In today’s competitive job market, it’s more important than ever to make your job application stand out to hiring managers and potential employers.
Whether you’re a recent graduate looking for your first job, or an experienced professional looking for a career change, these tips will help you to create a job application that impresses the hiring manager and gets you noticed.
So, let’s dive in and explore some ways to make your job application stand out!
What’s required to make your job application stand out?
Hiring managers and CV scanning technology review hundreds of resumes per job listing, so it’s important to stand out from the other applicants to increase your chances of scoring an interview.
But what does this mean? How can you stand out without spending hours poring over each and every cover letter? Well, people who stand out in job applications are people who can make a real connection.
It’s not just about your skills and qualifications. People want to know who you are and what you bring to the table. This can be as simple as providing examples (you know you’re great at customer service, but how can you prove this to the hirer?) or even adding a photo to your resume so there’s a face to add to the name.
How long should your resume and cover letter be?
The Ideal length for a resume and cover letter will vary depending on the industry, job level, and the specific requirements of the employer. However, in general, it’s best to keep them concise.
It’s best practice for a resume to be no longer than two pages, and a cover letter to be one-page maximum. If you’re struggling to keep things brief, don’t be afraid to use dot points in your resume, and cut back as much info as you can in your cover letter. Save some stories for your interview!
How honest should you be in a job application?
Being honest is important. Lying or exaggerating details in your job application may give you a better chance at landing the job, but it will only hurt you if you get the position and can’t follow through. Plus, being honest about any opportunities for development helps build trust early, and is a green flag for potential employers.
Keep in mind you’re not obligated to disclose anything you’re not comfortable with. If at any point in the application you are asked to provide personal information, such as your home address, passwords, or things like marital status, sexuality and religion, you are allowed to refuse.
What are some common mistakes to avoid if you want to make your job application stand out?
Here are some common job application mistakes that people make:
- Typos and grammatical errors: Taking time to proofread your application materials can make a big difference.
- Incomplete information: Make sure to include all the important information, such as employment dates, job titles, or education qualifications, to make it as easy as possible for your potential employer to determine how suitable you are for the role.
- Not following instructions: Make sure to read application questions and instructions carefully to show your attention to detail (and how great you’ll be once you get the job.)
10 Tips to make your job application stand out
Tip 1: Add a bit of personality
If you put yourself in the hirer’s shoes, you might get a vision of the hundreds of applications you have to go through when filling a role. Adding a personal touch will distinguish you from the majority.
Ways to personalise your application:
Add a personal branding statement: Start your resume with a brief statement that summarises your unique qualities and strengths. For example, “I create personalised hairstyles that reflect clients’ unique personalities and lifestyles with an eye for detail and current trends. Through open communication and ongoing professional development, I become a trusted partner in their beauty journey.”
Include relevant hobbies and interests: If you have hobbies or interests that are relevant to the job, include them in your resume. This can help showcase your personality and give employers a sense of your passions and skills outside of work. For example, “Volunteer as a mentor for underprivileged youth to help build leadership skills.”
Tip 2: Use keywords
Welcome to the digital age. Now, many employers use search tools and CV scanning technology to skim applications for specific keywords. Don’t worry, this isn’t as tricky as it sounds, and there’s no ‘secret keywords’ you need to include to make your job application stand out. Simply address the selection criteria in your application.
What could this look like?
Skills: If the job requires proficiency in Microsoft Office, make sure to include this skill in your resume.
Industry-specific jargon: This demonstrates your knowledge of the industry. If you’re applying for a job in marketing, use terms such as “SEO,” “content marketing,” and “branding” in your resume.
Job-specific keywords: Every position has specific keywords and phrases associated with them. If you’re applying for a job in sales, you could use keywords such as “prospecting,” “lead generation,” and “closing deals.”
Tip 3. Include a photo
We’re visual creatures. Applications with photos are more likely to be remembered. But make sure to use a photo appropriate to your industry (maybe leave the selfies for Instagram).
However, unless you’re working as a performer of some kind, an employer requesting a photo from you could be a red flag. Only include a photo of yourself if you feel comfortable —it’s not a must-have to make your job application stand out.
Tip 4. Add examples
Sure, we know that you have great customer service and time management skills. But how do you show this to potential employers? Include examples to showcase your skills in real-world scenarios.
For example, instead of:
- Strong phone communication
You could write:
- On average, answering 50 inbound calls per day
Tip 5. Get a referral
If possible, get a referral from someone in or associated with the company. If you’re up against other candidates with similar qualifications, a referral can be the factor that sets you apart.
How do I get a referral?
You can reach out to someone you know who works at the company and ask if they’d be willing to refer you for the job. Be sure to provide them with a copy of your resume and a brief overview of why you’re interested in the position.
If you don’t know anyone at the company, you can try reaching out to people in your professional network who may have connections there. LinkedIn can be a helpful tool for this.
Tip 6. Provide a portfolio
Depending on the job you’re applying for, a portfolio can also be an opportunity to showcase your creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. This can be particularly important if you’re applying for a job in a creative field, such as graphic design or marketing.
Design programs like Canva offer a wide range of free customisable templates that you can use to create a professional-looking portfolio in no time – including a one-page website builder that could stand out amongst a sea of stock standard portfolios.
Tip 7. Demonstrate your passion
Demonstrating your passion in a job application is an important way to stand out from other applicants and show your potential employer that you are truly invested in the position.
To show your passion in a job application, research the company and industry thoroughly and align your skills with their mission in your cover letter or resume.
Tip 8. Include a pop of colour
A pop of colour can help to make your application visually appealing and memorable. However, it’s important to use colour strategically, as too much can come across as distracting and unprofessional. Stick to one or two colours that are easy to read, and avoid using neon or overly bright shades that can be hard on the eyes.
