Start gathering data by closely reading the job posting. Identify the job title and the responsibilities you’ll have. Then, take that information and try to find the same position on the company’s career page or applicant tracking system. In doing so, you can confirm that the job title is accurate and the job description matches it.
Once you’ve confirmed that the listing is consistent, head to an employee review site and look at the organization’s profile. Depending on the company’s size, you might be able to find potential interview questions, salary information, and comments from current and previous employees. These are valued resources for crafting your resume and application and tailoring those documents to the organization. Reviews can also help you determine if you’d like to work with an employer before you spend too much time filling out paperwork.
Next, you want to learn about the organization and industry.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What challenges will need to be solved in the future?
- What is the outlook for this position and the company overall?
- What opportunities are there for career development?
- Is there room for upward mobility in the organization?
Each role and industry will present unique challenges. But, whether you’re applying for hospital jobs or an executive position, conducting thorough research will always pay off when you’re applying and interviewing for jobs. It allows you to focus your efforts on addressing an employer’s needs—which makes you seem like the best-qualified fit.
2. Tailor your application and resume.
It might seem like a good idea to send out a general resume that fits any company—but even though this is the fastest approach, it might not be the most effective. Employers aren’t looking for a one-size-fits-all employee—they want to hire someone who knows what an organization needs and addresses those concerns directly.
Once you’ve gathered information about a prospective employer, tailor your application to the job posting. Emphasize the tools and experience you bring to the table that will help you succeed in this role. Cite language that reflects the company’s mission statement, branding, and values to make this connection clear.
Use a short summary at the top of your resume to introduce yourself and explain your qualifications. A professional summary is a great way to target your resume to each job listing—concentrate this section on the aspects of your career that align with the requirements and responsibilities. Try to keep this paragraph relatively short, only 3-4 sentences, to visually highlight this section and make it engaging.
Scan the rest of your resume and consider which points you want to highlight from previous positions. Don’t try to create an exhaustive list of your achievements, as this could make your resume too long. Instead, be strategic about what you choose to reveal in a resume and what you can elaborate on during an interview. Include the items that are the most relevant to the job posting at hand.
3. Showcase your personality.
It’s a harsh reality, but in most job searches, dozens of individuals can fill a role at any given time. The stiff competition means candidates need to make their resume and application memorable and unique. One of the best ways to do that is to show a bit of character.
On average, every job listing draws about 250 applications. Human resource professionals review dozens of resumes every day, and hundreds more are filtered out through applicant tracking systems. Over time, it can seem like this material blends together, making it challenging to separate candidates from each other. You don’t want to be forgotten.
Give authentic, candid answers when you’re filling out an application or conducting an interview. Too often, candidates will give responses that feel “canned,” creating an impression that’s inauthentic and removed. Human resource professionals and hiring managers like to connect with candidates on a more personal level. It helps them determine what your work dynamic will be like if they offer you the position.
Don’t be afraid to express your personality. Consider including information about your volunteer work, nonprofit affiliations, and relevant interests on your resume. You can also try to weave a few anecdotes into your work history or job summary to make your resume seem more holistic and relatable.
4. Follow up.
Many job seekers fail to follow up after submitting an application or conducting an interview. When you’re applying for a string of jobs, it can be easy to forget to follow up with each one. Between scheduling interviews, responding to recruiters, and applying to new postings, there’s a lot to manage when you’re searching for a job.
If you don’t hear back after submitting an application, it’s okay to get in touch. Wait a week or two for an employer to respond, and then send an email to an HR contact. If you’re lucky, someone will personally review your application. If this approach doesn’t work, the worst-case scenario is you’ll be turned down—but even a definitive “no” is better than no response at all.
If you make it to the interview stage, send an email within 24 hours to thank the interviewer for their time. Highlight what makes you a great candidate, and then leave a lasting impression by referencing a specific point from your conversation.
In a competitive job search environment, it’s challenging to establish yourself as a leading candidate. Sometimes qualified individuals who are great at their jobs simply don’t know how to write a compelling resume and cover letter. Like test-taking, the job market operates with a steep learning curve, and if you’re unfamiliar with the process, it can be tough to make your application stand out. Fortunately, these steps will help you outline what you need to do to focus your approach.