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Tired of filling out a never-ending list of job applications? Try this strategy to set you apart.

The author recounts wading through endless online job applications, often with a small chance of in-person interviews. She shares the simple job-search routine that helped her impress employers and land highly coveted roles.

Tired of filling out a never-ending list of job applications? Try this strategy to set you apart.
[Photo: Cytonn Photography/Unsplash]
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Recently, I was browsing a tech forum when I came across this comment from a struggling job hunter: “I’ve sent dozens of applications and still haven’t gotten any interviews.”

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Job hunting and securing that desired interview are always difficult; it becomes even more so during the turbulent period of COVID-19.

I know the feeling: You send out dozens of applications only to be met with crickets. It’s frustrating and it’s time-consuming. Thankfully, this draining routine is not the only way to land a job.

When I first moved to New York, I found myself competing with thousands of applicants and swimming in a sea of unanswered applications. When the standard job application process didn’t work, I turned to a few critical strategies to stand out.

Here are four strategies that have worked extremely well in the past and secured for me more interviews than I thought possible.

Commit to putting in the work

It’s easy to mindlessly fill out dozens of applications. Hell, I’ve done it, too! You know how it goes: Typing in your name, job experience, and education for hours on end; the whole process would always make me want to throw my computer out the window.

The worst part was, it usually would get me nowhere.

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To secure an interview it’s important to put your brainpower to use and think first about how you can stand out from other applicants. From creating entire websites to recommendation-filled decks, when I apply to jobs I always create collateral material filled with my ideas when I’m applying for a job.

When I applied for a job at a content management system company, I used their platform to build an entire site on why I was the most suitable hire. When I applied to a consumer brand company, I created a 20-page deck with my ideas to improve their digital presence. I won’t sugarcoat the amount of effort that goes into making these types of collateral pieces—it takes time, but the results will give you much more success than an application ever would.

During my time in-house at corporations and while running a business, I’ve learned that the bar to stand out is set extremely low. In my entire career, I’ve rarely had anyone step outside the box to deliver above and beyond what was required in the job application. The thing that “wowed” me most was a hand-drawn thank-you card—which was relatively a small gesture on the scale of zero to “you’ve got the job.”

If you’re a coder, code a plugin that could be useful to the company. Are you a designer? Take the brand’s logo and revamp it. On the hunt for a marketing job? Give your target company an audit of its digital platforms. You will be quickly surprised how easy it is to stand out in a pile of lackluster applications.

Some individuals might advocate against doing free work, but I believe this initial work can help prove your value and help you negotiate a higher salary than if you hadn’t put in the extra effort.

Circumvent the system and email the decision-maker directly

How can you stand out in a system when there are dozens of applicants?

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Simple answer: Go past the system. Whenever I was applying for a job, I would take a look through LinkedIn to see who my potential future boss would be. Afterwards, I would create a deck of recommendations of what I would do in my first months if I were to secure the job. Not only did this get me an interview, but it also showed the interviewer that I had done my research and knew what the position would entail.

When I spent time hiring in my corporate roles before, I was alarmed by how many applicants didn’t even read the website. Trust me, it’s not hard to stand out if you put in minimal effort.

Chances are, most of your competition is just blindly applying on applications. Sometimes, I would even be as confident as to send my deck to the CEO—and to my surprise, it would work. Someone asked me if this is overstepping to not go through the normal process? Maybe? But who cares! I don’t feel that offering great insight is in any way an overstep. A good company should welcome hard work and insight from a seasoned professional. If they don’t, you probably don’t want to work for that company anyway.

Overall, this strategy resulted in great success. As an entrepreneur, if someone sent me a deck of ideas on how they could help my business increase sales with a specific plan of action, I would welcome them with open arms.

Ask for introductions from your connections

In my eyes, LinkedIn is the best tool on the internet for job hunting—and I don’t mean just their job listings page. It’s also a great resource to mine possible points of connection.

When approaching the platform, start off by making a list of your top 10 dream companies you’d like to work at. From there, visit each of your listed firms’ LinkedIn pages and take a look at the employees who work at that company. You will easily be able to see if you know anyone at the company; if you do, you can reach out directly to ask them about their experience working at that company.

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Depending on how they respond to your email, you can then mention that you are looking to apply there and politely ask if they have any tips. Nine times out of 10 they will recommend you, as many companies offer hiring bonuses to referrals. If you don’t know someone at that company, you can see how many degrees of separation you are away and ask someone you do know for an introduction to someone at that company.

Once you’ve had an interview go above and beyond

It’s easy to crush the competition when most people don’t think outside the box with their job hunting. When I was applying for a marketing role at a chain of restaurants, the interviewer told me they would have a decision soon and it was between me and another applicant.

My competitive side came out, and I thought to myself, “No way I’m going to let this other person beat me!” After, I went to each of the restaurant’s 10 New York locations, took a photo of the restaurant, and later, created a deck with my recommendations on how the executives could improve their in-store marketing.

Did this take me an extra few days of my life? It sure did. But it also landed me the job. This is to say, job hunting is far from easy, but by putting in the hard work, you will see the dividends.

Now is the time to reconsider your approach to application, think about how you can stand out, and get to work creating something that will truly impress your interviewer.

About the author

Arianna O'Dell is the founder of Airlink Marketing, a digital design and marketing agency helping companies create digital programs that drive results. When she’s not working with clients or traveling, you’ll find her making fun gifts at Ideas By Arianna.

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