COMPETITION in the job market is tough, especially during a downturn, and if you hope to land a new position, it is important to stand out from the crowd — but for the right reasons.

To provide hiring managers with a positive impression, recruitment firm Robert Half has identified the key messages that you should get across right from the start:

1. “I am a professional.”

Potential hires who take the application process seriously will be treated similarly by prospective employers.

For example, proofreading your application materials for grammatical or spelling errors, or having someone else review your cover letter and resumé in case you overlook something, will enhance any opportunity for an interview.

Be extremely careful with the type of language you use.

Your application materials are business documents, so avoid slang or casual language such as the kind you might use on a day-to-day basis when communicating with your friends.

2. “I am a go-getter.”

Hiring managers are often inundated with resumés, and your application materials may get only a cursory glance, which is why you need to take some initiative to add that extra punch to your resumé.

For instance, instead of ending your cover letter or e-mail with a standard statement like, “I look forward to hearing from you”, be proactive and try, “I will contact you next Thursday at 3pm to discuss the opportunity and my fit for the position in greater detail.”

In addition, unless you are specifically asked not to, follow up with an employer if you do not get any response after sending in your resumé.

In fact, 82 per cent of executives polled by Robert Half said job-seekers should contact hiring managers within two weeks of submitting application materials.

By doing so, you can reassert your interest in the position and remain top of mind among prospective employers.

3. “I am an expert.”

Demonstrate your expertise from the beginning because employers want to hire people who can hit the ground running.

Three methods for doing so are:

* enhancing your online reputation,

* joining a professional association, and

* earning a certification.

Options for increasing your exposure on the Web include starting a professional blog or website, submitting articles to an industry publication or even simply contributing to message boards.

For example, blogging about the industry that you want to work in and including the blog’s link in your resumé gives prospective employers an easy way to see that you are well informed.

By joining industry groups and trade associations, you can remain up-to-date with recent trends through interaction with others in the field.

Use your resumé to highlight your membership in a professional group and show hiring managers your interest in furthering your industry knowledge.

Finally, consider earning a relevant industry certification.

Many employers value candidates who have these credentials because they demonstrate a desire for continual professional development.

4. “I can save money for your company.”

In today’s economy, companies are looking for ways to reduce costs. If you have implemented successful cost-cutting measures for previous employers, describe how you did so in your resumé or cover letter.

For example, when applying for a role as a finance manager, you can highlight that in your last position, you established a database of pertinent information to monitor and analyse cost-saving opportunities, which helped to improve income generation for the company.

Hiring managers generally welcome such accomplishments.

5. “I can meet your needs.”

To show that you are an exact fit for the job, make sure your application materials are customised for each position you apply for.

Your resumé and cover letter need to clearly communicate the value you can bring to a potential employer.

Use phrases from the job description, highlighting key skills as long as they accurately describe your experience.

Sending the right messages to a prospective employer may not guarantee a position in the company, but it will increase your chances of being called for an interview, in which you can then make your case in person.