Here’s what set her apart:

In a sea of identical resumes, cover letters, and applications, a single person left a lasting impression.

To begin with, she never applied for a job. Instead, she pushed her way through the crowd at her college’s job mixer, offered me her business card, and pitched herself. The next day, she found our booth at the job fair and handed me a greeting card. “I ran out of examples of my work at home, so I stopped by the local shop on my way here and bought one of my cards for you,” she said.

It hit me at that moment — never has a prospective hire proven their value to me in that way, if at all. Sure, resumes often list job responsibilities. Sometimes a resume will even give me an idea of an applicant’s potential. Most often, though, whichever resume I’m reviewing is identical to the one before it and the one before that. These resumes aren’t bad, but they’re an example of our broken recruiting process all the same.

One greeting card showed me that this candidate was more than an Illustration student. She understood product development, print manufacturing, developing vendor relationships, quality control, sales, merchandising, web development, marketing, copywriting, and several other skills. Other candidates may possess similar experiences to her own, but that would be impossible to glean from a resume that does little more than copy a job description.

“But my industry couldn’t possibly translate to physical goods that represent the value I have to offer,” you say. That’s not the point. Yes, a tangible product placed in my hand was what stood out to me at first, but there are other ways to prove value.

What initiatives have you proposed in your current role?
Did those ideas increase efficiency or save money? If so, how?
When did you identify a solution for a problem no one else noticed?
What do you have to offer the company to which you are applying based on your research?

And if your next argument is that you don’t have job experience yet, then I challenge you to mock something up. Prove you’re capable.

Applicant Tracking Systems can be brutal about weeding you out if you don’t hit specific keywords in your resume. I’ve been there too. By all means, submit your resume to those roles as you must but stretch yourself when you can. Pitch the hiring manager in an email, in your cover letter, on Twitter; put together a Keynote or record a video where you hit the highlights; do all of these things.

Give more.

What do you have to lose?