How to Make Your Job Application Stand Out

Your potential employer has a lot of applications to wade through and you need yours to end up in the “yes” pile, not in the bin. Here are seven tips to help you get noticed for the right reasons. 

1. Be a recognisable name

This is one of the most effective ways to stand out: get to know someone at the company and ask them to keep an eye out for your application. In the era of social media, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Start by making a list of companies you’re interested in. Then find a way into each one.

  • Is someone at the company giving a talk or going to a trade show? Go along and then get in touch via social media. Give a compliment and ask an intelligent question – you’re very likely to get a response.
  • Is there someone with a blog or a large social media presence? The same technique applies! Everyone likes to know that their writing is being appreciated. Engaging by asking a question can start a conversation.
  • Do you have an opportunity to volunteer or get an internship? Often work experience is a stepping stone to a permanent role.
  • Do you know someone who knows someone? It’s always worth asking for an introduction.

Once you’ve got a contact, build the relationship until you feel comfortable asking them for advice on working at the company. Of course, this kind of intensive networking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Read on for some more traditional techniques.

2. Make your application easy to read

Often, your application will only be given a quick once-over before it’s put forward or tossed away. That’s why it’s important to make it easy to scan-read. The more information you can get across during that glance, the better. 

Break things down. Use short sentences and short paragraphs.

Don’t be afraid to use subheadings and bulleted lists. Use the words the reader is scanning for – the ones in the job specification. Try to avoid sounding long-winded. Nobody’s looking to judge your literary talent. Remember, it’s not ‘dumbing down’. It’s being respectful of someone else’s busy schedule.

3. STAR technique

The STAR technique is a way to keep answers concise and informative. When giving a real-life example that demonstrates a skill, use these points:

  • Situation (your job/course at the time)
  • Tasks (what you needed to do)
  • Actions (how you did it)
  • Results (how it turned out)

4. Take time to tailor it

When you’re finding job-hunting a struggle, it can be tempting to just go for volume. Unfortunately, attaching a generic CV and cover letter or copying and pasting set answers into an online application is unlikely to make a good impression. Take your time and follow the job specification point by point. If you can send off one really strong application every day you’ll have a better chance of getting that all-important first interview.

5. Develop an online presence

We’ve looked at why you don’t want to make your application too long – but imagine it’s a toss-up between interviewing you and interviewing another candidate. You want to be able to give extra information to sway the balance. The answer to this can be to put yourself out there online. If you run a blog or have an online portfolio, it’s sensible to include the address in your application.

6. Make good use of your hobbies and interests

There are two reasons it’s worth putting hobbies and interests on an application – to demonstrate your good qualities and to show how you fit in with the company culture. You should always be truthful, but be selective. Let’s say that the person specification stresses the importance of teamwork. Is there a team sport you can put down? Or perhaps you check the company website and see they recently participated in a charity knit-a-thon. Do you knit? It’s worth mentioning!

7. Make sure you have perfect spelling and grammar

You’ve heard this before – but how do you achieve it? If you want to send in a perfectly polished application, follow these steps:

  • Get someone else to look over it
  • Reread it once a day for a week
  • Get someone to look over it again

Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it’s time well spent – one typo can cost you your entire shot at the job. Plus it’s a great incentive to get your application done well before the deadline.

Need some more tips on standing out? Have a look at our CV & Cover Letter Advice Page, or view an Example Cover Letter written by Jake Schogger, author of the City Career Series guides.