Extreme Makeover: Job Application Edition

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You tailor the contents of your cover letter and resume to each job you apply for, but have you ever stopped to consider what kind of first impression your application makes?

Recruiters receive stacks of applications, and a few stylistic adjustments can make your resume stand out. From the document layout to your choice of fonts and colours, a little creativity can go a long way in landing that dream job.

Take a look at our six tips to personalize your resume to make sure recruiters crack open your book:

1. Eye-Catching Designs

Think of the design of your resume as you would your interview outfit: before you can wow a recruiter with your qualifications, you need to show them that you can dress the part. But just like your interview outfit, it’s important to make sure your design and layout reflect the job you’re applying for.

Looking to score a job in a creative industry? Your job application is a great canvas to show off your graphic design skills. Have your sights set on a more business-formal environment? Stick to a simpler layout. Regardless of the option you choose, put your best foot forward with a well-structured resume and coordinated letterhead for your cover letter.

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With tons of options to create a unique application layout, it’s easy to choose the right one for you. If you’re a DIY’er, you can try your hand with Photoshop or free, user-friendly sites like logomakr.com. For those who aren’t comfortable starting from scratch, there are hundreds of free, online templates like these ones from hloom.com. You can use them as-is or play with the colour scheme and font to ensure that your design is really different from other applicants. There are even websites like fiverr.com, where talented designers will give your CV a facelift for a reasonable fee: there’s no shame in delegating tasks!

2. Unique Fonts and Colours

This probably goes without saying when it comes to creative layouts, but you can think outside the black-and-white, Times New Roman box. This is another detail that you want to tailor to the job you’re applying for: think of fonts and colour as the accessories to your design and layout interview outfit. You can go for something bright and creative for jobs in communications, media and humanities, but stick to subtle accents for more traditional offices.

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Don’t sacrifice readability for creativity. Your unique fonts should still be legible, and your colour scheme not too overpowering. If you’re opting for a colourful design, keep in mind that there’s room for error in how recruiters will see it. Make sure you know how it looks on a screen, printed in colour, and printed in greyscale.

3. A Personal Tagline

What unique skills do you bring to the table? A personal tagline is an important part of your personal branding and a way to succinctly sum up what you can offer an employer. Think of this as your handshake and introduction: ‘Hi, I’m [name] and I’m a _______________.’ Filling in that blank with the right words will make recruiters want to learn more.

Create two versions of your personal tagline. One, a ‘job title’ should be a three to five word description that could fill in the career section of your LinkedIn profile. The other, a ‘tweet’ style tagline, should sum up your personal brand in one or two sentences (think 140 characters or less).

4. A Professional Profile

If you’ve ever struggled to fit your resume onto one page, you’ve probably silently cursed (or deleted) the ‘Objectives’ section. It can seem like a waste of space; after all, if you’re sending in an application, your objectives can be summed up with ‘getting a job’. However, you can optimize the effectiveness of this space and tell recruiters something they didn’t already know by opting for a Professional Profile instead. This is a written version of your answer to the classic interview question, ‘Tell me about yourself’. It’s a chance to sum up your strongest qualities and put your best foot forward, and writing a concise, well-worded profile can showcase your best attributes to an employer.

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Tailor your professional profile to the job you’re applying for, and make sure it matches up with the work experience you’ve listed on your resume. What skills are particularly important in your intended area of work? Think of it like an essay: your professional profile is the thesis, and each section of your resume is a supporting argument.

5. A Handwritten Signature

The autograph you practiced in the margins of your notebooks seems to have been left behind in the days of online job applications. But a handwritten signature can be a simple, personal touch that reminds recruiters that an actual person sent them a cover letter.

You can draw your signature on your computer with Paint, or use a good old-fashioned piece of paper and a scanner. If you don’t have a scanner at home, apps like Camscanner can turn your phone or tablet into a great substitute. No matter what method you use, save your signature as a JPG file and keep it with the rest of your job application tools.

6. An Online Portfolio

Your online portfolio or professional website can bring together all of your application materials and examples of your past work – like you, it’s the total package! This is a great way to make more information available than would otherwise fit in your resume and cover letter, and present a ‘highlight reel’ of your best work. Especially if you’re applying for media and communications jobs, this is a great way to show and not just tell recruiters that you have web design and social media skills.

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Website hosts like WordPress, Wix and Weebly provide free platforms for your online portfolio, as well as paid subscriptions that you can use to access custom designs and personalized domain names. They’re also user-friendly for the web design rookie and come with tutorials on how to build your perfect portfolio.

A strong professional website or visually appealing resume may help you catch a recruiter’s eye, but at the end of the day, it’s important to send the right message. Know your intended work environment, and choose features that prove you’re a good fit.

Take a look at more resume tips on TalentEgg.

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