On average, 118 people will apply for any given role. From those candidates, only 2% of them will be asked for an interview.

Therefore, knowing how to stand out from the crowd during a job application is one of the most important skills you will ever learn in your career. Once you nail it, you'll be much more likely to be part of that elusive 2%.

So how do you do it? Global Head of Recruiting at Johnson & Johnson Sjoerd Gehring is responsible for hiring over 30,000 people a year. He shares the common traits of the applicants that stand out.

“Without a doubt, from interns to C-suite level leaders, the most impressive candidates I’ve seen are the ones who’ve taken the time to define what they want to accomplish in their professional life” (source).

Knowing exactly what you want to achieve in your career and how you plan to achieve it is one the most attractive traits an applicant can have. It quickly shows the interviewer that you have a purpose and reason to come to work every day. You’ll be an ambitious and focused employee. You’ll go above and beyond to ensure you meet your goal.

1. Find your career mission

It’s so easy to get caught in a job rut. You just try to get through the next day, week or month but before you know it an entire year can fly by. Without a solid mission or purpose to your work, it’s almost impossible to know whether you’re progressing. Career Coach Ashley Stahl shares three questions that can guide finding your career mission.

  • What am I good at? — What skills do you feel confident in? What skills come naturally to you?

  • What do people tell me I’m good at? — What do people ask you for advice on? What do you friends know you for? What have you received credit or praise for in your previous roles?

  • What’s holding me back? — What scares you? What do you feel unconfident in? What skills are you lacking that you wish you had?

Put some time aside to really think about these questions. Once you have your answers you can create a career mission that utilises your skills and overcomes your career hurdles.

Sjoerd shares one of his favourite examples of a solid career mission from a recent recruiting experience:

“I spoke to a candidate recently who lost one of her parents to Alzheimer’s and had decided to look for ways to contribute to curing this disease.

Her plan was to become a recruiter for the next three years so she could identify and attract the best Research & Development talent for a pharmaceuticals company to help them in the search for a cure.

Her ultimate goal was to save enough money to apply to medical school, so she could contribute more directly down the line. Needless to say, she really stood out against the other (equally qualified) candidates we were considering for the job.”

Whilst your career mission doesn’t need to be as profound or personal, this is a great example of having a career mission that goes beyond the expected job requirements or chasing a paycheck. Figure out what it is that keeps you coming to work every day and leverage it.

2. Shout it from the rooftops

Now that you have an idea of your career mission, share it with the world. Next time you meet someone new, have coffee with a colleague or are scrolling through LinkedIn share your career mission with others and why you do what you do. This kind of realness and transparency is golden in the age of fabricated social media.

When you get to a job interview and you’re presented with the standard “Why do you want to work here?” avoid cliched responses such as “I love this company” or “I love your work” and instead share your career mission and how this role can help you achieve it.

The great thing about sharing your story is that no one else will ever have the same story as you. Interviewers hear the same responses over and over again. The way for you to stand out is to simply be yourself.

We know how important it is to stand out from the crowd during the job search process. That’s why we have a Selling Yourself course dedicated to learning these core skills.

You can access this course for free as part of our introductory offer.