4 Things Great Candidates Include in a Job Application That Good Candidates Don’t

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Mary Despe83
Recruiter, Advisor, Writer, Presenter.

If you’ve been gainfully employed at some point in your career, it’s likely you’ve worked with a recruiter. While there are different kinds of recruiters in the marketplace, they all seem to have something in common. Recruiters find, interview and recommend professionals who appear to be an ideal match for roles at a company. Often seen as a gatekeeper of the hiring process, recruiters join hiring managers and others involved in the selection of a hire.
Though they play a key role in facilitating which candidates make it through the process successfully, recruiters collaborate with the decision-makers in determining who ultimately gets an offer.

As I’ve had the privilege of working in the profession for close to 20 years, I’ve noticed that the qualities that are held in high esteem often vary from company to company. For example, some organizations embrace the years of industry experience a person has while others value whether another has the track record of promotions within the ranks of a previous employer. While the ultimate decision to extend offers is made by hiring managers and executives, I’ve observed that the candidates who move forward in the interview process pay specific attention to their online job applications. They focus on the fine details with as much attention as they do incorporate powerful language that speaks to their qualifications and experiences.  

Here are four things in a job application that set great candidates apart from the good and qualified.

1. The application is complete and follows directions. 

While this seems like a no-brainer, applications that are both complete and provide the requested information are not as common as you think. With technology allowing candidates to apply to job boards and postings on company websites within a few mouse clicks, the data transferred from resume to online system are often found with errors or are incomplete from the parsing process. 

Great candidates not only take the extra time to review what’s popping up in their online record but also correct any missteps in critical fields that show up on the application or profile. This is a critical move, as recruiters and others involved in the hiring process often conduct searches for talent based on keywords that are found in relevant fields on a profile or application. They search for those meeting criteria for key roles stored within records of their applicant tracking systems, even if the candidates hadn’t applied specifically to a role. 

By providing complete information and following up with the details requested by the company, those intimately tied to the hiring process can easily find your profile.

2. The application tells a story to show why they’ve applied to this role.

Typically, job seekers meet a potential employer only after they’ve put forth a portfolio that impresses. This task is difficult for many, as it relies on clear and persuasive storytelling through written or visual materials, such as a resume, initially. In most cases, a candidate gets to speak with a representative directly only if the application suggests the potential to make an impact through the experiences and track record that will benefit the company. In general, those who show examples of this in the key areas essential to the new position are likely to move forward over those whose stories are a little more difficult to connect. The career progression to the role should be clear and seem like a natural next step. 

3. The application shows the likelihood they’ll be a standout performer. 

As career and resume coaches everywhere advise job seekers to use powerful action verbs when describing their abilities, those who consistently perform among the top achievers in an organization suggest that they deserve another look. It’s not limited to a track record of achievement; rather, top performers typically engage in habits that lead to their winning ways.  

For example, applications of standout candidates may reveal the commitment to life-long learning or personal development. These candidates continually work on improving themselves and building upon their expertise because they desire this growth; there’s typically no need for others to tell them to work on this.

4. The application reflects a professional and polished presentation. 

How a job seeker markets themself to a prospective employer is an important detail.  Unfortunately, many candidates forget this when submitting their job applications. Today social media and messaging platforms promote the informality of language; quite often, job applications reveal a casual tone, with run-on sentences, poor grammar and punctuation dominating the communication. Great candidates know that the way they communicate should align across all platforms in a clear and effective manner, matching standards deemed congruent with the company’s brand and expectations. 

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice on making a job application go from good to great? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!


This article was written by a Fairygodboss contributor.

Mary Despe is a Recruitment Consultant based on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. When she’s not helping companies build high-performing teams, Mary enjoys working with professionals to attract the opportunities they want by developing authentic and compelling narratives to advance their careers.  Connect with her through LinkedIn or through her company website at mkdespeconsulting.com