How to Stand Out - Tips for Job Seekers From Talent Acquisition Professionals & People Leaders banner image

How to Stand Out - Tips for Job Seekers From Talent Acquisition Professionals & People Leaders

The job market has been challenging for a while.  On one side, companies receive hundreds (if not thousands) of applicants for a single job posting... it's overwhelming.  While on the other side, job seekers are sending lots of applications that sometimes never get seen even if they are qualified.

So, how do you stand out and at least get a shot at an interview?

We are sharing tips from Talent Acquisition, HR, and People Ops professionals on the unique ways that you can get your foot in the door.

Emily McCoy Sr. Sales Recruiter at PluralsightEmily McCoy

Sr. Sales Recruiter at Pluralsight

There are a lot of ways to stand out during the recruiting process. Some are really creative and out of the box, like putting together a Spotify playlist of songs on why you should get the job (Very unique!). However, I think one of the most reliable ways to stand out in a resume is to make sure it really aligns to the role you are applying for. I know this takes extra time to craft for each position, but really spelling out how applicable your experience is makes it easy to understand. For example, if you view a job posting specifically asking for someone experienced with SSOs, and you have this experience, you should make sure it’s front and center on your resume. If you’re looking for roles in a specific field, like Customer Success, you could create a “highlight reel” at the top of your resume that calls out specific wins and accomplishments you’ve had in this field. Recruiters are often working with a large number of applications so being able to easily scan your resume and see relevant skills and experience is important.

I’d also say, don’t be afraid to follow-up and reiterate your interest or ask about where you are in the process (especially if you’ve been promised an update)!

Zahra Kagalwalla Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at SEVENROOMSZahra Kagalwalla

Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at SEVENROOMS

It can be challenging to stand out in a multitude of applicants, so being creative and detail-oriented are going to be your greatest tickets to success. I've had candidates send me a short pitch video on Linkedin, explaining what role they have applied to and why they would be a good fit - I love this because it puts a face and voice to a name, and shows a little bit of hustle. I also think it's important to take a deeper look into potential hiring teams, and make sure your cold outreach is going to the right person - for example, if you are applying to a technical role, it might be a good idea to find out who the technical recruiter is and reach out to them, versus reaching out to a random person on the people team.

Zach Bonfante Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at ReversingLabsZach Bonfante

Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at ReversingLabs

From a recruiter’s perspective, I can’t recommend this enough: Include a 1 to 3 sentence description of the companies you've worked for, especially if it's a start up. The easiest way to get your resume to the top of a list is to explicitly demonstrate that your background is super relevant. I suggest including details such as: size (in terms of revenue and/or number of employees), stage (Series A, Post-IPO), industry/vertical, and a very high level summary of the type of products or services your employers are offering within those verticals).

Jeanne Cordisco Chief People Officer at O'ReillyJeanne Cordisco

Chief People Officer at O'Reilly

Polish Up Your Resume: This one's a no-brainer. Make sure your resume is sharp, clear, and packed with keywords from the job description. Achievements are your best friend - use strong action verbs to showcase how awesome you are and where you can highlight overachievement through data or metrics, do it!.

Tailor It Every Time: Don't become a copy and paste pro! Take the time to tailor your resume to each specific job. Highlight your skills and experiences most relevant to the position.

Go Beyond the Resume: Your resume is just the first step. Craft a killer cover letter that showcases your personality and why you'd be a fantastic fit for the company culture.

Become a Social Media Butterfly: Connect with the company and hiring managers on LinkedIn. Share relevant articles, participate in industry discussions – show them you're engaged and knowledgeable. Bonus points if you can find a creative way to connect your skills with something the company's doing.

Think Outside the Application: Sometimes a direct approach is best! Did you see a cool project the company's working on? Shoot them a quick email offering your expertise (for free!). This shows initiative and genuine interest.

Network Like a Ninja: Leverage your connections! Let people you know you're on the job hunt and see if they have any leads. You never know who might have the golden ticket.

Practice Makes Perfect: Don't wing the interview! Preparation is power. Research the company, common interview questions, and prepare some great questions for the interviewer too. Practice your answers out loud so you sound confident and articulate.

Remember, job hunting is a two-way street. You're interviewing them just as much as they're interviewing you!!

