Last week I wrote about how to avoid the structured and controlled process of job applications, be that through an online job board or directly to a company. But sometimes that’s just not an option and your perfect role has been advertised – how do you make sure your application stands out and that your resume is read?

Firstly it’s important to note that this isn’t a perfect science and that those screening your resume may just flick to the resume and ignore your cover letter entirely. This is about maximising your chances and one thing I know for sure is this –

Generic cover letters do absolutely nothing to increase your chances of getting a job.

A pile of 40 resumes, all with the same cover letter that goes like this –

‘Dear Sir,

Please find attached my resume as application for the above role. As you will see I…’

Not bad, and if it’s purpose is to blend in with all the other letters, like some kind of paper based chameleon then it’s perfect. However in order to stand out we need to learn a little bit about writing.

There is no ‘way of writing. If you hire a copywriter for your website, you probably won’t hire the same one to write your article or to ghost write your book. All of these require different methodology to engage an audience effectively. In a book, the layout is predetermined – chapters, sentences, etc and messing with that will likely make a reader uncomfortable.

On the web, as in letters, writing is a drawing as much as a word piece. It must be appealing, not only in what it says but in how it looks – in it’s layout. It should be simple to read and appealing to the eye, it should get to the point and encourage the action you wish the reader to take. Here’s what I mean –

Dear Jason, (try and find out the person’s name)

Cover letters are boring so I just want to use mine to give you a snapshot of my experience, hopefully you’ll think, as I do, that I’m potentially a good fit for this role and worth meeting. Here are the highlights from my resume –

– 20 years experience in mining supply, related specifically to your machinery

– Extensive management experience, including multiple divisions

– Full safety accreditation and exposure to high-risk environments

In terms of cultural fit, well that remains to be seen and I hope it’s something we can explore in person. I welcome any questions and make myself available at your convenience.

Sincerely

A. Plicant

Look at the layout, it’s not heavy and draws your attention to the bullet points which address the performance criteria laid out on the ad – even better if you can get hold of a position description.

Remember, it’s not about being ‘crazy’ and ‘out there’ but about polite and functionary communication, getting to the point and allowing the person screening your resume to take the next step.