How to level up your job applications

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According to Anna Pitts from the Graduate Recruitment Bureau, seven seconds is all it takes to make a lasting impression. Seven seconds is all a person will need to determine who they think you are as a person and whether they like you! And this applies to meeting someone for the first time either in-person or online. It is crucial to nail first impressions, no matter the occasion.

The same goes for establishing professional relationships or applying for a new job. In the workplace, your application is your first impression. If you fail to submit an application that is appealing to future employers, it can potentially hurt their impression of you — which can lower your odds of getting the job.

This is why it is important to level up your job application. Beyond lists of past jobs and education, your application should show who you are, what skills you possess, and especially why you would make a great addition to this particular team. Throughout the rest of this article are tips to help you spruce up your application and stand out from the rest.

Provide supplemental materials

Be ready to back up any claim you are making on your job application about yourself, your experience, and your skillset. Remember, your goal is to make yourself stand out from other applicants, not remain in line with them.

Provide supporting l materials such as a cover letter, portfolio, and references. Let’s take a closer look at each of these to see how they can be a great addition to your application.

Cover letters

Your cover letter tells the interviewer who you are and what you want to do. It allows you to distinguish yourself through your writing “voice” and makes the case for why you would be a great addition to the team.

A well-penned letter will show off your writing skills as well. Remember, your goal is to stand out. Common verbiage that hiring managers often find in cover letters — such as “moving forward,” “detail-oriented,” “hard-working” — is expected. Yet, use language that is easy to understand, approachable though not informal.

Use the cover letter to show your personality and enthusiasm, while remaining professional. Keep it short and sweet — save the details for the application.


A portfolio is an excellent way to showcase your work. Some applications may even require you to attach a portfolio, so it is best to have one on hand, just in case. Employers want to know they are hiring someone more than capable of doing the job well. Attaching a portfolio to your application provides concrete evidence of your skills.

Today, you may need two versions of your portfolio: A digital version you can attach to your application that the employer can access online, as well as a physical version if you are meeting an employer or submitting the application in-person.

Creating a digital portfolio is ideal for anyone who is applying to multiple jobs and needs to showcase work to many potential employers. Your digital portfolio could include pieces of writing, art, photography, and video.


A quality set of references is one of the best ways to prove you are right for the position. However, you don’t want to ask just anyone to be your reference. Ask trusted individuals who have seen your skills first-hand and can vouch for you. It’s okay to include a mixture of professional and personal references. For example, you can ask:

Personal references are fantastic because they can attest to your character, not just your abilities. (Always remember to politely ask each individual to be your reference and we suggest a thank you letter once they have done so!)

Also, when asking someone to be a reference for you, be sure to specify the type of information you want them to provide. Your reference may need to answer a few questions from a potential employer or write a letter of recommendation.

Tailor your documents

No doubt you possess numerous skills you can apply to many different positions. However, not every skill is relevant to each job. It is important to tailor your application so that it highlights skills and abilities relevant to the position you are applying for.

This work may include tailoring multiple documents, such as your resume, cover letter, and portfolio. To do so, study the job posting carefully, take a fine-tooth comb to your documents, remove irrelevant items and update others that may fit — but using the language the employer used for the role in the job listing.

Despite how many skills you have, it won’t do you any good to mention the skill if it is irrelevant to the job. For example, if you are applying for a position as administrative assistant, you may want to include skills such as “multitasking,” “Microsoft Office,” and “strong written communications.” Even if you have exceptional skills in interior design, for example, it likely won’t help you land the administrative assistant position.

Use the right file formats

Another basic way to enhance your application is to ensure you are applying with the right file formats. Typically, employers are good about communicating how to apply for their job openings. However, in some cases, it can be difficult — especially if the employer requires you to fill out an online application.

Even if your application has all the correct details of your job history, education and skills, it will do you no good if you are using an online platform with slow loading speeds, you include bad graphics, and a messy document that is challenging to read.

Prepare yourself by researching what kinds of documents you will need to upload. Convert your documents into a single file that looks exactly as you intend it to. You can make PDFs from MS Word documents JPGs and other image formats as well, which will ensure they can be “read” as you intended, by any computer system the employer is using. Using digital document software such as Adobe Acrobat is a great way to convert any of your documents (resumes, cover letters, and portfolios) to a digital format that works across operating systems and platforms.

Use proper follow-up etiquette

It is worth understanding the value of a good follow-up. The application process doesn’t end once it is submitted. If you have not heard back within a week of applying, reach out to the hiring manager for an update. You can do this either by phone or email — whichever is more convenient for the hiring manager.

If you do choose to send a follow-up email, be sure to reiterate who you are and what position you are applying for. A follow-up email may look something like this:

Hello [hiring manager’s name],

I hope you’re doing well. I am reaching out to you about the application I submitted on [date you applied for the position] for [name of position]. I am eager to learn more about the opportunity at [company] because I feel my unique skillset will be an asset to the team. I am more than happy to provide any additional information you may need to make a final decision.

I look forward to hearing from you.


[Your name]

If you choose to follow-up with a phone call, be sure to mention who you are, the position you are applying for and why you are calling. Use the email above as basis for a script for a phone conversation. Knowing what you want to say, and having notes with you, can help you feel more confident when calling.

No matter which company you are applying to, and what position you are applying for, you want to do your best to stand out from other applicants. Following the above tips can help. Ultimately, it is up to you to provide an application that allows companies to see just how hirable you are.