You’ve no doubt been told—countless times—that you need to stand out in an interview. Tips and tricks for this range from creative ways to ask and answer questions to tips for wearing some piece of clothing with flair (e.g., a bright pocket square or pin) that sticks (no pun intended) in their mind. Before you get to the interview, though, you should already stand out. By making a few essential changes to your cover letter and résumé, you can set yourself ahead of the pack and get the job.
Your Cover Letter
Start with your cover letter. This is your introduction, and it’s a prime opportunity to stand out and show hiring managers who you are and what you can bring to the table. Unfortunately, a lot of people get stuck on the cover letter, and it can quickly turn into a mashed up list of personal and professional information that reads like résumé soup.
However, it’s actually not very hard at all to write a directed, concise cover letter that will really get decision makers’ attention. When you sit down to write, let the “Whys” direct you. Specifically, you want to tell the hiring manager at this company why you’ve chosen them and why they should choose you. Find a common connection or interest between their business and your experience and expertise. Use this to drive your letter and show them why they should interview you and select you for the job.
As you write, remember that your résumé will contain all of your relevant experience and skills, so you don’t have to go into too much detail about all of your past positions. Instead, focus on specific cases and experiences that set you up to be the perfect candidate for this job.
Now, let’s take a look at your résumé. First of all, don’t try to pad it. Only include truly relevant experience and skills. Think of your work history as a narrative that’s brought you to this point in your career. Exclude the jobs and/or responsibilities that distract from that narrative.
In place of irrelevant work experience, add a section on non-work related activities and personal interests. Your hiring managers will be working with you, and they want to hire someone with personality who will mesh well with their team. Show them what you have to offer company culture, as well as how well you can perform tasks and meet deadlines.
Keeping these things in mind as you write your cover letter and résumé will put you in a great position with hiring managers before you even step through the door for the interview. Good luck!