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How to stand out when applying for a job

By Sanita Alias
Vice-president, People, Culture & Brand

We all experience a sense of anxiety when hitting submit on a job application—it’s virtually universal to wonder if you’ll be noticed amongst countless other candidates. That’s why being able to differentiate yourself is key to succeeding in your job search. For seasoned and new professionals alike, I’m offering advice to help you stand out in a competitive market.

What employers are looking for: key qualities and keywords

Problem solvers are attractive hires when every organization faces challenges from time to time. Employers are always on the hunt for individuals who work hard to find innovative ways to solve problems and take projects to the next level. Exact qualities in the ideal candidate will of course vary from role to role and organization to organization, but it’s important to review job postings’ language and then update your resume accordingly to reflect the keywords that best showcase your corresponding skills. Remember that keywords shouldn’t solely reflect the hard skills you bring to the table but should also provide your prospective employer with a glimpse into how you can contribute overall to an organization’s culture. Before applying anywhere, always do your research and get a sense of an organization’s philosophy. If you feel like you’re the right fit, you can supplement your cover letter and resume with keywords that show off the unique value only you can bring to the table.

Three key tips for landing an interview

1. Tailor your resume to the job

This piece of advice is pretty self-explanatory; look at the job posting and see where your experience overlaps and then tailor your resume accordingly.

2. Apply to roles even if you don’t meet all the requirements

According to a Hewlett Packard report, women don’t apply to job openings unless they meet 100% of the requirements. This is in direct comparison to men, who typically apply to jobs even if only 60% of their qualifications match. No matter how you identify, it’s important to have the essential skills required to perform your job. But, even if you don’t check every box, take the opportunity to explain in a cover letter what you’ll do to overcome any obstacles.

3. Don’t underestimate the cover letter

Cover letters take a lot of work upfront but show your dedication and interest in a role. For communications roles in particular, employers want to see how you write and express yourself. Taking time to write a good cover letter is a definite way to sell yourself, stand out and set yourself apart from other candidates.

The power of building connections

Every interaction you have—whether inside or outside of your organization—is an opportunity to connect. Industry connections are essential, and you never know what networking connection may come in handy one day, or where a coffee chat may lead. At CIRA, our number one tool for recruitment is employee referrals followed closely by a look at LinkedIn profiles to verify the applicant’s credibility. Although it can be intimidating—and doesn’t always lead somewhere— networking can increase exposure in your job hunt and open doors to unique career opportunities you may not have otherwise had.

Securing a spot at CIRA

Job applications can be onerous and time consuming, so CIRA works to keep our application process short and sweet. This has been done intentionally so that you can take the time needed to tailor your resume and cover letter. Our application process has been streamlined with just a few answers to yes or no questions and a spot to upload your documents—that’s it! We review all applications and if you seem like a good fit, we reach out for a brief phone screening followed by a face-to-face interview.

If you score an interview, congratulations! You’ve won half the battle. During the interview stage, we’re looking for people who are aligned with our values and mission to build a trusted internet for Canadians. Here’s where researching the organization comes back into play. This is an important step in presenting yourself as a strong candidate for any job. In the interview, remember to be genuine and authentic—being uniquely yourself will set you apart! Additionally, always ask questions—they show your interest and desire to make the right decision about working here. Finally, express how you’ll raise the bar and what you’ll do to elevate our organization.

Persistence pays

In the end, searching for a job and standing out among other talented individuals like yourself is no walk in the park. If you’ve been applying lately to no avail, don’t be discouraged! CIRA is a dynamic organization with lots of positions, so keep applying to roles that suit your skillset best. Our organization is constantly evolving, so if there isn’t a role at CIRA that fits now, there may be one suited for you later. Ask yourself if CIRA (or the organization you’re applying to) is really where you want to work and if it is, take the initiative to reach out and form connections. Apply and apply again. If you’re truly passionate about something, like building a trusted internet for Canadians, this determination will set you apart from the crowd and will eventually pay off.

About the author
Sanita Alias

Sanita Alias is the vice-president of people, culture, and brand at CIRA, where she ensures the organization is living its values internally and communicating them externally. Sanita is a trusted HR business leader with a focus on developing talent and inspiring change.