Showcase Individuality to Stand Out in the Job Search

by Alexis Grant from Mashable

A friend recently asked me to look over his cover letter for a job he really hoped to get. When I looked it over, the letter was professional and grammatically clean — and totally, utterly boring.

My friend began by introducing himself the same way everyone introduces themselves in a cover letter. He then went through his experience the same way everyone goes through their experience. In summary, his cover letter was exactly like everyone else’s.

I suggested he do something different — something interesting, so he would be memorable to the oh-so-essential person who would be responsible for making the hire. Ultimately, my friend thanked me for the suggestion, but decided to leave the letter the way it was. “I don’t think people in my industry do anything different like that,” he said.

And yet that was exactly the point.

If everyone in your industry — or class or company — does exactly the same thing, you will look that much more fantastic when you change it up. Whether that something is as small as telling an interesting story in your cover letter or as big as spearheading a program that changes someone’s life, doing something different is the best way to create something meaningful for yourself, your company and the world.

Accomplishing this often requires pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. It requires taking a risk to produce something memorable. And neither of those things are easy — but if you stick to what feels safe, you will forever float in the sea of unremarkable

Here are a few ways you can do something different when applying for your dream job.

1. Write a creative cover letter that won’t bore the hiring manager

Your cover letter might be the one chance you have to get your foot in the door, so avoid the tendency to regurgitate your resume. Tell a story; let your personality shine. Hiring managers want workers who fit into their organization’s culture, and this is likely the first way they’ll judge whether or not you fit the bill. Here are a few examples of creative cover letters to spark your imagination.

2. Write an awesome email to the hiring manager

Write about why you admire their organization, what you respect about the company and what you can bring to the table, rather than rambling on about yourself. One of the biggest mistakes applicants make is telling the boss they’re a good fit, then linking to a resume that supposedly proves this fact. This puts the onus on the hiring manager to figure out why they should hire you. Instead, do the work for them, so you’re both the easy and the obvious person for the job.

3. Create a unique resume

Do you have social media, video or design skills? Prove it with your resume, rather than simply telling the hiring manager about your talents. This approach takes far more work than creating the traditional resume, which is why most people don’t bother — and exactly why you should. Putting in that extra effort demonstrates you have the skills to succeed at the job, and it also shows that you’re serious about landing the position.

4. Push yourself to be YOU

Share your personality! While it depends on which company you’re applying to, many employers respect creativity. Mentioning your passion for running or traveling might create a common bond between you and the employer. Even more, it shows you have passion for life, which makes you more appealing. Have the confidence to present yourself the way you’d like to be seen, and that’s how the hiring manager will see you, too.

5. Don’t be afraid to use social media

Showcase your ambition by connecting with the hiring manager before your interview so she can check out your experience in advance. Be sure to send a personalized message with your connection request that explains who you are; if you send the generic request, chances are the manager won’t recognize your name, which could land your request in the trash. And while LinkedIn is often touted as the social network for professionals, Twitter offers huge opportunity, too. Look for ways to interact with the company or hiring manager’s content before you meet in person, and you’ll walk into a warmer interview.

6. Do the work without being asked

If there’s anything you can do to show just how good you would be at this job, go ahead and do it, even before you’re asked. If the position requires writing blog posts, write one and send it to the hiring manager, so he can see first-hand exactly how you’d perform in the role. Hoping to be hired to work on digital strategy? Take the time to put together a few points on what you think the brand could do better, and how you’d execute that plan. This is a great way both to demonstrate your on-the-job skills and your go-getter attitude.

Don’t limit yourself to the status quo — you have so much more potential than that.

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