Like a Sore Thumb
There are many ways a person might stand out from the crowd. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Depending on the way you choose to stand out, though, sometimes it’s not. When you’re a candidate competing for a job, your experience and qualifications are the things that should differentiate you from your competition. Not gimmicks.
Far too often, I’ve read well-intentioned pieces of advice about creative and unique ways to stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs, and today I’d like to tell you why you shouldn’t follow any of them.
The most common piece of bad advice I see is to mail your resume instead of emailing or submitting online like everyone else. This is a bad idea, for a host of reasons. If a job posting asks for resumes to be submitted in a certain way, and you do it differently, the risk is that I’ll assume you either can’t follow directions or don’t care about them in the first place. Neither is good. From a practical perspective, this also makes it very difficult to file your resume in a usable way because nobody keeps hard copy resume files anymore. I’d have to scan it before saving it, and I’m almost definitely not going to. Proponents of mailing resumes also often suggest using differently-coloured paper, or a thicker grade of paper to make it stand out even more. I’m sorry to break it to you, but all of this is nothing more than a costly waste of your time.
I’ve also seen advice recommending job-seekers should deliver their resume in a creative way. Packaged with a treat, or some item related to the company you’re applying to, along with something clever written on a card to introduce it. I’ve been on the receiving end of this strategy a few times, and I know I’m not alone when I say that no matter how clever, it comes off feeling like a bribe … or worse, desperate.
Too many books and articles tell job-seekers that a creative, eye-catching resume design is the sure-fire way to get them a second look. This is almost never the case. No matter how you deliver your resume, it is a professional document – not unlike a report you might deliver to your boss at work. Would you use a funky, unconventional font (I’m looking at you, Comic Sans), swirly graphic elements, photos, or art to dress up a report like that? If you’re in a creative design industry and job, probably so, so have at it. If not, keep your design consistent with your job.
Last piece of bad advice for today: calling to talk to the person who posted a job. Unless the post specifically says, ‘feel free to call with any questions!’, don’t. Some traditional employment counsellors say that this will help you stand out from the crowd; that you’ll come across as self-motivated, with an impressive ‘take the bull by the horns’ initiative. It won’t. You’ll come across as pushy, lacking the ability to follow directions, and more concerned about your time than mine.
If you think the job is a good fit, put your best resume and cover letter together and apply. If your application is a good one, you’ll end up talking to the company without the tricks, I promise.
Let your experience and qualifications set you apart from the crowd. Don’t let gimmicks leave you sticking out like a sore thumb.