Kat Kelley Senior Sourcing Specialist at FlywireKat Kelley

Senior Sourcing Specialist at Flywire

As a Senior Sourcing Specialist at Flywire, I see tons of resumes everyday. Here are some of my tips for how to stand out. First, customize your application. When you tailor your resume to the job you're applying to it stands out. I recommend highlighting the relevant skills and experience to match the job description. Show that your background aligns with the company's goals and values. Second, show off your personal brand and ensure that your online profiles, (i.e. LinkedIn) are up-to-date and professional. Showcase your skills, projects, and achievements. Quantify your accomplishments whenever possible to demonstrate the impact you've had in previous roles. Lastly, demonstrate passion and enthusiasm. Show genuine interest in the company and the role, do your research and we'll recognize that in the interview process

Mary Paris Director of Talent Acquisition at PERSUITMary Paris

Director of Talent Acquisition at PERSUIT

The candidates that stand out are typically the ones that have done some initial research on the company and role, and have unique and thoughtful questions. Of course it's important to cover the basic and more traditional interview questions, but asking specific questions about the business and role you're applying for demonstrates interest and a level of curiosity that can really set you apart.

Chris Watson Recruiting Manager, EMEA at Recorded FutureChris Watson

Recruiting Manager, EMEA at Recorded Future

To capture attention, mention a unique hook in your first sentence to personalize your message, such as citing a specific detail from the company's news or a common connection. Additionally, messaging the hiring manager directly shows initiative and drive. One standout candidate even offered to present a custom pitch deck!

Sarah Barillaro Chief People Officer at 3Play MediaSarah Barillaro

Chief People Officer at 3Play Media

Do your research ahead of time.
Use your camera (if remote).
Ask meaningful questions.
Send a personalized thank you.

Mary Carroll Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Aqua SecurityMary Carroll

Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Aqua Security

When conversing with a recruiter, it's crucial to tailor your responses to the job you're applying for. Highlighting the most relevant skills and experiences that directly align with the position not only demonstrates your suitability for the role but also shows that you've done your homework and understand what the job entails. Keeping the conversation focused on points helps create a strong first impression and showcases your professionalism and attention to detail.

Yasmin Maghsadi Talent Acquisition Manager at FairmarkitYasmin Maghsadi

Talent Acquisition Manager at Fairmarkit

Don't over-engineer your resume. The easier to read, the better.

Percentages, numbers, and specific accomplishments are great to include

Read the job description. 

Often times location and other very specific qualifications are specified. 

If you are very passionate about the role, ping someone who works at the company. Most companies do referral bonuses and if you don't know anyone that works there, that's a great "in". 

CarGurus LogoCarGurus

Talent Acquisition team

Standing out in a competitive job market isn’t always about being different, it’s about being the best fit for an open role. For applicants, this means not waiting for an interview to make sure recruiters know the relevant skills and experiences you bring to the table. Our tips include:

  • Send a focused resume that showcases your background and qualifications in a succinct way. Avoid superfluous language that can distract from your story
  • Leverage company research. Understanding a company’s structure, culture, and values may help you better align your application with the company’s broader needs and goals. At CarGurus, we offer a “learn more” page on our career site to help candidates with their outreach and interviews
  • Indicate the reasons behind job changes such as layoffs or stay-at-home parenting. This helps recruiters understand your full career journey–including gaps–from the start
  • Apply only to the roles that are the best fit for you at a given company. Pursuing more than a few roles at once may suggest you’re not genuinely interested in any

Joelle Castaldo Talent Acquisition Sourcing Specialist at SmartBearJoelle Castaldo

Talent Acquisition Sourcing Specialist at SmartBear

The job description is your key to what the hiring team is looking for! Use it when preparing to determine which of your skills to highlight, and think about how your experience aligns with the role's activities. When someone is energetic and enthusiastic about the opportunity, it goes a long way. Mention one or two things you discovered when researching the company or role. Asking thoughtful questions can also demonstrate strong interest and excitement about the company and role, which will definitely impress your interviewer. If you're making a career pivot, be specific about why this new career path excites you, and how your experience could transfer well. We highly recommend adding a cover letter especially if you're making a career pivot. This will help demonstrate why your unique skillset could make you the perfect fit.

And don’t forget that GenAI can help stimulate questions that might be answered in the interview process. It can also help review your resume and cover letter for grammar errors or making sure your experiences align with the job description.

Ben Stehle Senior Director, Talent Acquisition at Linus HealthBen Stehle

Senior Director, Talent Acquisition at Linus Health

A great way for candidates to get their foot in the door is to research the company's employees on Linkedin to see if they have any mutual  and/or 3rd connections that they might be able to leverage. Oftentimes, an applicant may already know someone at the company and/or can utilize their LI network to get in touch with the decision maker or TA via Linkedin. This not only helps show the person’s interest and persistence but also helps them stand out if they are one of a hundred applicants(or more) for any given role.