Digital Design Career Advice: How to Stand Out in the Job Search

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Modeling a resume after an Amazon product page. Mailing a job application attached to a shoe “to get a foot in the door.” Singing the answers to interview questions.

These are all real tactics that some job seekers have taken to stand out from the crowd. If you’ve been searching for a new position for a prolonged period, you might be tempted to follow their lead and go to extreme lengths. While an over-the-top approach can work if executed perfectly, be aware that for every wacky stunt that leads to a job offer, there are countless others that fall flat.

Instead of trying a risky stunt, here are some proven (and less risky) ways you can set yourself apart during key stages of the hiring process:

When Applying for a Design Job: Be Specific About Your Skills

Despite the emergence of infographic and video resumes, the traditional resume still remains the go-to document for corporations and agencies. One problem, however, is certain resume buzzwords and phrases have become overused to the point that hiring managers read right over them. Employers are so accustomed to hearing from “team players” and “self-starters,” those terms have become essentially meaningless.

Shoot ’em straight. Separate yourself from your competitors by cutting the clichés – or at least expanding upon them with concrete details that back up your claims. For example, all designers need to solve creative problems, so calling yourself a “problem solver” won’t exactly broaden an employer’s understanding of what you bring to the table.

Show, don’t tell. Likewise, there’s no need to note that you’re a “hard worker.” Employers assume that you – and every other job candidate – will work hard if hired. Instead, outline how you’ve gone the extra mile. Have you successfully managed several high-profile projects simultaneously? Do you always meet your deadlines despite how aggressive they are? Have you received recognition from colleagues and clients because of your strong work ethic? Do you volunteer for assignments outside your job description?

Distinguish yourself. Add even more punch to your resume by pairing it with a customized cover letter. Many of your fellow job hunters falsely believe the cover letter has gone the way of 8-tracks and typewriters. They’re wrong. And that means submitting one is an easy way to set yourself apart.

During the Interview: Prove You’ve Done Your Research

Land a job interview? Congrats! Now, start doing your homework. Closely review the employer’s website and any marketing materials you can get your hands on. The goal is to learn as much as possible about the company, including its mission, leaders, culture and competitors. Search online for news stories about the firm and ask members of your network to share any information they have. Following the company on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook can yield valuable insights, too.

You can use those details to ask highly-informed questions. (“I read your firm recently landed XYZ Corp. as a client. How will that impact the interactive designers on staff?”) You might also weave the beyond-the-basics information you’ve uncovered into your answers. For instance, you could slip in a mention of design awards the firm has won or that you’re interested in the work they do to support a particular nonprofit organization. Doing so will set you apart from less-prepared interviewees.

After the Interview: Promptly Say Thanks

Following up an interview with a carefully crafted thank-you note is a savvy move because many people forget this step. It’s not only good etiquette, it also gives you an opportunity to reiterate your interest in the position and remind the interviewer of a few of your most pertinent selling points. Tailor your note by referencing something from your conversation with the potential employer, such as your shared love of chai lattes.

With tough competition in the job market, you need to differentiate yourself throughout each phase of the hiring process. By following the advice in this article, you can leave employers with a positive impression that improves your chances of securing the job. No resume-attached-to-a-shoe required.

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