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When you’re working on something that’s outside your comfort zone–like marketing yourself in a job search–it’s natural to look to others for ideas and examples.

In job search, this “herd mentality” can be a big mistake.

The average corporate job opening attracts 250 applicants, according to a Glassdoor study. One obvious conclusion is: if you’re looking for a job, you need to stand out from the competition. You don’t need to be like the others. You need to be different. Not weird, but smarter, more noticeable, more memorable.

So here are a few ways you might want to stop following the herd and dare to stand out.

Be Different & Stand Out in Job Search

Understand that we live in an increasingly review-driven society and there’s great power in social proof. Think of yourself as a product and get reviews: LinkedIn recommendations, letters, kudos. Then don’t be shy about these testimonials: use them in your resume, your LinkedIn “About” section and your cover letter. You could even mention one as evidence for something you say about yourself in an interview.

Speaking of resumes, there are resume rules you should absolutely never break, like … actually, I can’t think of any. You might be surprised what you can put on a resume.

Follow up more than once after interviews, not to pester the employer for a decision but to continue the conversation.

Assume other people have filled out their LinkedIn profiles all wrong. They have. Look through your friends’ and colleagues’ LinkedIn profiles and you’ll see short, LinkedIn-generated Professional Headlines (the line under the person’s name) with only job title and company; brief “About” sections of maybe two paragraphs; jobs listed without descriptions, and few or no Recommendations. None of these are best practices for your LinkedIn profile.

Speaking of social media, if you’re having trouble getting a word with a hiring manager or other key contact, try sending them an @message on Twitter. How many other candidates will do that?

When you do apply to jobs, send your resume to the hiring manager, not just to human resources. How many other candidates will do that? Better yet, have a contact inside the company forward your resume to that manager. How do you get contacts like that? Read the last tip in this post.

To stand out even more, follow up with a well-thought out follow-up call. 

Last but certainly not least: Instead of focusing your search on applying to posted openings (along with an average of 250 other people), be different: make a good-sized list of companies you’d like to work for and start getting to know those companies and their people now, even if they don’t have an opening for you yet.

“But aren’t these strategies risky?” Yes, they do involve risk. There’s a fine line between assertive and inappropriate, you’ll need to use your good judgment, and the results might not always be good. Remember, though, success depends on taking calculated risks.

Find smart, credible ways to stand out in your job search and get a great job sooner.  (This post was originally published in 2019, and has been updated.)