By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.

How To Make Your Resume Stand Out (for the Right Reasons)

Mar 1, 2024

It’s no secret that the job market has been volatile over the past decade. Forbes reported that 2023 ended on a high note for job seekers, but we enter 2024 with this fate uncertain. With job sites like Indeed and LinkedIn making it easy for applicants to click “apply,” it also can make you look generic and somewhat uninterested. 

In order to stand out from the crowd—just like a great marketing campaign can do for a brand—we recommend that you take the time to make your application be the solution to the company’s problem. Our leadership team has a few thoughts about what makes a great candidate, and the missteps that will take you out of the running instantly. 

If you want to join our team (who wouldn’t?), read on to learn what we’re looking for.

Know What You’re Looking for (and What You’re Applying for)

If you haven’t worked at a marketing agency or an in-house marketing department before, you might have Mad Men-inspired ideas about what goes on behind our doors. It might come as a surprise, but no one wants to work with Don Draper. He’s an asshole. Seriously, if you watched Mad Men and your takeaway was “I want to be just like that guy,” then you weren’t paying attention.

While we wish our day consisted of sipping martinis and dreaming up the next big Coca-Cola campaign, in reality, marketing agency life is all about bringing ideas to the table, collaborating with a team, and, ultimately, delivering work that the client wants—makes them look good, and gets results! If your goal is to be the star of the show, if you refuse to budge from your ideas, if you can’t take feedback, or if you’re not willing to put in the work, then agency life just isn’t for you.

Alignment with Company Culture

Even within the marketing world, there are big differences in culture from one company to the next. We recommend spending the time to research the company, the services they offer, and, more importantly, their culture to decide whether or not you’d be happy working there. If you find that your personal core values align with the potential employer’s core values, it’s a good indication that this is your ideal work environment, and you’ll want to make the best impression possible.

Please Make an Impression!

This might sound obvious, but your application is your first impression—make it count. An attention-grabbing application will showcase not only your qualifications, but also a bit of your personality and your interest in the position and company as well. 

Your application should consist of a cover letter, resume, and portfolio (where applicable). Detail is everything. We can tell the difference between an application that was carefully crafted versus one that took five minutes (or five seconds) to throw in an email. Taking the extra few minutes to tailor and proofread your application shows us you’re actually interested in the position.

Here are some “Do’s”

  • Learn how to actually write and properly format a letter. Emails are letters, and should be formatted as such—especially when you’re sending an initial inquiry.
  • Spell check—and don’t just assume your software will catch your mistakes. We shouldn’t have to say this, but spell the company name and contact’s name correctly. We get a lot of candidates interested in working at Piper. We’re not sure who that is. 
  • Take the time to learn something about the company you are applying to and reference it in your cover letter or email—it shows you have interest.
  • No matter what position you apply for, include samples of your work. If you’re applying for a creative or content position, a portfolio link is absolutely essential. And always be honest as to what your role was in creating this work—do not try to pass off work as your own if it’s not—this makes you untrustworthy. 
  • If you are a new graduate, tell us about your major’s classes and relevant jobs/internships that have prepared you for a position at a marketing agency.

Here are some “Don’ts”:

  • Don’t use the same cover letter or resume you used for another application, especially without triple checking that you’ve updated the company name through the whole resume. We don’t love reading cover letters and resumes about how much you want to work at another marketing agency. 
  • Don’t assume gender or marital status. Kelly is not “Mr. Pyper,” and doesn’t like being addressed as such. Lindsay wants to know why someone addressed her as “Mrs. Petty,” who is her mother. 
  • Don’t use emojis. Again, we can’t believe we have to say this, but emojis really aren’t appropriate in a job application, even though we 🩷 them. 
  • Don’t include your headshot unless you’re an actor trying to get an audition. (We’re not a casting agency, so we don’t need one.) On the other hand, make sure you have a recent photo of yourself on your LinkedIn bio. 
  • Don’t tell us how great your grades were in college, that you’re a pro in Excel (Pivot tables? Macros? You will be tested!), or that you’ve got a mean backhand. Share things that will impress us and qualify you for the role (note: we’re a bunch of smart, spreadsheet geeky, non-tennis players) and you best not exaggerate. While we’re at it, don’t name drop unless you know that we know that person.

Make Sure Your Resume Matches the Job Description

The job description was written for a reason. It not only tells you the pertinent details about the role including skills and experience desired, but also what you’ll be responsible for. Tailor your resume to match the job description. And if you’re under or over qualified, explain in the cover letter why you are applying anyway. Demonstrate that you've read the job description to make it easy for the employer to move you ahead to the interview phase.

Make the Review Process Convenient 

Even in a market geared towards job seekers, we tend to receive a lot of resumes for our open positions. Grabbing our attention and differentiating yourself is the first step. Proving to us that you’re the right person for the job is the second, and most important step. We’re just as excited to receive a qualified application as you are to send it. That said, if your application is messy, half-assed, or includes irrelevant content, we’re pretty likely to jump to something else that requires our attention. 

When you send us an application, always opt for a PDF over a Word doc. Don’t forget to include a link to your online portfolio with your application—don’t clutter someone’s inbox with huge attachments of your work. 

Include Your Portfolio

A strong portfolio includes a variety of work. Use examples of your work that apply to the marketing role you’re interested in and show what you can do in a variety of applications. We’re intentionally not niche when it comes to our clients, so demonstrating an ability to weave in and out of a variety of industries is important. Again, clarify what your role/responsibility was on your portfolio projects—don’t pretend you were the CD if you were the AC. 

And once again, for the love of all that is good in this world, proofread everything.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Things can get pretty busy around here, which may delay a response to your application. If it’s been a couple weeks, don’t hesitate to send a follow-up email. Not only does this get you back at the top of our inboxes, but it also tells us you are serious about your application.

Follow up becomes doubly important if you’ve gone through an interview. It’s always a good idea to show appreciation for the interview opportunity as well as the time the interviewer took out of their day to meet with you—and thank you messages from interviewees tend to stand out in our minds. 

Good luck! 

We hope these resume tips and advice will guide you in your job hunt, whether it brings you to us at Pyper, Inc. or elsewhere. Put together a great application package, remain confident in yourself and your work. You never know where the next great idea will come from.