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6 ways to solve the big problem both employers and candidates face

Every week, we bring you hints, tips, and practical ideas to help you market your business more successfully.

This week, marketing is still on the agenda but we’re considering how you market yourself.

Specifically, for a job.

Even if you’re not looking for a new role, please hear us out. Hopefully, there’s something you can pass on to someone you know or, if you’re an employer, there are some useful nuggets for you too.

So, this week’s blog:

  • Starts by explaining a fundamental problem that both candidates and employers need to deal with
  • Reveals our six top tips to help candidates solve this problem
  • Finishes with three stories of people who stood out from the crowd (often employing unusual tactics) when they applied to The Yardstick Agency and are now key members of our team.

Before we go any further, I’d like to add a disclaimer.

The ideas in this week’s blog are based on our experience as an employer. Not everyone will agree with them and we’re absolutely open to challenges. It’s just our attempt to use our experience to help both potential candidates and existing employers.

Please take it in the spirit it’s intended.

You need to stand out from the crowd

While we advertise all our current vacancies on our website, it’s LinkedIn and Indeed that provide us with most of our applicants.

Every day, we follow the same process:

  • Log into the two jobs boards
  • Review CVs and download those that we think show promise
  • Review those CVs in more detail and invite candidates for an interview.

There’s a problem though – the sheer number of CVs that are submitted for each job.

To give that some context, here are the number of CVs we’ve had on LinkedIn for key roles over the past 12 months.

  • Digital copywriter: 787
  • Website designer and developer: 184
  • Personal finance copywriter: 520
  • Marketing executive: 245.

There are hundreds more on Indeed.

The issue occurs because LinkedIn and Indeed make it so easy to apply for jobs. Just a couple of clicks and your CV is in front of a potential employer.

That might sound good on the face of it, but it causes a significant problem for both employers and candidates.

For employers, it means we have hundreds of CVs to screen. Finding great candidates can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Plus, it often means that candidates don’t provide the things we ask for in our advert.

For candidates, the sheer volume of CVs makes it hard to stand out from the crowd.

So, if you’ve just seen your dream job online, how do you stand out from the crowd and help a potential employer notice you? Here are six things to consider.

6 ways to stand out from the crowd

We’ve previously written about 5 ways to stand out from the crowd if you’re a job applicant.

That’s nearly two years old now and the world of work has moved on. So, based on our experiences, here are six more ways you (or someone you know) can stand out from the crowd when applying for a job.

#1: Don’t send your CV through a job board

As we’ve shown, we have hundreds of CVs to wade through for every job. It’s probably a similar story for other employers. Adding your CV to the list does nothing to help you stand out.

Instead, find a different way to get your CV in front of an employer:

  • Email it directly to the person responsible for hiring
  • Send it as a direct message on LinkedIn
  • Put it in the post (scroll down to discover the unique way Dan Campbell, our Head of Branding, did this back in 2017).

#2: Give an employer what they ask for

We ask candidates to send us three things:

  • Their CV
  • A covering letter
  • Examples (if available) of their work.

All our job adverts carry the following note, placed prominently near to the top: “We don’t mean to be boring, but we will only consider applications that provide a CV, a covering letter, and examples of your writing/work. Scroll to the bottom for more information.”

Despite this, we rarely get all three things. If pushed, I’d say it was less than 5% of the time.

So, stand out by reading the full advert then giving an employer exactly what they ask for.

#3: Give your CV an eye-catching name

We download all promising CVs into an electronic folder. From there, we review each one carefully before deciding whether to invite the candidate for an interview.

The CVs are usually saved with the applicant’s name or simply “CV”. That’s entirely logical but it’s a missed opportunity to catch our attention.

Instead, consider giving your CV a file name that makes it stand out when we scroll down those we’ve downloaded. It’s the modern-day equivalent of printing it on coloured paper. And, while it will only take a few seconds to do, it’ll certainly show you’ve thought about it.

Even simply “CV for The Yardstick Agency” will help.

But, feel free to get more inventive!

#4: Record a video telling us why you want the job

If you’re applying for a role that involves copywriting, then sending a letter makes sense. It’s a chance to show off. And, as we said, hardly anyone does it.

But, if it’s a more creative role or one that doesn’t need copywriting skills, why not go one better than a letter and record a video to explain why you’re interested in the role? Applications such as Loom make this very easy.

It only takes a few minutes to record something that will make an instant connection with us and will certainly stand out from the crowd.

#5: Make your CV scannable

Employers will thank you (and you will increase your chances of being noticed) if you make your CV scannable.

There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Push your relevant experience to the top of the CV
  • Use subheadings to ensure your key points stand out. For example: “Relevant experience” could become “5 years experience with WordPress”
  • Spend as much time on your CV design as you do the words
  • Think about the length of your CV – we’ve had some that are five pages long!
  • Include feature sections to draw an employer’s attention to key sections of your CV
  • Use graphics to demonstrate your proficiency in key areas (two examples are shown below).

