Unless you’re Lionel Richie, it’s generally not enough to ask random strangers if it’s you they’re looking for. And unless you’re that marketing student at Waterloo Station, the same usually goes when applying for jobs.

Applications shouldn’t croon. It’s like a thirty second movie trailer – your first challenge is to make any potential employer want to see the feature film!

So for a chance of turning your CV into an interview and maybe even that precious foot in the door, you need to stand out, be memorable, and adopt a few little tricks.

1. Find your focus

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 2. But still feel free to explore

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3. Do your research

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So you’ve thought about what businesses/industries/sectors interest you. Now it’s time to think about why they interest you.

What’s interesting, a good idea, or catches your attention? What do you like about it? Is the company doing something cool or clever or do you think it’s a good learning opportunity?

Make sure you can talk about them coherently and with passion. Include a section on your CV or a line in your cover letter that illustrates your knowledge. Don’t go overboard but show ways you could contribute to the company. All of this makes a massive difference.

4. Think social

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Social media is your greatest job-finding tool. Not only can you discover new roles on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, but you can show off your own skills and interests there too.

Plus, if you want to find out more about a particular sector or speak to someone at the company, look at things like blogs, videos and tweets from employees. It’ll give you a flavour of what it’s like there and if you’ll like it.

You spend more time with your colleagues than with your friends (scary thought, I know) so it’s worth trying to find people you’ll get along with! Find out more about us from our Twitter and Facebook.

5. RTFQ – read the …full… question

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A lot of companies have forms to fill out too. Don’t just copy an answer you’ve used previously. Trust me, it’s often really obvious.

If I had a penny for the number of times I see responses clearly answering a different question or are clearly for a different industry or company entirely, I could fund my own startup.

So at the very least, make sure you’ve spelled the company name right. The less said on that the better. It’s definitely better to do 5 or 10 standout applications than copy/pasting 50.

6. First impressions

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Like above, don’t recycle old cover letters. Don’t send out the same CV a thousand times without tailoring it.

Think about your tone. Avoiding text-speak is generally a good idea but if you’re applying for a job at a startup, is “Dear Sirs” or “To Whom It May Concern” really the first impression you want us to have of you?

Consider your CV’s content. Is your latest work experience doing admin for a manufacturing company more or less relevant than your time spent writing for The Tab?

Turn up on time to interviews (or call well enough ahead if something comes up). Dress the part. You’ve done all that great research, show it off!

Remember though, if you’re just starting you don’t need to be an expert yet. Demonstrating passion for the company, for learning, growing and contributing are often far more likely to get you through the door than trying to swat up and falling short.

 7. No Skill Too Small

You’d be surprised what can be relevant. I talked about being in a school team that made it to the Lego Mindstorms Regionals in my application and now here I am, Head of People Operations… there’s not an obvious link, so clearly it’s the context that matters!

If you have relevant experience it’s easier to make the link clear, but we all have to start somewhere so if you don’t already have that relevant experience, that shouldn’t necessarily be a barrier.

Consider what you’ve done that’s outside the traditional box. Maybe you’ve volunteered regularly, or been involved with sports teams or clubs and societies and taken on positions of responsibility on the committee, or perhaps you had a part-time student job.

The main thing is the context – if you think it’s relevant include it, but make sure it’s clear to employers too!

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