3 Ways to Stand Out After Submitting Your Application

Line of people dressed in black; one person dressed in bright yellow

You submitted your application for your dream job and now you’re wondering if there is anything else you can do to make yourself stand out among the competition. The answer is, yes! Below, you’ll find three key strategies for distinguishing yourself and showing that you are passionate about the role and the organization.

Before you dive in though, two notes:

  • It’s important to give a hiring manager some time after you submit your application. Chances are, if it’s your dream job, it’s a dream position for at least 100 others as well. Hiring managers have a lot on their plates and often—especially in the nonprofit sector—hiring is only a very small and temporary part of their job. In other words, don’t deploy any of the below tactics until you have waited at least two weeks after submitting your materials.
  • This advice is not for postings that specify “No Calls.” When an employer specifically states that they do not want to be contacted, applicants must heed that request.

And now, on to our tips!

Email a copy of your application to the hiring manager

For most cases, electronic applications will either go through an automated screening system or get sent to a member of the HR team who will then narrow down applicants to a list of promising candidates.

If screening software is used, your application may get weeded out before anyone has a chance to review it. In the case of an HR staffer or a recruiter reviewing your application first, promising applicants may get overlooked.

Once you have submitted your materials online, try emailing a copy of your application directly to the hiring manager. If their information is not listed on the posting, call the organization’s main number and ask for their name and email address. Let them know you are applying to a specific position and that you would like to send a copy of your resume directly to the hiring manager. In some cases, an employer may not be willing to share this information. Either way, remember to be gracious and thank them for considering your request.

If you are able to get the contact info, send a brief email to the hiring manager. Here is a template for the message:

Dear [NAME]:

I recently submitted my application for the role of [POSITION] and wanted to send you a copy of my materials directly as well. I would love the opportunity to discuss my [2-3 REQUIRED SKILLS LISTED IN THE POST] skills as they relate to the position.

I look forward to connecting soon!


Call the hiring manager

A candidate that takes the time to call has the ability to make a great impression if they go about it the right way.

I have successfully used this strategy in my own job search. Here’s what happened:

After reaching out to a hiring manager to confirm that she had received my application, I asked if I could have a few moments of her time to introduce myself. I was able to speak with her directly, reiterate my enthusiasm for the position, and highlight a few of my skills that made me a fit for the role. I was then invited for an interview and later secured the job.

Give the organization a call and ask to speak with the hiring manager. Be sure to rehearse what you’d like to say on a voicemail as you may be immediately directed to leave a message. As a courtesy, whether you speak with somebody directly or have to leave a voicemail, do not call more than once.

If you are able to get somebody on the phone, be sure to be sensitive to the fact that you may be interrupting important work.

Here’s what you can say:

Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME] and I recently submitted my application for the role of [POSITION] and I wanted to confirm that you received my materials. [PAUSE HERE FOR RESPONSE]. I’m also wondering if there was anything else that I could provide you to give you a better sense of why I’m excited about the role.

Pro-Tip: If you’re leaving a voicemail, you may want to add: “I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you further about how I can contribute. I can be reached via [CONTACT INFO].”

If you get someone on the phone, use this opportunity to ask a question that will give you better insight into what they are looking for. One of my favorite questions is, “What are the top skills and attributes that you are hoping that a candidate will bring to this role?”

Take notes and be sure to thank the hiring manager for taking time to speak with you.

Ask others to put in a good word

A final strategy to help you stand out among the competition is to ask anyone you know with a connection to the hiring organization to put in a good word on your behalf. Be sure that you’re tapping folks who know you well and think highly of you and your work. A few examples of people you may want to ask include a current or former colleague, or board member; someone who has collaborated closely with the organization on a project; or anyone else whose opinion carries weight with the organization.

This is an effective strategy to employ at any key decision point in the application process—either after applying or after interviewing.

Speaking from personal experience, this tactic works! After completing a first-round phone interview, I reached out to a former colleague on the hiring organization’s advisory board and asked him if he would be open to making a call on my behalf. He did, and in hindsight, I am certain that his call helped me stand out as a candidate. I was then invited for an in-person interview and eventually secured the job.


What have you done to stand out as an applicant?

What creative strategies have you employed to make yourself stand out in the application process? Share in the comment section below!

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Lisa is a certified career coach and President of Green Career Advisor, helping individuals find their career niche and secure their dream jobs in the environmental and social-impact sectors. Prior to her current role, Lisa led the environmental career services at the University of Michigan for 10 years and spent 12 years working for the National Wildlife Federation.
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  1. Nice Article ! keep it up

    1. Thanks so much Sofia!

  2. Fantastic advice! This will apply nicely to EcoLeaders enrolled with the NWF project, leadership and career development program. Many are seeking jobs for the Earth across diverse fields. Kudos!

    1. Thanks Julian! Idealist Careers has some great career advice articles that would be a great fit for National Wildlife Federation’s EcoLeaders. Feel free to share links to some of these articles.

    • Ita
    • March 14, 2018

    Brilliant advice

    1. Thank you kindly.

    • Mbagwu Chikauche Saviour
    • March 15, 2018

    Wonderful insight. In my years of job search I have never tried this, my thought was that I will be bugging them (HR Manager). But with this new vista has been opened for me.

    1. Thank you Mbagwu. You still need to be cautious and very considerate of the hiring manager’s time, but these tips can make you stand out as a top candidate.

    • Mirline K
    • March 23, 2018

    Great Advise, thank you!

