For popular positions, employers will see dozens (or hundreds if it’s Google) of applications. You need to stand out. Making yourself stand out does not mean doing cartwheels around the room.

There are several steps to standing out.

Do Your Homework

Find out as much information as you can about the company and your interfaces within the company. There’s always that point in an interview where someone asks, “Do you have any questions for us?” If you can come up with a question that brings them back 5 years while subtly indicating that you’ve done your homework, you win.

Work Your Connections

Everyone is connected to Kevin Bacon by six degrees of separation. You are probably connected to your potential employer by even fewer.

With past jobs that I’ve applied for, it’s bizarre how connected to the companies I turn out to be. Try casting your nets (or cast some other metaphor that makes more sense in this context) with your business or educational contacts first. How? Just ask. Professors, current coworkers, etc.

Show Up

It pays to show up at the job interview, dur. It also pays to show that you are part of the space the company is in. The most obvious example and the most obvious is the tech world: there are meetups all over the place all the time.

They don’t have to be as big as South by Southwest or Future of Web Apps; they can be as small as Ignite! Seattle or Twiistup (LA). Show your face and start networking. Maybe even hint at your attendance during an interview. Meetup is a great place to look for local events.