Winter 2021

A man wearing a suit sits in a life raft in a sea of paper.

Photobank | Adobestock

How to Make Your Job Application Stand Out

Applying for jobs can be exhausting, but there are ways to make it easier.

Q. I graduated from TCU with honors and later completed a PhD at a prestigious doctoral program in the Northeast. I’ve returned to Texas to search for jobs. The process has yielded few results, and I am unsure of potential next steps. Are other applicants crowding me out of the process? Are online screening processes hurting my chances of landing an interview? What should I do next?

A. First of all, congratulations on your achievement! Completing rigorous PhD coursework is a tremendous accomplishment.

Your thoughts may be on the minds of fellow alumni job seekers. The following are a few practical and important steps to take as soon as possible.

Mike Caldwell

Mike Caldwell is the executive director of TCU’s Center for Career & Professional Development. For more information about careers, visit

Evaluate and audit your current job search strategy. How many jobs did you apply for in the past two weeks? What were the job roles/titles? Were there application deadlines? If you applied for only a handful of positions, you may need to expand and accelerate your search. If you applied to dozens of positions (or too many to keep track), you may need to refine and narrow your search to roles that match your interests and skills. Ensure your qualifications match those requested and required by the employer. Identify between one and three application opportunities per day. Remember new jobs are posted continually. On a calendar or planner, document the position, date of application and contact person so it’s handy when you need to follow up. Set dates to check on the status of your applications.

Assess your results. A measuring point I like to use: Ten percent of your applications should result in progress to the next stage in the review process. If that 1:10 or better ratio isn’t happening for you, reexamine your application materials or your target roles. Let the TCU Career Center review your résumé, LinkedIn profile and other materials. Reach out to experienced colleagues and professionals for feedback. Ensure that all application materials are well-crafted and tailored to each position and employer. If you are landing interviews but no offers, secure interview feedback and practice. The TCU Career Center offers mock interview services and resources for all alumni via

Stand out as a candidate. Online application systems, recruiters and résumé screeners may seem like potential roadblocks, but you can manage your role in the process. Whether there are 15 applicants or 1,500, your goal is to demonstrate your knowledge, skills, experience and interest as a candidate. Read and follow all application instructions and deadlines. Thoroughly research the company to learn more about its industry, customers and competitors. Most importantly, identify TCU alumni, along with those in your graduate university network, who may be able to help you learn more about a company’s culture, mission and recruitment practices. Horned Frogs Connect is a great place to start. Keep contacts informed of your search interest and status. They may notify you of new openings or potential leads.

Strengthen or learn skills. If your job search is taking longer than expected or your role is within a specialized field with a longer recruiting timeline, use the additional time to your advantage. Seek volunteer opportunities and industry events to gain experience, knowledge and connections. Explore options to bolster your technical and professional skills through TCU Extended Education or other programs. Throughout this process, continue to review and refine your job search strategy. Once you find your next opportunity, don’t forget to help the next Horned Frog who reaches out to you.

Comment below or send your career questions to