A boring way to stand out in your job search


With competition for jobs being fierce, it’s easy to feel as though the only way to stand out is to go above and beyond when submitting your application. Turn your resume into an infographic. Send candy to a hiring manager. Show up at the office unannounced to drive home your interest. But are these the best ways to get the attention of a hiring manager?

Over on AOL, HR expert Alison Greene offers some deceptively simply advice when it comes to standing out. In short: write an excellent cover letter and resume:

When I’m applying for a job, how can I make sure my application stands out?

In a tight job market like this one, job seekers understandably start wondering about how to stand out – and some of them turn to gimmicks, like sending cookies to an employer or having a resume overnighted to a hiring manager. But the reality is that gimmicks like these are more likely to hurt than to help, because they generally come across as hokey or overly aggressive.

The way you stand out in a job search is actually pretty straightforward: Write a great cover letter, create a resume that shows a track record of achievement with the skills the employer is hiring for, and be responsive, warm, and enthusiastic. That’s truly what good employers respond to.

Read the rest of her advice for job seekers on AOL.

This advice is deceptively simple. In order to demonstrate why you’re the best candidate for the job, you have to tailor your materials for each position, which requires thoughtfulness, patience, reflection, and, well, quite a bit of writing. Here are some questions to ask to ensure you’re on the right track:

Can someone tell what job I am applying for just by looking at my resume?

The tasks and accomplishments you share and the language you use should reflect the job description. Turn your resume and cover letter into a word cloud to see if the words you use are also used in the description. You can also ask people to take a look at your resume and ask if they can tell what job you’re applying for.

Can the hiring manager tell why I’d be a good candidate by looking at my resume?

Sharing your accomplishments—reflecting your hard skills and soft skills—shows the hiring manager that there’s a good chance that you can do the job.

Am I applying for jobs that I would be excited to do?

In the urgency of the job search, it’s easy to apply to any and all jobs. Make sure to apply to jobs that you are genuinely interested in doing (it doesn’t have to be your dream job, but it shouldn’t be a job you’re already resenting before you even hit “Submit Application”). Leverage this enthusiasm to help your cover letter and resume shine.

Am I following the directions?

Not related to writing or presenting yourself in the search, but this still an important question to ask yourself. You don’t want to risk not having your resume read because you didn’t follow directions.

In short, it seems like instead of asking, “How can I get a job?” try asking, “How can I be the kind of candidate that hiring managers would consider?” Thinking about your application from the hiring manager’s point of view can certainly help you craft better application materials.

Have any other tips to add? Include them in the comments.

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Photo Credit: Ribah, Shutterstock

About Author

Former Editor and Creator of Idealist Careers, a publication of Idealist.org. Follow me on Twitter @ajlovesya.


  1. George Duffy on

    Good advice. I was hiring in my last job and it was quite distracting to have people try and game the system to improve their chances. Not a good idea. It is a lot of work to customize cover letters and resumes, but they work best.

    What I would like more employers to do, though, is publish a wage or salary range.

    • Thanks for the comment, George! It’s always helpful to hear advice from someone who has done some hiring. And, yes, there is work to be done on the employer side as well!

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