Employers view your job application as an example of the quality of your work, like an audition for the job. To ensure you stand out, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
But first, before you even apply…follow the directions!
Make careful note of how this specific employer wants applicants to respond to the posting. Do they want an email sent to a specific email address, a form completed online, specific information included (or excluded)? Or do they use some other process?
Watch for requirements described in the job description like a question for you to answer or a sample of your work to include. Simply by following directions, you will stand out from the crowd.
Create an attention-getting cover letter or email message
Use a cover letter customized for each opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the job and the employer as well as your fit for the job.
- Make it clear which job you are applying for. Be easy to hire! Include the job title, location, and any other identifier (like requisition number) in the subject of your cover letter/email message. Don’t expect the employer to figure out where you can best fit into their organization. Very few employers will have the time, the intuition, or the interest to help you with your career, particularly when they don’t know you.
- Demonstrate your skills at written communications. Be brief (not more than one page of two to four short paragraphs). Use good grammar and spelling, and avoid stilted, overly-formal letter like “Pursuant to the employment opportunity posted on the twenty-third of this month…”
- Focus on the benefit to the employer if they hire you. Employers are more concerned with their own needs than with your needs. So make the benefits of hiring you clear – describe exactly how you meet the requirements of the job and will help solve the employer’s problems. If you can, share how you may exceed some of those requirements.
- When responding by email, your message is your cover “letter.” Unless instructed otherwise in the job description or other instructions for applying, your email message is typically your “cover letter” when you apply via email Preferably, the only attachment will be your resume, unless their instructions indicate they want your resume also included in the text of your email message.
Match your resume to the job’s requirements
Customizing your resume to the opportunity is another method of differentiating yourself from the masses of careless job seekers. These days, you need address the technical requirement of an automated applicant tracking system (“ATS”) where resumes are often stored. Including the “right” keywords – those in the job description – should ensure that so that the system shows your resume to a human being. In addition, resumes must also address the preferences of a human reviewer who may spend less than 10 seconds looking at the top two-thirds of a resume before deciding thumbs up or down.
Examine the job’s requirements and meet them with your resume. This is your opportunity to shine and demonstrate the quality of your work:
- Include your relevant skills, experience, and accomplishments. Use your relevant background in a “Summary of Qualifications” using the language and terms the employer used in the job description. For example, if they specified experience with “social media” (which you have), use the exact term “social media” on your resume. Then, if appropriate, explain more about your social media qualifications by listing the social networks you have used (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) in ways that respond to the job’s requirements.
- Make the resume easy to read. Using short groups of bulleted lists and brief paragraphs lay out your relevant accomplishments (quantified, if possible), skills, and experience.
Customization and careful attention to detail are the keys to impressing an employer. They take time, but they are important differentiators.
Have other questions or suggestions about creating a stand out resume and cover letter? Share them in the comments.
Tags: cover letter, resume
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Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and former Visiting Scholar at MIT's Sloan School of Management, Susan is editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.
A strong cover letter is one that is targeted on your industry as well as the specific job to which you are applying. It should be packed with relevant expertise and speak directly to the employer’s needs. Begin building your own powerful, customized cover letter today by checking out our free non-profit cover letter template. Learn how you can put together a unique letter for your next job application using the samples and related advice below.
What to Include in a Non-Profit Cover Letter
Begin by comparing your qualifications to the requirements listed in the job application. This will help you decide what is most relevant to include in this cover letter as you hone in on what a hiring manager will most be interested in seeing (such as your background working with children’s causes, your project management experience, and your history of developing effective strategic marketing campaigns). The employer has already told you what they are looking for via their advertisement, so make sure you focus your letter accordingly.In all, the letter should be one page (or less) in length and contain up to five paragraphs. Start strong by addressing the hiring manager by name and giving a confident statement in your first paragraph about why you are perfect for the job. Follow up with a clear comparison of your matching qualifications. Then add additional knowledge that will be an asset in the role (such as your event planning knowledge, brand development skills, and driven nature). End with an equally strong final paragraph that again outlines your strength as a top candidate and promises you will reach out soon to schedule a follow up meeting.
Sample Cover Letter
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Cover Letter Content
Having contributed my skills in high profile non-profit organizations, I know how valuable self-directed and passionate staff members are to your mission. The organization that differentiates itself through successful outreach and program initiatives is the best equipped to serve at-risk and needy populations. My desire to contribute to Pioneer Family Outreach’s mission has motivated me to apply my outgoing personality, enthusiasm, knowledge, and experience to the marketing coordinator position you advertised.In my 17 years of non-profit experience, I have worked my way up from volunteer to program leader by consistently demonstrating my personal drive and commitment to the mission. While working with important non-profit groups I also worked on my education, obtaining a Master’s degree in Marketing so I could better serve those most at need of our help.You want someone fully versed in all aspects of traditional and on-line marketing as well as event planning, public relations, materials development, and branding. I bring all of this expertise and so much more to the role. I also possess strong management, leadership, decision making, and critical thinking skills, each of which I know will be an asset as your new Marketing Coordinator.My education, skills, and experience will enable me to address the challenges you face and needs to be met in our current climate. I appreciate your time and consideration.