    1. You are most welcome Mirline.

    • Tracy
    • March 23, 2018

    I always try to do that first strategy, and it often works! When my cover letter and resume actually reach a human — especially the hiring manager — I usually get a good response: invited for an interview. But for the second strategy, I’m not sure that phone question is a good one… applicant should already be aware of the skills and attributes for the role (either from job description or research). It could give the impression that person hasn’t done his/her homework or doesn’t understand the position. That said, there sure are a lot of job descriptions that are badly written, where asking for clarifications is a good idea and candidate will look good to ask for more info.

    1. Hi Tracy, I am so glad to hear that you have had success with the first strategy (sending a copy of your application to the hiring manager after applying).

      And thanks for the word of caution on the second strategy (calling the hiring manager). I should have been more specific with the suggested question when you have the hiring manager on the line. I agree that you should not appear to lack knowledge about what the job entails. I usually ask something along this line, “I have taken a careful look at the skills required in the job posting but would appreciate hearing what skills and attributes that you, as the hiring manager, are most looking for the applicant to bring to this role.”

    • bes
    • March 25, 2018

    If the first two tips get you noticed, you’ll be noticed for being clueless about how the application process works, and tone deaf about work place norms. It makes no difference if the job posting says “No calls” or not … it is understood that they want you to use their process for applying, and then let that process take its course.

    Imagine going about your work day and having someone call out of the blue and ask “What are the top skills and attributes that you are hoping that a candidate will bring to this role?” I would make sure I got that person’s name so I could insure they were already in the “no” pile.

    This advice may have been good advice before the internet age, but you have no business giving it out today. Telling people to make nuisances of themselves under the guise of expert advice is nothing short of irresponsible.

    1. Hello Bes. Thanks for your comments. I agree that contacting an employer can be a tricky thing and thus the numerous cautions. I think it is important to note that every hiring manager is an individual person. I have worked with hundreds of employers that recruited at the university where I worked for 10 years and have specifically heard many of them in encourage candidates to contact them directly to stand out. And of course, this is not the case with every employer so I encourage candidates to use their best judgement. Many employers who do not want to be contacted specify so in their job postings.

      I should have clarified my suggested question a bit more, in my second suggestion, when asking a hiring manager to share their insights on a position. I agree that you should not appear to lack knowledge about what the job entails. I usually ask something along this line, “I have taken a careful look at the skills required in the job posting but would appreciate hearing what skills and attributes that you, as the hiring manager, are most looking for the applicant to bring to this role.” Job postings can include very long lists of skills and attributes needed for a position. In the interest of finding a candidate that is the best fit, hiring managers are often willing to share their insights on the skills and attributes that are most important to them.

      You are right that hiring managers can be very busy so it may be best, if you get the hiring manager on the line, to ask if they have five minutes to answer a question or two about the position. If they are busy at the moment, ask for a day and time that would work better for them.

    • Carolyn
    • March 25, 2018

    Thank you for this article, Lisa and Idealist! Question: If a job posting gives the name and email address of the hiring manager and indicates that this person can be contacted with specific questions about the position, but also specifies that this person is not to be contacted about the status of an application, would you still advise emailing a copy of one’s application to that person? Or maybe emailing the person to find out if the position has been filled (and maybe slipping in a line about having applied for it)? I submitted an online application for a position I’m interested in and qualify for about three weeks ago, but haven’t gotten any response. This employer does use screening software. Thank you for your response.

    1. Hi Carolyn, if the job posting provides the name and email address of the hiring manager and specifies that they can be contacted with questions about the position then I suggest emailing them a question or two about the position and attaching your application.

      Indicate in your email that you have applied for the position online, that you are attaching a copy of your application in case it is helpful for their reference, and that you have a couple questions. Any questions that you ask should be ones that show you have done your research on the role or to clarify something that is not clear to you. You may also consider adding one line indicating why you are passionate about the job or why you are a strong fit for the job.

      Since the employer has asked that applicants not inquire about the status of their application, I don’t think it would be a good idea to ask if the position has been filled.

      Good luck!

        • Carolyn
        • April 3, 2018

        Thanks so much, Lisa, for coming back to this and putting your energy into considering my question and answering it in such a thoughtful, strategic, and helpful way. You’re right!

    • LINDA
    • March 26, 2018

    If it is a dream job, I also do a lot of research around the company and customize my cover letter to them…perhaps comparing some of their work/success to some of my experience/success.

    1. Great suggestions Linda. I definitely encourage you to customize your cover letter (and resume) to highlight your skills and accomplishments that are specifically relevant to skills needed for the position.

  3. Great article and follow-up strategies – I enjoyed reading it and will definitely use them to land my next job.
    One strategy I used to land my first big educational administrative position. I called the school and asked to speak with the principal of the school – who then said that summer school was starting in 2 weeks and give her a call back then.
    I called back in two weeks and reminded her of who I was and that I was looking to get some administrative experience by volunteering during summer school. She agreed and allowed me to volunteer for 4 weeks. I was there everyday and really embraced the job as if I was staff.
    At the end of summer an assistant principal job become open and since I was already there and was reliable and fit in with the staff and students, I was recommended for hire after my first interview! That was 10 years ago and now I’m the Director of this district, how lucky could I be!

    1. Thanks Ken. It’s so wonderful to hear about your success strategy! Calling a staff member with hiring authority to express your interest and enthusiasm can go a long way. Volunteering demonstrates a higher level of commitment and shows that you are truly passionate about the experience. Stepping up to the plate every day and embracing the job as if you were a paid staff member really paid off. I love your example and I am so happy to hear that you have come a long ways in your administrative career.

  4. Very good tips, Lisa. Especially networking your way in – it can be a very effective strategy! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Bradley.

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