We all want to stand out to prospective employers. We all get excited about employment opportunities and want to communicate that enthusiasm. But it’s not always obvious how to stand out in a structured application process. If it were, everyone would do it. To stand out, you must do something different, and that can be easier than it may seem at first.
Don’t skip step 1: Make the list
When thinking about how to stand out, start by thinking about to whom do you want to stand out to and when? Often, application submissions vastly outnumber the number that can be reviewed thoroughly. Applications need to be quickly reviewed to make a long-list then a short-list of candidates. It’s in the long and short lists that you likely want to stand out. In the initial review of applications, focus on meeting the requirements that a hiring manager looks for in the few seconds they must read submitted applications. This means making sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Do not embellish. Instead, ensure that everything required is in your application, that your resume is readable, and that you’ve tailored everything to the specific higher education institution and role you are applying for.
Strategies to standing out beyond the application
Standing out can mean a lot of things, but ultimately you want the hiring team at the higher education institution to think of you differently than other highly qualified candidates. There are two major ways to approach standing out during the application process:
- Fostering a connection to the higher education institution
- Creating an additional component to your application
A recent LinkedIn study found that 85% of positions were filled at least in part through networking. That’s a tremendous success rate, and it demonstrates that a personal connection is a reliable way to stand out. Networking is an ongoing process throughout your career and if you are familiar with anyone in the institution you are applying to, reach out to them and let them know that you are applying to a position. They may be able to give you suggestions about your application or know someone managing the hiring process they can introduce you to. LinkedIn is also a networking resource and allows you to look up individuals in the department you are applying to. You can reach out via an InMail message with a personal message, highlighting your familiarity with their work, that you are excited about the position you are applying to, and are available if there are any questions. Do not write multiple messages without receiving a response.
Creating addendums to applications
This is a less reliable method of standing out beyond an application but can be just as successful. Consider creating addendums after you have been contacted by an institution that you are a candidate. Creating addendums takes time and is generally not relevant to hiring managers unless you have met the initial qualifications. Addendums can take many forms, but generally they are examples of future work. For example, if you are going to be managing residential life, you can create an announcement of next year’s residential life initiatives. Social media applicants can create a sample social media campaign and so on. You can share your addendum in response to hearing from a hiring manager.
Above all, when trying to stand out, be yourself. If you are genuinely excited about a position, going beyond the standard application process is more likely to be received as positive. Coming off as desperate or brown-nosing can negatively impact your chances of success. Excitement and confidence can make you stand out more than anything else. If you are looking for other career tips like these or a new job in higher education, check out the HERC jobs site for more information.