Brand yourself as the solution to an employer's problem.
Craig Lindell, president of Minnetonka-based Craig Lindell & Associates Inc., a retained-search firm, confirms it's true - you only have one minute to grab a hiring manager's attention with your cover letter and resume.
Why? It's simple, says Lindell - employers are looking for a solution to their problem, and they want to know right away if you can provide that solution.
That's why it's important to sell yourself as a brand to employers, says Catherine Kaputa, author of "U R a Brand, How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success."
This can be done, Kaputa says, by creating a profile at the top of your reesumee that conveys what's different about you, making your resume interesting by providing action words and results (not just a laundry list of job skills and responsibilities), and by keeping it easy to read and follow.
"Unique is always the way to go," says Kaputa. "You have to provide the potential company a reason to hire you and not the next person. If you're viewed as similar to everyone else, you will destroy your position."
Kaputa says research studies have shown that hiring managers read the resume first, and if it interests them, they look at the cover letter. That being said, you'll want to write an interesting cover letter that is tailored to the company and explains how you can add value. A terse cover letter along the lines of "This is in response to your job opening ..." doesn't cut it.
"Think like a brand - think of yourself as a product in a competitive marketplace and what you can bring to the job that others don't," says Kaputa.
Take that product (yourself) and sell it to the hiring manager - but make sure you have the right sales pitch. Don't apply for jobs you aren't qualified for. Instead spend time really honing your skills and developing a plan to apply for jobs you really want and are qualified for.
"Always remember you only need one job," says Lindell. "Seek to be the solution to the hiring authority's problem. They will want to talk to you."
Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. The first Sunday of each month this column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.