On the outside, writing a resume and a cover letter seems like a very easy task. You’re writing about the one thing that you understand most, yourself. However, very few of us are comfortable writing and updating our resumes and we’re never quite happy with the outcome. It doesn’t have to be so hard. Below are ten tips for consideration when preparing and submitting your resume/cover letter.
1. Collect Your Skills In One Place – I strongly encourage you to maintain a long-format resume. On this separate document you should collect each and every skill and experience you’ve had. Each time you are involved in a new project or task, make sure you add it to this document. This allows you to have these at the ready when you’re preparing a resume to submit for a specific job listing. This way you won’t forget a key skill or experience when you need it. I’ve found these long-form resumes to be valuable when discussing opportunities with an executive recruiter. As a result, I will occasionally send one to a recruiter, but normally, I wouldn’t distribute this version. It’s primary purpose is to serve as a reminder of some of your less common projects and experiences.
2. Identify the Key Words – It is critically important that you go through the job description and pay particular attention to the required skills and experiences. Not only are you interested in matching those up to your skills and experiences, but you want to make sure you use the same language. This makes it very easy for the hiring manager to drill through your resume and decide that you are a fit. Make it easy for the hiring manager and you’ll reap benefits.
3. One Resume Per Job Listing – If you use a generic resume when you apply for a position, you’re likely to miss a required skill or experience. It is also likely that you won’t highlight the skills or experiences that matter most to the hiring manager. You may get looked over as the result.
4. Find A Unique Format – In particular industries, hiring managers get a lot of resumes that all look the same. After a while, the hiring manager might begin to miss things. Review various examples/samples and find one that you like. It should fit your personality. The hiring manager is hiring someone that he/she will likely work with. Don’t be afraid to show some of yourself in your resume and cover letter. You want to stand out just enough to be recognized and remembered.
5. Do Other Things To Liven Up Your Look – Being slightly different while still showing professionalism can be the difference in getting noticed. Remember that the hiring manager may have hundreds of resumes to dig through (in some instances HR does this screening). Having a fresh look can be the difference for you. Just don’t go overboard. For example, there aren’t too many instances where you would use a red font. Nor would you use a font style and size that is too drastic. It must fit your field and industry.
6. Be Brief – Hiring Mangers are very busy. Use the space in the resume wisely. Focus on what they are asking for, and don’t spend too much space on skills and experiences they aren’t requesting. Don’t fall into the trap of reducing the font to fit more content in. The job description was only a few paragraphs long. Your resume shouldn’t be much longer.
7. Attention To Detail – Content – Spelling and grammar count. Never forget that. Have someone proof your resume. If at all possible, have a second and third review done. Screeners and hiring managers are looking for reasons to exclude a resume from the interview list. Don’t give them a reason to exclude you.
8. Attention To Detail – Form – In this day and age, resumes are more often than not distributed electronically. In those times when a resume should be on paper (i.e., at the interview), you should ensure it is printed on high quality paper. You want the final product to speak for you. That includes the look and feel of the product. A solid resume on good paper sets a great tone for the business at hand, landing a job offer.
9. The Cover Letter As A Sales Pitch – You might not be a marketer or salesman, but the cover letter is your sales pitch. In a short space of a few paragraphs, you want to tell the hiring manager exactly why you’re the best candidate for them. This includes what you have (key skills and experiences) and how they will benefit from hiring you. Before the hiring manager gets to the resume, he/she should already know you’re a fit.
10. Close The Deal – Your cover letter should also be very clear on what you want them to do next. You want an interview and you want them to call you to schedule one soon. Be direct and ask. Don’t leave anything to chance. Just ask.
I hope you found these tips helpful. Good luck on your job search.