More Tips on Standing Out in a Sea of Job Candidates

Application Tips

Application TipsI wrote a post last January that generated a lot of traffic – tips on how to get your job applications to stand out. It seems a lot of you are here (rightly so!) to learn about career opportunities and how to get them. Since then, I’ve read through countless more applications and made lots of connections at conferences and networking events. So what else can you do during your job hunt to make it a success?

  1. Make sure you’re applying to the actual job that’s listed. If the opening is, say, for an editor, and you go on and on about how you want to work in market research, you’re not the ideal candidate for this job. It’s better to spend more time on fewer applications and make sure they’re the best they can be and appropriate for the job opening, rather than sending generic applications out to hundreds of places a day. Quality, not quantity.
  2. Do some research about the company you’re applying to. Let them know what you learned in your application. Mention how your skills would fit into the company’s work.
  3. Actually write a cover letter. A real one, not just “I’m applying to this position. You can reach me here.” This is a marketing document. Brag about yourself! List relevant accomplishments! Show the recruiter your personality! An amazing cover letter fills in the gaps on your resume. Are you looking to switch career fields? Your resume will show no relevant experience, but a cover letter can list your transferable skills. Are you a recent graduate just starting your career? Your resume might be a little empty for now, but your cover letter can discuss student leadership roles, volunteer work, and other ways you got experience even though you haven’t held many jobs yet. Trust me – applications with no cover letter get eliminated from consideration immediately at a lot of companies!
  4. Show gratitude. A lot of people helped you get to where you are, so write them a quick thank-you email. The recruiter who interviewed you? Always send a follow up email to thank them for their time and reiterate interest in the job. The person you met through a friend who answered your questions or introduced you to someone who was hiring? Thank them too! No need to send flowers – just a nice, sincere note.

A Problem With Perception



There are two things to consider when undergoing any kind of improvement initiative:

  1. The actual improvement.
  2. The perception by others that improvement has happened (or is happening).

Improvement and perception don’t go hand-in-hand. We often expect they do and can get off-put when no one takes notice of the improvements we’ve made. We fail to realize that significant improvement alone usually results in little to no change in others perceiving we’ve made an improvement. This is especially true for anyone trying to change a prickly interpersonal behavior.


Let’s take “Late Guy.” He’s late to meetings so often that his team just expects him to be late all the time. Some of his team even, in a weird way, root for him to be late in order to play up to his annoying behavior so they can top the most recent “Late Guy” water cooler story.

Parched Pete: “You can NOT believe how late ‘Late Guy’ was today!”

Dehydrated Diane: “Tell me about it. That guy is a hot mess.”

Let’s say “Late Guy” suddenly decided to fix his tardiness problem. How long would it take his team to notice? If he just worked at being on time and not his team’s perception of him being on time, what are the odds that his team would stop rooting for him to be late? When would they stop expecting “Late Guy” and start noticing “On Time Guy”?

Digging Out

So how do you get yourself out of this mess? Here are three things you can do now:

  1. Own the Perception Problem!  Other people’s perceptions of you is Your Responsibility, not theirs.  This means stop looking at other people to blame for not seeing the better you. Look in the mirror, “Billy Blame it All!” It’s time for you to be accountable for how others see you.
  2. Apologize When Necessary.  If what you are trying to improve has affected anyone in a bad way in the past, say you’re sorry. This can quickly stomp out any bad blood from the past and put the focus on an optimistic future.
  3. Tell Everyone and Ask for Help.  Tell your team. Tell your manager. Tell your family. Get it out there. “Hey everyone! I’m trying to get better at X and I need your help.” By doing so, those people are more likely to become problem solvers with you and not a critic of you. They will start looking for the new you in place of the old you and will expect the positive behaviors that come with it.


Take ownership of managing others’ perceptions of you. Don’t let yourself be victimized by them.  Be genuine with yourself and others in resolving to right any bad perceptions and communicate your intent to do so.

This post is largely inspired from something I read in the book Mojo by Marshall Goldsmith. At best this post is a bad representation of a great book, but the book alone has inspired a lot my Coaching career here at the Fool. I highly recommend reading it.