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Make your application stand out — for the right reasons

You’ve been browsing free job boards for days, sending resumes and applications by the dozens, when you finally find it. The job you really want is staring you in the face.

What should you do to make sure the hiring manager notices you? 

A creative resume

The line between creative and obnoxious can be thin, and depending on the industry and company you’re applying for, there may not be much room for creativity at all. But if you’ve done your research and you know the company is open to expression of personality — maybe it’s a quirky startup or a design agency — a well-designed resume can be an effective strategy.

Industry-specific resumes

According to Ashley Faus on Mashable, “I’ve seen graphic designers turn their resumes into beautifully designed, infographic-style works of art, and marketing and communications professionals create ad campaigns with a tagline on how their skills match the open position.” This can be a great idea, particularly if you’re confident in your ability to create a killer campaign or infographic. If you’re still building your skills, it might be best to stick with a solid professional resume and leave the creative version for later.

Unconventional creativity

Furthermore, it’s possible to take this idea and turn it around for use in other professions. It’s not as common in STEM fields to have a creative resume, and it can definitely help you stand out. Programmers can use code in their resumes, or even create a program that is itself a resume. The limits here are defined by situational appropriateness, your own skills and what you’re willing to do. 

What about extras?

If you’re in the running for a position with a lot of responsibility to produce results, you may want to consider delivering some before you’re even called back. 

This will show the company you’re extremely motivated to do well and that you have the skills it takes to follow through on what your resume promises.

In some fields, a portfolio is expected. Make sure the work that is most directly relevant to the position you want is front and center. If you don’t have anything like that, it may be time for you to sit down and mock up a few things that fit the bill.

Submit mock projects

If you’re interested in going way above and beyond, consider starting some projects for your prospective employer. Marketers can research and design some campaigns, for example. 

If you come in with or send a presentation speaking directly to the needs a business currently has, you’re bound to leave an impression.

Do your research

What all of these strategies for resume add-ons have in common, you may have noticed, is the need for heavy research. You can’t deliver a killer sample project unless you really know what the company is about, and what kind of issues it’s facing right now. The Internet can be invaluable in this effort, of course, but if you have any other way of finding information you should use it. Acquaintances in the field or at the company itself may be helpful.

Particularly for startups, you may consider using the product or service they offer. 

This will allow you to speak intelligently about it at an interview, and it gives you the opportunity to provide meaningful feedback and suggestions in addition to your resume.