This post is a little different than most, but I’ve been asked to review so many resumes lately, before they are sent to perspective employers, that perhaps this is more helpful than I would have guessed.

We know that being good at what you do, knowing the right people, and God’s favor in the process are all crucial to landing the job you want. But when it comes to resumes, the secret is in the cover letter.

Over the past 20 years I have read thousands of resumes and here’s the bottom line. If it is done in a current professional format, it is clear and communicates well, (95% do), a resume is a resume. Your cover letter is what sets you apart. (Most resumes and cover letters are digital.)

So, let’s start there. Always send a cover letter. The following eight points are practical tips to help you stand out amongst the “pile” of others — from a guy who reads them and makes decisions based on what you say!

1. Don’t try too hard. Seriously, you would crack up at some of the letters I receive. One guy included a picture of himself wearing a red clown nose to show he could have fun!  Just be yourself. If you don’t normally wear a clown nose, don’t start now.

2. Don’t be too churchy or preachy.  When I get something that starts off with “Greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” — I stop reading. That person is not going to fit in if that’s the way they talk. And if it’s not the way they talk, why are they writing that way?

3. Use the name of someone in the organization. It’s better to find the wrong person on the website then to write to “whom it may concern.” If you picked the wrong person, that’s OK, they can forward it. It shows effort and initiative.

4. Say something positive about the church. This is not sucking up or blowing smoke. It’s showing you did your homework. Be sincere!

5.  The body of the letter should include things like why you want the job, what you would bring to the team, your passion, maybe a sentence or two about your calling.

6. Include something personal. You don’t need much, don’t go on and on about all your hobbies, but definitely say something about, for example, a favorite football team, even with a little humor or edge to it. Let them know who you are! Always include a sentence about your family too.

7. Under no circumstance go over one page.

8. Last, it’s important to write understanding the perspective of the reader — the person who you want to hire you. Write knowing he or she is reading a tall stack of resumes and they all look the same. And they all sound good. Don’t make it a labor for them, make it enjoyable. Write in a way that you think the reader would find you a warm, engaging, and real person. All this is just to get an interview, but you know what they say about a foot in the door!

I hope this is helpful, and I hope you get the job you want!