How to Use Creativity to Your Advantage During the Job Search
Every person has read a book, watched a movie, or listened to a story that kept them fully immersed and captivated. You can easily name the books, movies, or stories that did just that for you—provoking a meaningful emotional response is the key to imprinting on human memory.
Although a hiring manager certainly isn’t reading your cover letter or resume for fun, you want to use creativity to keep their attention. Of all the people you want to be interested in your story, the hiring manager is top of the list! Let your creative juices flow to create a masterpiece. Be careful, though—a resume requires a different type of creativity from artistic works like books and movies. Not sure how to be creative with your resume or cover letter? Consult a resume expert for help!
What makes something memorable?
There are two key components to making something memorable: the content and the delivery. If both of these are present in your resume, cover letter, and interview, you can leave a lasting impression and (hopefully) land the job.
Of course, the information is what’s most important. If you don’t have anything interesting to say, then it doesn’t matter how you try to present it. Your content must be high quality. A story needs an interesting plot; a resume needs a logical construction. You should have most or all of the skills required for the job, as well as valuable work experience and education that make you a qualified candidate. If the content is present, then you can focus on the delivery.
Once you have the content, you’re ready to determine the delivery method. This is when you need to put yourself in others’ shoes and think about how you can present the content in a way that will compel people to want more. When delivering your content, the goal is to make it memorable—if your audience immediately forgot what you said, your delivery method wasn’t effective. Leave a lasting impression by delivering your content in an unforgettable way.
How do you do that? It’s all about triggering an emotional response, and with a job application, you’re aiming to make an impression on the hiring manager. Impress them with your professionalism, organization, attention to detail, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the company.
A captivating cover letter
Your cover letter allows you to take a little more creative liberty than your resume affords. Not every hiring manager will read your cover letter, but you should always include one unless the job description specifically instructs you otherwise. Not only does attaching a cover letter prove your enthusiasm and willingness to go above and beyond, but it’s also a valuable opportunity to provide more important information about yourself. It could also be the tiebreaker between you and a similarly qualified applicant.
If you can capture the hiring manager’s attention immediately with your cover letter, you can get them to spend more time on your resume. Tell professional stories in your cover letter, but keep it brief: Remember that you only have one page to squeeze in all the details. If you present your cover letter as a story, the hiring manager will be more willing to read it. What kind of stories can you tell?
- A story about accomplishing a notable career goal
- A story about what made you keen to pursue this career
- A story about overcoming obstacles to advance in your career
- A story that highlights your strongest traits
Stories like these can greatly enhance your cover letter and show the hiring manager your passion and drive. If you can captivate them with the cover letter, they will be itching to flip the page to read your resume. Start with a strong hook that gets them interested in your story, then continue with powerful storytelling that concisely communicates what you want while keeping the hiring manager glued to the page.
A riveting resume
Going from a captivating cover letter to a riveting resume can be difficult. Most resumes are dry and stiff, but they don’t have to be. Yes, a resume is rather boring by nature, and there are certain requirements for it, such as specific sections and proper formatting. However, there is definitely room for creativity.
The first place to demonstrate your creativity is your career summary. This shouldn’t be merely a list of qualifications—it should reflect your personality. Your career summary is an opportunity to make yourself more personable and relatable while offering a solid overview. Look at this example of a creative career summary:
I am a software engineer who enjoys making people’s lives easier by creating applications that enhance the quality of their work. I enjoy the tedious details that most people overlook because the fine details are important. My commitment to stay dedicated to a job until it’s finished pays off when people are satisfied.
This doesn’t feel stiff—you’re incorporating your qualifications in a way that’s pleasant to read. You want to make a strong impression, not only with your accomplishments but also with the way you present them, which can sometimes say more than the words themselves.
You can also apply this technique to your accomplishments within the work experience section. You can’t make them as long as your career summary, but you can still personalize them a bit.
An inspirational interview
If your cover letter and resume secure you an interview, then you get the opportunity to truly showcase your creativity. Hiring managers want a candidate who is just as intriguing in person as they appear on their resume. An interview unfolds in a strictly professional setting, but you can still share stories that reveal your personality and showcase your professional development. If you can pull this off, you’ll come across as interesting, charismatic, and personable, which will give you a decisive advantage over the competition.
First, as you begin to prepare your story, think about the job requirements. You want to provide a story that showcases your relevant qualifications. The job requirements tell you what the hiring manager is looking for, so use them to weave a gripping story.
All stories have a problem or a challenge for the protagonist to overcome, so next, state the problem that required your skill. If it wasn’t so much a problem as an opportunity, just work with the framing to turn it into an interesting narrative. In case you can provide specifics, such as numbers, do so (but don’t divulge another company’s confidential information!). Numbers add an extra element of realism to your skills and story.
Finally, show how you handled and solved the problem. Hiring managers are interested in your approach to problems and the way you solve them. It’s helpful to include surprise elements, such as obstacles along the way or a result that exceeded your expectations. Plot twists are a key element of great storytelling. Either way, clearly demonstrate your ability to solve problems.
Make sure to have your stories ready before the interview. You don’t know exactly what the interviewer will ask, but your storytelling skills certainly won’t impress them if you’re stumbling around and grasping for the right words, so have several stories prepared.
Making your interview inspirational
Sure, you’re going to tell stories in your interview, but stories aren’t inspirational by default—you have to make them such. How can you do that?
- Cater to the audience—What does the hiring manager want to hear?
- Accomplish your goal—Have you clearly articulated what you wanted to say?
- Enliven your story—Have you used the senses to captivate your audience?
- Be prepared—Do you have more than one story ready to share?
- Practice your interview—Have you rehearsed the delivery of your story?
Taking a process that is normally highly structured and stiff and making it creative can be challenging, but if you can pull it off, you can jump right to the top of the candidate list. Remember who your audience is and what captivates them so that you can excel in your cover letter, resume, and interview. If you grab the attention of the hiring manager, you may get to sign a new employment contract. Not sure if your cover letter and resume have enough creativity? Reach out to a resume expert for insight.