So you’ve seen an ad for an internship or other opportunity and you’re about to send through the traditional CV and covering letter, but you’re wondering how you can distinguish your application from all the other applications (sometimes hundreds!) that the organisation will receive. It’s a tough one, and there are no hard and fast rules about what works and what doesn’t – if you ask 10 employers “What makes a CV really stand out for you?” you’ll get 10 different answers.
Some employers tell us that if they receive a CV on coloured paper they see it as a gimmick and it’ll be straight in the bin. Some like a more imaginative approach, as long as it is thoughtfully tailored to the job/organisation in question. One senior executive from a NW-based media company told students at a careers event we ran yesterday that he had recently selected a guy for a marketing job because he had sent as part of his application a video outlining his ideas for the marketing the business. However, if his ideas had been poor or the video itself had been badly executed, then his application would be the first target of the employer’s ‘delete” button.
So if you’re going to go out on a limb and do something different, make sure you do it well! Just because you’re doing something different it doesn’t mean you can relax the quality of your application in terms of content and structure. In fact, you may need to work extra hard at producing something top notch, as you’re asking the recruiter to be open-minded. For some people, a less risky way of distinguishing themselves is just to produce a really high quality targeted ‘traditional’ application with concrete evidence of the skills and experience that the employer is asking for and a clear passion for the area of work.
Finally, think about the ethos or culture of the organisation you are targeting. A very off-the-wall ‘social media’ approach may not go down so well with a very traditional organisation; a traditional CV and covering letter might work better. It’s horses for courses.