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

Jan 5, 2021

It’s no secret that the job market is tough right now—with a large number of highly qualified people looking for work, you have to do everything you can to make your application stand out from the rest. Our leadership team has a few thoughts about what makes a great applicant, 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 in ad agencies or marketing firms 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—and makes them look good! 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 be collaborative and put in the hours, then agency life just isn’t for you. 

Even within the marketing firm and ad agency world, there are big differences in culture from one company to the next. Do a few minutes of research on the company, the services they offer, and their culture to decide whether or not you’d be happy working there. 

The job description was written for a reason. It not only tells you the pertinent details about the role, but it will give you a big clue about whether or not you’ll be a cultural fit for the company. While job sites like LinkedIn and Indeed make it easy to apply to a large number of roles very quickly, you still need to actually read each job description before clicking that “Easily Apply” button. Take it a step further and spend a few minutes on the company’s website—this will not only help you know whether or not you actually want to work for the company you’re applying to, but will help you tailor your resume to the role. 

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. 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 in it 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.
  • 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 aren’t appropriate in a job application. 
  • 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.) 
  • 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 the review process convenient 

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 an 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 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.  

A strong portfolio includes a variety of work. Use examples of your work that apply to the 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 marketing our clients so demonstrating an ability to weave in and out of industries is important. Show off where your piece started along with the final product so we can get an understanding of your process. We also love to see examples of taking something that may not be exciting, and turning it into something beautiful and engaging. Stay tuned for another blog detailing what makes a great online portfolio. 

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.