CORPORATE restructuring, downsizing and the desire for self-advancement in today's workplace means that workers will change jobs an average of eight times throughout their career.

It also means there are more people competing for the same job and it is harder to distinguish yourself from the competition.

So what can separate you from the pack?

Writing good cover letters, formatting and editing resumés carefully and learning interview techniques can give job-seekers an edge in a tight market.

Cover letter

A well-written cover letter can open the door for you to be interviewed by a potential employer.

To write an effective cover letter, be sure to pay attention to the following items before sending it out:

* Emphasise your skills that are most relevant to the needs of the organisation you are addressing;

*Keep the letter to one page. If you want to elaborate on the specific skills and accomplishments mentioned in your cover letter, do it in your resumé;

* Keep paragraphs to no more than five lines in length. Use bullet points whenever possible to highlight lists and to make the letter more visually appealing and readable;

* Keep your stationery size, colour and texture simple;

* Do not include references. Provide these only if an employer asks for them at a later stage;

* Before sending your letter, always do a spell-check and get someone to read it to check the grammar and style; and

* End the letter with the statement that you will call the addressee in a week or so. You should not expect him to call you.

E-mail application

If you are sending your application via e-mail, you need to alter your approach slightly.

In the body of the e-mail message, keep the introduction to one paragraph.

You can follow up within 24 hours with a snail-mail version of the cover letter and a hard copy of your resumé.

In the subject field, enter the job title and, if available, job posting number. Helping the recruiter sort the day's mail will make the right first impression.

Do your homework. Visit the company's website or call its receptionist for the proper spelling of the name and title of the person you are addressing.

Starting your letter with a "To whom it may concern" is not good enough in this competitive environment.

While the cover letter or note should be a positive introduction of your interest in working for the company, ensure that the focus is on how you can help the company achieve its objectives.

Resumé

For many people, writing a resumé is a difficult experience.

While it may look impressive to write detailed and lengthy descriptions of the responsibilities you have had, it is not what most recruiters or employers look for.

A resumé is your main sales brochure or communication tool that helps you in a job search.

It should contain enough information to get you an interview, provide talking points during an interview discussion and reinforce your key selling points once you have met an employer.

Typically, the person who reads your resumé will take around 10 seconds to decide whether or not he will read the whole resumé.

Even then, he will usually take only a minute or two to read through it.

Your resumé therefore should:

* Be clear, succinct, direct and presented in an attractive, easy-to-read format;

* Include a summary, so that screeners can quickly match your skills with their needs;

* Provide complete employment histories without unexplained gaps; and

* Be polished and interesting.

Crafting your resumé

First, get the basics right by stating your name, address, phone number and e-mail address.

The body of your resumé should be about your professional experience.

Starting with the most recent job, state your employers, employment dates and the positions you have held, only going back as far as the last 10 years.

Rather than mention your responsibilities, highlight what you have achieved in your career. Try, wherever possible, to quantify your accomplishments with a number or percentage.

Information about your formal educational qualifications, professional development or short training courses, memberships, technical skills and other relevant information should be summarised in a page at the back of your resumé.

As a professional document, keep your resumé to a maximum of four pages, print it on plain white or cream paper, and be honest.

Finally, before you leap into the job market with your resumé, make sure the information you include sells the skills you are good at, that you enjoy doing and, most importantly, match the kind of work you are seeking.

A potential employer will then be able to recognise that you have the right skills and motivation and are fit for the role for which he is recruiting.

This way, you are more likely to end up in a rewarding job because you are promoting your experience that gives you the greatest potential for career fulfilment.