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  • Sophie Keir

How to make your job application stand out


Like many, you may have found yourself swapping Twitter for LinkedIn these past months as you search for a new job. The hunt for a new role is often a full-time job itself, one that can leave your eyes square and your battery drained.

After endless days of job site refreshing, there is nothing quite like the rush that comes with spotting a new listing, even more so when you have found ‘the one’. So, with increasing competition, how do you catch the eye of the employer and land your perfect role?

Standing out via job application is not what it used to be, a throwback to Elle Woods circa 2001 applying for an internship with her CV on scented pink paper (Legally Blonde anybody?). The evolution the internet met with the current global crisis has seen up to ten times as many applications per role. Though this is a sobering statistic, it solidifies the importance of being a standout applicant.

In the past, I have misunderstood what it meant to ‘stand out’. Taking a leaf from Elle Woods’ book I naively thought a visually appealing application was all it took…wrong! Unlike Miss Woods, mine fell short at style over substance. Though a visually appealing CV may get the ball rolling, that is only the start: check out our MD Mike’s tips for what he looks for in an application, scented pink paper not included (though it could help)!

Finding ways to show your personality and remain professional is difficult, especially when trying to stand out against the competition. In my experience sharing your passion and willingness to go the extra mile will serve you well, even if you are unsuccessful in the first-time round a memorable application may lead an employer to think of you when a new position opens. I was lucky enough to experience this when applying to Hydrogen.

My Hydrogen Application

Initially, I heard about an internship opportunity with Hydrogen through GCU: those involved in the marketing society were welcomed to a presentation at the office to discuss an opportunity for a summer internship. Sat in the front row, I intently listened to everything Mike (the MD) and Ciara (Senior Content Manager) had to say. Their genuine enthusiasm and laid-back approach were infectious, made clear by the energy in the room. There was a strong feeling of excitement and competition.

After the presentation, the questions portion led into who Hydrogen’s ideal candidate would be and how to stand out. Mike passed comment on how he had never read a job application that had truly stood out from the rest, my immediate reaction, challenge accepted! Next Mike shared the nugget of information to be mindful of your socials. After all, anyone looking to work in a social marketing agency knows it’s a powerful tool, lightbulb moment!

I decided to use Instagram as the basis for my cover letter, my thoughts behind it:

  • Show a genuine passion and knowledge for social media.

  • Stand out in the application process and share my personality.

  • Be the exception to Mike’s application narrative.

After a handful of failed strategies, here is what I did:

  • Pulled out the best bits of my cover letter such as how my experience fit the role.

  • Created a miniature portfolio of skills I felt reflected the opportunity.

  • Scoured Hydrogen’s socials and website, demonstrating to the team I had done my homework and how I would be a good fit.

  • Pulled it all together in an Instagram account using Hydrogen’s own Instagram as my inspiration.

It was bittersweet when I learned the internship was unable to run due to the pandemic, being the most effort I had ever put into an application. Fast-forward a few months and Ciara at Hydrogen reached out to offer me an interview for a full-time role after my standout application. I was so happy to see my efforts had paid off in choosing to focus on one quality application over multiple half-hearted applications as I had in the past.

Ciara’s Thoughts

Usually when on the lookout for a new member of the team, I’m used to sifting through CV after CV. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some brilliant ones, but nothing has ever caught my attention quite like Sophie’s application. The way she used social to highlight the key points of her cover letter and CV was genius as it allowed us to see her skills in practice, we didn’t need to trust the promises on paper.

Sophie’s Instagram (@sophie_wearehydrogen) was the talk of the office the day she followed us. Her attention to detail was second to none and she displayed knowledge of pretty much every area of Hydrogen – even our inside jokes! This was mega impressive to not only me, but the whole team, and made her stand out in only the best way. That’s my advice to anyone out there who’s currently on the job hunt: do what you can to stand out but do it with thought. Just look where it got Sophie…

Other examples of thinking outside the job in job applications

Here are some more standout applications to inspire you when you find ‘the one’, good luck!