First impressions count just as much in applications as they do in interviews. But while you’re guaranteed a hiring manager’s full attention during an interview, you really have to make an effort to “stand out from the stack,” so to speak, when it comes to cover letters and opening e-mails. Below are three simple, tried-and-true ways to catch a potential employer’s eye.
Let your competence speak for itself.
Many of us are taught to “sell” ourselves in cover letters, interviews, and e-mails. This means coming off educated, intelligent, and qualified. But trying too hard can be just as disadvantageous as not trying at all. Unless we’re fresh out of school, most of us have professional experience we can leverage to appeal to employers and hiring managers—we just need to let this experience shine in our initial introduction to prospective employers.
Really try hard to describe what you got out of each job you list under work experience. Picking out the most relevant skills to the job role, or ones which feature within the job description are good strategies to start with. Employers are looking not only for a unique set of skills, but also for a candidate’s ability to recognise the value of that skill set. If you make all your past jobs sound the same, hiring managers will think you have a limited ability to learn from new experiences.
But don’t go overboard. Employers know exaggeration when they see it. Just be confident in your own abilities and figure out how to communicate that confidence without “showing off.
Stand out through simplicity.
You won’t catch a potential employer’s attention by using fancy words; you’ll catch it by keeping your e-mail concise and straightforward. State your intention right away, as in the following:
“I am writing to express interest in the project coordinator position for [your company].”
Next, summarize your background and experience:
“I earned a [certification] from [institution] and have managed projects for [list of companies].”
Then explain, as succinctly as possible, why you want to work for the new company and why they should hire you. In other words, state how your career goals have drawn you to the position and what unique skills (as mentioned above) you have to offer that other candidates don’t. Here’s an example:
“I am looking for a position that allows me to exercise my leadership skills and help a company grow, and I believe the project coordinator position with [company name] satisfies both of these goals.”
Don’t make it all about you, but don’t write a novel about the company you’re hoping to be hired by, either.
End with a call-to-action.
Before you end your message, throw in a line that requests action from the reader, such as “Please consider my resume, attached below” or “I look forward to hearing from you.” Doing so will make hiring staff more likely to contact you again. It also shows confidence since you are, in effect, saying you expect to be contacted again. Avoid writing things like “Feel free to contact me for further information” or “Please reach out any time,” as they tend to project a more passive, less confident tone.
Remember that your first email is essentially your foot in the door, so you need to make it count. By keeping things simple, clean and ensuring to include the most relevant information, you should be well on your way to catching the eye of your potential employer.