Recently there  I read an article called ‘the cover letter is dead’, physician it suggested that no one has time to read these things and that if you want to stand out from the crowd in your application you need to phone up the recruiting manager and talk to them, prostate then send your CV. I can’t quite remember who it was who wrote it or what planet they were from, but I was howling in anger! Standing out from the crowd is not the easiest thing but to give people blanket advice to ditch their cover letter is to help them commit job hunter’s  suicide. So how does one stand out from the crowd and get past the gatekeepers?

  1. Do not ditch the cover letter! Time and again recruiters complain that applicants send a CV and a note saying ‘here is my cv’. Actually someone who writes a good cover letter, stands more chance of standing out than someone who writes nothing.  But the cover letter has to say something meaningful. It has to say why you want to work for them, what you like about them; it has to say what you see as their challenges and how you can help address those challenges. Having recently screened a batch of applications I could have wept at the number of people who threw away the opportunity to convince me that they understood the organisation, its issues and to show me that they could do the role. Ok in the public sector you are asked to do a supporting statement saying how you meet the person specification but please do it intelligently. Say what the reader wants to hear about, give evidence and include a cover letter!
  2. Think about who is recruiting and how they might like to communicate. I was coaching a young man who wants to work in gardening. My guess is that many of the bosses in those firms are walkers and talkers not readers. In that case ‘the cover letter is dead’ might be true. How much more powerful to go and visit those firms and ask to see the boss, give him the Cv and say you are looking for work. An emailed Cv won’t get read. A young man who calls in every two weeks to offer his services will stand out. If you work in a highly creative adampacitti_600x300sector the Cv and cover letter may be dead, to stand out you may need an infographic or a video or website link (with a suitable website behind it). Take a look at or the man who hired a billboard or the one who sent out a chocolate bar.   BUT  in the public sector world of words and forms – yes the cover letter , the supporting statement and the Cv are all key tools. But to stand out they need to be good and tailored to the role you are applying for.
  3. Get the inside track. Do your research on the organisation you are applying to. Make them realise that you really are keen on them by your use of three or four key bits of information that show you have looked beyond the first page of the website.  Use your networks to find people who have worked there, use websites like to gain intelligence on the organisation.
  4. Less is more. Research on smart thinking makes clear that most people will remember roughly three things about any new meeting, book, or encounter. That rule of three applies to what employers will remember about you. So find three things about yourself that you want to highlight. Focus your communications on those three elements. Three clear bullet points. Three distinct paragraphs. Don’t be tempted to tell them everything  you have ever done but make those three things really specific. Not ‘I have thirty plus years in housing  and am a strong, decisive  leader’  but three key skills that they need.
  5. Stand out in a good way. Some people think that they can be quirky and it will always be good, no love hearts or emoticons please. And yes in the Uk a photo will make you stand out but usually it does not help you impress, photos are generally seen as being ‘odd’ in the uk, so avoid in this country but in Germany you should include and in France hand write…. They love their graphology.  Don’t be tempted with fancy fonts and fancy formats on your Cv, remember people scan these really quickly and if it looks too fussy they will not read them, so keep the format  plain and the content sophisticated. choc bar cv.jpg
  6. Don’t forget  your key words in case this application is being read by a machine not a person in the first instance.
  7. Phone a friend, well if not a friend who can open a door for you in that organisation, phone the recruiter or the hiring manager if you can. And ask (amongst other things) what they would  like to see in a job application, how they want it presented, what will make their life easier when they are screening. You’ll stand out as the one that considered their needs.

Standing out in a crowded market place is really tough but it can be done, through  thought, work and excellence.

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