This is a guest blog post by Milkround, the UK’s leading graduate careers website!
We’ve all been there – you’ve painstakingly crafted the perfect application, yet you still feel the need to add an extra ‘oomph’ to your job application. Being the one applicant that ‘stands out’ will be key to getting you that job, so being able to stand out in the application process is an absolute must. But what does it really mean to ‘stand out’ in the job search?
There are plenty of ways to ‘stand out’ that probably won’t get you the job. Plenty of first time job seekers mistake the need to ‘stand out’ to mean the need to create a whacky, technicolor CV (perfect if you’re applying for a creative agency, not so perfect if you’re looking to land that job in a law firm), or to arrogantly inform the recruiter that you’re ‘kind of a big deal’. While there are some merits to using your creativity to get your foot in the door, it’s a risky strategy.
Rather than trying to find a way to ‘stand out’, it’s worth considering how to be ‘outstanding’ instead. The best way to do this is to really focus on highlighting why you’re the best candidate for the job by demonstrating the following…
- Showing directly relevant work experience
Recruiters treat job applications like they treat clothes – they’re always looking for the candidate that is the best fit for a job. So, if you can go out of your way to demonstrate with real life examples exactly how well you fit a job description, then you’ve made the employer’s choice an easy one – why wouldn’t they offer you the job if you’re a perfect fit?
- Being able to identify your skill set (and talk about it confidently!)
Plenty of students and graduates struggle to articulate exactly what skills their previous work experience has given them and why this makes them the right candidate for the job. You’ve heard of transferable skills, right? Being able to identify the transferable skills you have developed in your past experiences will help you – but only so far. Being able to back up claims that you ‘have excellent team working skills’ or that you’re ‘a proficient communicator’ with real life examples with put you one step ahead of your competitors. Check out how to use the STAR technique to help you out with this.
- Mature communication and professionalism
Never underestimate how far a little courtesy will go. For every great applicant who follows up an interview with a ‘thank you’ note, or who responds to an email promptly, they’ll be ten others who have not taken the time to write to the employer professionally. Be that great candidate. Check your professionalism and treat every potential employer like you really, really want to work with them – as if you’re not considering any other employer.
- Being proactive
Being proactive, in life and in your job applications, can really set you apart from the crowd. There’s nothing most companies will value more than a ‘self-starter’ – someone that can be relied upon to have the ‘get up and go’ to do what’s needed to get the job done on their own. Perhaps you’ve set up your own society at university or led a team project. You need to shower the employer with examples of when you’ve worked independently to deliver quantifiably good results.
- Showing your initiative
During the job application process, you can demonstrate your initiative in two ways – by telling your potential employer about previous examples where you’ve used your initiative – or, by actually using your initiative during your application. By that, we mean taking the initiative to look up the company’s HR person’s name, and address your correspondence to him or her.
Or you could take the initiative to follow up an interview with a thank you note, and ask your interviewer smart questions during the interview. All of these things will add to the impression that you’re a person that is confident and smart enough to take initiative when necessary – and that skill alone is really valuable in the workplace.
- Doing your research
This one’s pretty simple, but it’s something that lets a lot of first time job seekers down – do your homework. You’d be amazed by the number of students and graduates that head off to that internship interview without having even checked the ‘about us’ section of the company’s website. Don’t research the company just to reel off facts about them in the interview – really take the time to understand their business. This will help you to understand the company culture and ask insightful questions during the interview.
For more careers advice, jobs and top employers, visit Milkround, the UK’s leading graduate careers website – happy job hunting!