#6: Engage with a potential employer on social media

Almost all employers will have some form of social media presence. Candidates can use this to their advantage:

  • Connect with both the personal and corporate accounts
  • Get an employer’s attention by liking and sharing their posts or adding comments
  • Learn more about the employer by reading their posts and then referring to them in your application.

Very few candidates do this, but it genuinely works. Employers will notice the activity and then join the dots when they see the person’s CV.

One final tip

We know that applying for jobs can be soul-destroying.

We’ve been there just like you.

But, if we could make an extra suggestion, consider quality over quantity. Despite us using filtering questions on both LinkedIn and Indeed, we still get a significant number of CVs from people who don’t meet the basic requirements of the role. It’s unfortunate, but they are never going to get past the initial screening.

So, instead of a “batch and blast” approach, consider spending more time on fewer applications:

  • Carefully read the employer’s requirements and give them everything they need
  • Write a covering letter (or record a video) that’s specific to the role you’re applying for
  • Tailor your CV to the role
  • Follow up (we get very few follow-up emails or calls after a CV has been submitted)
  • In your video or letter, explain why you want to work for the employer, what you offer, and deal with any difficulties. For example, if the role requires some commitment to work in an office, but you live 50 miles away, explain how you will deal with that challenge.

Proof that standing out from the crowd works

We now have a team of 40 people. Over the years, we’ve seen some great examples of candidates working hard to stand out from the crowd.

We thought we’d share three examples to give you some inspiration.

#1: Dan Campbell, Head of Branding and Design

Early in 2017, we were looking for a graphic designer to join our team.

Adverts went up online and we started to screen the candidates. Then, one day, a strange parcel arrived in the office. It was a long wooden tube with an A4 envelope attached. I tore open the tube and an old school yardstick fell out. Intrigued, I opened the envelope and, inside, was Dan’s CV.

The rest is history.

Dan and I met, he was exactly what we needed, and we offered him the role. Five years later, Dan is now Head of Branding and Design and owns 10% of the business.

The yardstick was a great way to stand out and it still has pride of place in our office.

#2: Michael Walters, personal finance copywriter

Back in June 2020, we needed to recruit a copywriter for our content team. Again, the advert went up online and CVs poured in.

At the time, only a couple of us were working from the office and, like most cities, Nottingham was still very quiet. So, we were surprised when one day the door buzzer went and Michael was at the door asking if he could talk to us about the job.

Over to Michael to explain more: “When I sent my CV into Yardstick, I was a bit worried that I might not have as much experience as other applicants since I was a fresh graduate. I wanted to show that I was enthusiastic, so I decided to go and speak to them in person since the worst thing they could have said was no.”

“I explained that while I might not have a large portfolio, I was keen to prove myself and so they gave me a trial article to write. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the best piece of writing in the world, but it helped me to demonstrate how much I wanted this job!”

We hired Michael for the role and nearly two years on he’s an integral member of our content team.

#3: Abi Robinson, marketing executive

At the end of 2021, we decided that we needed someone to drive our own marketing forward. As usual, we had a large number of applicants and started the process of screening them.

Abi won’t mind me saying that we had CVs from people with (on the face of it, at least) more experience. However, Abi put huge care and attention into her application. The covering letter was tailored perfectly to the role and she’d even changed her portfolio to include Yardstick’s brand colours.

Abi’s application made us feel that she was passionate about working for us and really wanted the job.

Over to Abi: “The job description asked candidates to provide a portfolio of previous work. To stand out, I incorporated the Yardstick font and brand colours.

“Then, in readiness for the interview, I considered what Yardstick needed to know about me and used bullet point notes to help me avoid scripted answers. This allowed me to evidence my skills/experience without masking my personality.

“Before the interview, I researched Yardstick, which affirmed that I wanted to work here and proved my investment in the role at interview. If you aren’t interested in getting to know the employer, why should they be interested in you?

“After the interview, I also asked if there was anything else I could provide to strengthen my application. An 800-word blog and three social media posts later, I was offered the job!”

We can already demonstrate the value that Abi has brought to us and are excited about where she will take our marketing in the months and years to come.

We hope this has helped

If you’re looking for a new role, we hope this week’s blog has given you some ideas to help you stand out, while also sharing an employer’s perspective.

If you’re an employer, we’d love to hear your thoughts:

  • Do you face the same issues we do?
  • How do you find the right candidates?
  • What can we learn from you?

If you’re neither, please feel free to share the blog with anyone you think it can help.

Ready to stand out? We’re currently advertising four roles:

  • Marketing executive
  • Digital copywriter
  • Personal finance copywriter
  • Web designer and developer.

Find out more details and apply today.

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