3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Trying to "Stand Out" in Your Job Search

All job hunters hear the advice to “stand out,” “be different,” and “separate yourself from the crowd!”

But what exactly does that mean with regard to your job search? Do you send a fruit basket to your interviewer? Record a video of a company cheer you composed? Or, maybe you just try to be your “best self”—whatever that means!

Here’s the scoop: You will face competition when applying to most jobs, so the greater the gap you create between you and your fellow applicants, the better. But, it’s important to remember that there’s a right way to stand out and a wrong way.

To help you determine how to stand out successfully (and this can vary by industry and position), we’ve developed three rules. Before we jump into them, let’s take a look at two sales manager job applicants I encountered while working in HR for a major retail chain.

Both prospects wanted to “stand out” in the interview process. Applicant A submitted a prospective sales plan, laid out in 30, 60, and 90 days. While some of the specifics of her proposal were a bit off, overall, it was a solid plan that showed creative, analytical thinking.

Applicant B affixed her resume with an 8×10 photo of herself. After all, what better way to stay top of mind? Well, Applicant B was memorable, all right, but not in the positive way she’d hoped for. Her move cost her the chance to even interview.

Standing out requires risk-taking by nature, but you can mitigate that risk by asking yourself the following three questions to make sure you’re making the impression that’ll lead to an interview and job offer:

1. Is it Relevant?

Being unique purely for the sake of individuality is useless. Find a way to stand out that’s relevant to the company and to the opportunity you’re interviewing for.

Do This

One of our clients, Laurel, a huge Seattle Mariners fan, was looking for a new position in social media. She took her interest and capitalized on it to create a social media and publicity campaign to get the Mariners’ attention and convince them she was the best person for a social media marketing position. She snagged an interview even though she had less experience than many of the other candidates.

See how this outside-the-box thinking works? You have to consider your industry and what you can do to demonstrate in a way that goes beyond the bullet points on your resume how you’d be an asset.

2. Is it Valuable?

Whatever your plan for standing out, it must further your cause in some way. This rule is why just emailing 100 times or calling 10 times a day after your interview isn’t going to pay off.

Do This

Matt Hirsch, another client, hoped to make a statement following an interview for a graphic design position he really wanted.

His idea? He created a “Hirschy” chocolate bar wrapper that was perfectly tailored to the role. The list of “ingredients” included the graphic programs he’s well-versed in and the end result was simply a perfectly creative way to illustrate his skill set and show that he knows how to go above and beyond.

Sending a thank you note after your interview is essential, but when competition’s fierce, you’d be wise to think about the other ways your follow up can help you stand out.