How To Make Your Job Application Stand Out from the Competition

job application stand out from the competitionSince each job opening is designed to hire exactly one person, separating yourself from the intense competition is an absolute necessity with each job application you send.

But do you know how much competition you are facing, though? ERE Media reports that recruiters receive 250 applicants for an open position on average.

That’s a Lot of Competition!

Ask yourself, what are you doing to make your application stand out from the competition? If your answer is “my resume is exceptional and my experience is perfectly targeted for the position,” then the truth is, you’re not exactly breaking out of the mold. Gone are the days that a professional resume and well-written cover letter were sufficient. Whether you like it or not, recruiters are using more than just your resume and cover letter to qualify you.

Thanks to the modern internet age, it’s now trivial for recruiters to browse your social media profiles and learn more about you before they even pick up the phone to call. Technology has provided them with more tools to evaluate and separate their candidates than ever before. However, this same technology can be used to your advantage to separate you from other candidates.

Managing Social Media

Most likely, one of the first things a recruiter will see when they Google your name is a collection of your social media profiles. What will they find? Some less-than-flattering pictures showing how much fun you had in college? Perhaps you have some strong political views that could potentially be polarizing? Are you getting nervous just thinking about it?

Whether you like it or not, recruiters are most likely going to browse your social media profiles. Sixty percent of employers use social media to screen job candidates and more than 40 percent stated in a survey that it was to screen out candidates. They’re specifically looking for whether you’re a professional who will contribute to their business, a slacker who will do just enough to earn a paycheck, or worse yet, a potential embarrassment to the company.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad. Ninety-two percent of companies use social media as part of their recruiting process, so while it may be used to filter out candidates after they’ve applied, a vast majority of companies use it to help find qualified candidates.

There are two preemptive measures you can take: Lock down your privacy settings and prevent anyone from seeing the “real” you or making a few changes to craft the image of a bright, energetic candidate with a professional presence. You can take control of your social presence and use it to actually rise above the competition.

Get a Personal Website

It’s becoming more common now for candidates to have personal websites. With services such as Wix and Squarespace, it’s easier than ever to quickly craft a website or portfolio that advertises your personal and professional brand.

And this technique works! Fifty-six percent of hiring managers are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than any other personal branding tool. It’s an invaluable opportunity to provide more information than your resume ever could. After all, you aren’t limited to the “one-page rule” with a personal website. The hiring manager is visiting this page for a more detailed look at you, so take this opportunity to expand and provide a more personalized touch.

If they’re on your site, you can rest assured you’re a candidate they are seriously considering. A recruiter spends six seconds on average analyzing a resume, but once you show some promise, they’re happy to spend minutes browsing anything else they can find about you, including your personal site.

If it’s time for you to build a personal resume website, check out this guide by Mashable on the different platforms. I would recommend Squarespace, or if you are up for a more technically difficult challenge, WordPress.

Consider a Video Resume

Some candidates are even taking it a step further and trying to beat the competition by creating video resumes. Statistics suggest that this is an incredibly effective tool for making yourself more memorable. Eighty-nine percent of employers said they would watch a video resume but only 17 percent have ever seen one. Doing the math, this means you have an 83 percent chance of being the first video resume your hiring manager has seen. Talk about standing out!

Despite the potential, video resumes aren’t for everyone. They are a tricky tool to master and can quickly backfire, as Aleksey Vayner discovered in his now infamous video resume “Impossible is Nothing.” If you have a poor “on screen” personality, perhaps a video resume is not right for you.

Additionally, there are some concerns about equal opportunity. Some employers could be concerned that, by previously knowing your gender or race, they are opening themselves up to accusations of discrimination. This is why you should never include a photo or other protected group information on your resume. But if a recruiter is willingly looking at your personal website or resume video, he’s clearly ready to learn some of these details.

If you decide that video resumes are right for you, start by gaining inspiration from these exceptional video resumes.

Utilize Referrals

Unfortunately, doing all of these things can still result in an uphill battle against the competition. Try as you might, 40 percent of all hires come from referrals. Without a personal connection within a company, your chances of being hired are essentially halved. It doesn’t matter how great your resume is, it’s tough to overcome the benefits of hiring referral employees. It truly is all about “who you know.”

But don’t despair if you don’t have that special connection in the company! Sometimes, just knowing someone in the industry is enough. That same study discovered that 41 percent of all referrals came from an external network, not necessarily an internal referral. It’s important to utilize your entire network. After all, referrals are 3-4 times more likely to be hired, so be shameless and ask anyone who’s in a position to help. It will pay off in the end.

If you don’t have any connections, it isn’t over yet. You can still request informational interviews or approach the hiring manager on LinkedIn. It’s possible to create relationships from scratch inside companies you want to work for, it’s just harder. But if it were easy, everyone would do it.

Optimize Your Resume

Since a resume isn’t the end-all job tool anymore, it’s better to focus on standing out than producing the perfect resume, right?


An easily scannable and informative resume, while the bare minimum, is still essential. According to a study done by The Ladders, recruiters rated professionally-written resumes 60 percent better than their amateur counterparts. There is clearly a gap between good and bad resumes. While a resume might not be enough on its own, make sure that the one you have is exceptional.

In Conclusion

It’s going to take more than a great resume to set you apart today, but you have several tools at your disposal to maximize the impact your job application has on a company.

If you really want to rise above the rest, you’re going to have to make your application stand out. Create a personal portfolio site or video resume. Maybe even try your luck with some  unconventional tactics. When it comes to standing out, the sky’s the limit. It’s easier now than ever to discover creative ways to brand yourself.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Come Recommended.


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