You can also use colour to highlight specific sections of your resume or cover letter, such as headings or important achievements.
Tip 9. Keep it short ‘n’ sweet
Employers are often swamped with applications, and a long, rambling one can be a turnoff. Getting straight to the point shows that you value the employer’s time and that you’re able to prioritise information effectively.
A concise application can also be easier to read and retain, making it more likely that the employer will remember you and your qualifications. By focusing on the most important information and avoiding unnecessary fluff, you can make your application stand out as a well-crafted, thoughtful, and professional document.
10. Be proactive
Don’t be afraid to follow up with the hiring manager or recruiter if you haven’t heard back in a week or two. This shows that you’re enthusiastic about the position and are taking the initiative to make contact.
Send them an email (or contact them directly through the Swag app) and keep things polite. The message could look like this:
I hope you’re doing well.
I’m following up on my job application for Retail Assistant on 10 April 2023. I’m excited about the opportunity to join your team and believe that my skills and experience make me a valuable asset to your organisation.
Please let me know if there’s any additional information I can provide to support my application. I’m enthusiastic about the company’s mission and culture and confident that I would thrive in the role. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Common job application questions and sample answers
What are your salary expectations?
Example answer: “I understand that between $70,000 and $77,000 is in line with the industry average, and is appropriate for my skills and experience level. However, I am open to being flexible because I am excited about this opportunity.”
Why are you leaving your current job?
Example answer: “I have been with the company for a long time and I feel I need a change of environment to achieve growth.”
Why are you interested in this position?
Example answer: “I researched your company and I really connect your values and your mission. With my experience and personal values, I feel working here would be very fulfilling for me.”
More tips for job seekers changing career paths
How can I make my resume stand out if I’m changing careers?
Emphasise the skills you have developed in your current or previous careers that are transferable to your new career. For example, if you’re switching from hospitality to administration, you can focus on your customer service and time management skills.
Consider using a functional or combination resume format – this highlights your skills and accomplishments instead of your chronological work history, which is great when you’re trying to emphasise transferable skills.
What if I don’t have enough relevant work experience?
Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs you may not have the most relevant experience for. Hiring managers look for many other attractive attributes, like transferable skills, volunteer experience, or your passion. But most of all, your confidence is what will win them over! Believe in yourself.
For instance, let’s say you’re going for an Events Coordinator role, and in the past you’ve spent your Saturday mornings serving Bunnings snags with your local Lions Club. You could include this in your resume, under volunteer work, and then include a paragraph like the below in your cover letter:
“Volunteering for the Lions Club provided valuable event coordination experience, including careful planning, communication, and adaptation. I managed setup, organization, inventory, and financial transactions, enhancing my attention to detail and organizational skills. Overall, this experience taught me the importance of effective event coordination, making me an asset to a professional event coordination role.”
How can I show my transferable skills on my resume?
A functional or combination resume format is a great way to highlight your skills, which are just as important in an application as experience and qualifications. But to really make them shine, add a little extra something to your dot points. Give a brief example or quantify your achievements.
For example, instead of:
You could write:
- Promoted from Server to Team Leader in 6 months or;
- Sales grew by 32% after I was promoted to Assistant Manager
It’s likely that many other applicants going for the role will list similar skills. Employers are more likely to remember your skills specifically when they are connected to stories and numbers you personally achieved.
Getting ready for a job interview
Congrats, you got an interview! Now, let’s keep this ball rolling.
Preparing for a job interview can be nerve-wracking, but there are some steps you can take to feel more confident and ready to impress your potential employer.
Here are some tips on how to get ready for a job interview:
- Research the company: Do some research on the company you’re interviewing with. Find out what their mission is, their products or services, and their company culture. Most companies ask what you know about them, so it’s important to show you have prepared and you care about the opportunity.
- Review the job description: Read over the job description and note any key skills or qualifications that the employer is looking for. Be prepared to discuss how your skills and experience align with the job requirements.
- Prepare your responses: Think about the questions you might be asked during the interview and prepare your responses. You can even practise your answers out loud, so you feel more comfortable with your responses during the actual interview.
- Dress appropriately: Do some research to see what their current staff wear to work. Do they wear slacks and blazers, or jeans and t-shirts? Showing up dressed for the job makes it easier for the interviewer to envision you in the role.
- Arrive early: Plan to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early to the interview. This will give you time to get settled and calm your nerves, and we’re sure the employer will appreciate your punctuality.
Find your next job with the Swag App
So, let’s recap: do your research, keep your application short and sweet, and let your personality shine through with a pop of a colour and a photograph.
By taking the time to craft a compelling job application, you can increase your chances of standing out and landing the job you want.
If you want to search hundreds of open roles from the best employers, visit Swag Jobs and Create a unique Candidate Profile. You’ll be able to personalise your experience, upload your resume, CV and important certifications, and take this profile with you wherever you go.
So, go ahead and apply these tips and strategies, create a Swag Profile today, and you’ll ace your next job application!
The information in this article is current as at July 2023, and has been prepared by Employment Hero Pty Ltd (ABN 11 160 047 709) and its related bodies corporate (Employment Hero) for its Swag brand. The views expressed in this article are general information provided in good faith to assist job seekers in the current market, and should not be relied on as professional advice. Some Information is based on data supplied by third parties and whilst such data is believed to be accurate, it has not been independently verified and no warranties are given that it is complete, accurate, up to date or fit for the purpose for which it is required. Employment Hero does not accept responsibility for any inaccuracy in such data and is not liable for any loss or damages arising directly or indirectly as a result of reliance on, use of or inability to use any information provided in this article. You should undertake your own research and seek professional advice before making any important career decisions or solely relying on the information in this article.
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