“Is there anything I can do to stand out to employers?”

You’ve made hundreds of applications but not received call backs. You feel you meet enough of the core criteria but still had no luck and you’re wondering if you need to add additional certifications, tools or other credentials to get noticed. 

These problems can be especially difficult for new graduates. In my experience, the biggest issue with reviewing job applications is that they are so generic that it’s difficult to tell candidates apart, or the person looks like a complete mismatch for the role. 

The hiring manager looking at your applications is probably wading through a lot of them on top of their normal workload and doesn’t have long to decide if you are suitable or not. 

So, if you want to stand out I would say the easiest way is to SHOW that you are a good match.

Critically look at your application and ask if a bleary-eyed manager who woke up early to assess 50 applications (for the 2nd or 3rd day in a row) ahead of their normal work day is going to be able to identify that you’re a good fit.

The better the match you are to the role, the more effort you should put into the cover letter (or the short descriptive paragraph at the top of a CV if there’s no cover letters) and tailor your CV to highlight the skills and experience they’re looking for – draw them out if needed – even embolden the skills, tools and experience so it literally stands out! 

You don’t need to necessarily tailor your CV to every single job, but let’s say your find that there’s two main roles you keep applying for:

  1. The first is for roles that ask for specific skillsets like SQL and PowerBI. For these roles, I would have my descriptive paragraph or cover letter mention in the second or third sentence that “I’ve worked a lot with SQL and PowerBI” – hit those keywords! Then depending on the layout of the CV I would also highlight the words SQL and PowerBI in every role where I used them.
  2. Maybe the second set of roles relate a lot to data cleaning, preparation and quality control. Then in the second or third sentence of descriptive paragraph or cover letter, I’d again hit these keywords eg. “I really enjoy the process of cleaning and organising messy datasets” and throughout the previous roles, highlight what about those roles involved cleaning and prepping data.

For new graduates without work experience, look VERY carefully at the projects you’ve done and treat them each as roles you’ve had. Project based work is a valuable source of relevant experience.

I hope you’ll see that the same person applying to one of these two role-types but with a CV that only vaguely describes “data analysis tasks” and “modern database and business intelligence software” probably has little chance of standing out if 100 applications say the same thing.

Maybe you’ll use a combination of the two approaches above to create 2 or 3 variations of your CV, but the idea here is that in a sea of applications, you want these things to stand out to the hiring manager in a way that says “I meet these requirements and am worth considering further”. You want to make it easier for them to make the connection between your application and their needs, and not to have to dig around or make assumptions about how you might match the role. Once you make that shortlist, there’ll be more attention paid to your specific experience and potential.

If you’d like to see some notes while reviewing some CVs for a Data Analyst position, you can find them at Hiring a data analyst.

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