You know the drill: You see a job posting, browse the company website, fill out the generic application, and attach your resume.
And then you wait.
Maybe your resume went into a black hole. Maybe it got tossed in a stack of hundreds of other resumes. Or maybe—just maybe—it’ll find its way to the hiring manager’s desk.
But what happens when you find that perfect job—the one where you can’t bear the thought of being just another one of 5,000 resumes tossed a pile? When it really matters to you, is there a way to make sure you stand out from the crowd?
There sure is—it just takes a little extra work and a big dose of creativity. But if you’ve found a job that makes you want to go above and beyond in your application, try one of these unconventional ways to land the interview.
1. Think Outside the White Paper
If you’re in a creative industry or applying to an especially creative company, you don’t have to be confined to a black-ink-on-white-paper resume. Instead, treat your resume like part of your portfolio—something that showcases your skills and originality.
I’ve seen graphic designers turn their resumes into beautifully designed, infographic-style works of art, and marketing and communications professionals create ad campaigns with a tagline on how their skills match the open position. Check out these stunningly creative resumes from 1st Web Desiger or Alyson Shontell's “23 Cool Resumes We Found on Instagram” for everything from graphic art to word clouds to even origami.
This approach obviously isn’t the right fit for every company or position, but it can be a great way to make your resume stand out—literally—from the sea of others out there.
2. Create a Tailored Proposal
Your resume shows the value that you’ve brought to other companies—but what employers really want to know is the value you’ll bring to their company. So try answering that question upfront. Create a presentation that’s all about their specific needs and your ideas to solve them.
For a high-level marketing position I had my eye on, I managed to land an interview by sending in three campaign ideas, complete with ad mock-ups, target segments, and a financial forecast. My interviewer told me the company was impressed with my research, attention to detail, and willingness to start solving problems for the organization—before they’d even called me back!
These types of tailored presentations aren’t just for creative fields, either. If you’re applying for a sales job, send the company a new sales pitch with a forecast for the ROI. If you’re in accounting or operations, take a look at the company’s financials (if they’re publicly held) or the financials of a competitor, and build out a plan to help them reduce their overhead costs or improve their leverage. Wherever your expertise lies, wow them with a specific idea that you could bring to their organization.
3. Put Yourself on Camera
There’s only so much an employer can learn about you on paper, so another strategy to consider is to showcase your abilities with a website or a video. When I was job-hunting from another state, I wanted employers to be able to “meet” me up front, so I made a YouTube video where I talked about my previous experience, gave insights into my industry, and offered a few ideas that I’d like to implement in a future position. I posted this video on my blog, and included the link in my resume and cover emails.
My current managers later told me they decided to call me for an interview because they were so impressed by the creativity, passion, and knowledge demonstrated by my video and blog. Using a unique medium like video lets you show off many sides of you and your talents, and also helps potential employers see how your personality will be a great fit for their organization.
4. Create Your Own Campaign
Finally, some candidates take creativity to a whole new level, submitting their job applications or “resumes” in a completely nontraditional format. One marketing candidate decided to hire a boss, and launched a website with her requirements for a position, organization, and manager. Conventional? No, but her efforts resulted in 26 “applications,” 10 interviews, and a dream job offer.
Or take a look at Margot Leong, a candidate who impressed startup Ridejoy with a quirky presentation that let her showcase the skills and experience they needed most. Not only did she end up with a job, her new employer publicly claimed she’d sent “the best resume ever!”
In all these techniques, the key to success is going for quality over quantity. You just can’t create 20 awesome, highly tailored personal videos. So target a few select jobs you think would be a perfect fit, and focus your efforts there. By going above and beyond in those handful of job applications you really care about, you’ll be on your way to the interview in no time.