Resume And Cover Letter Writing: Turn Negatives Into Positives!

One method to get to the heart of a problem or challenge is to look at what doesn’t work and why. The same can be said for drafting and writing resumes and cover letters.

Once you find a negative that doesn’t work it’s relatively easy to uncover what will work. Let’s take a look at what most job hunters do wrong in writing their resumes.

Would you use the same screwdriver in every occasion to fasten something together with a screw? There are many different screw heads, and each is designed for a specific purpose. The same can be said for a resume.

One size resume does not fit all. Each job is unique with unique requirements. Many may have the same job title, but with a bit of study you’ll soon realize the skills required and their ranking in importance will be different for each position.

To expect a recruiter to connect the dots and dig through your resume to find the required skills is asking way too much. You have a great number of competitors for every open position. So do not send in a generic resume. If you do not consider what the company wants they will not want you.

In writing a readable resume you must focus your skills and qualifications to the needs of the employer. A customized resume that details your accomplishments and experience most relevant to the position will be more likely to be read. And if it is read you are more likely to be asked in for a job interview.

Another resume writing mistake, that is not quite as apparent as not customizing the resume for every position, is to put together a resume that is boring and uninteresting.

If you put the reader to sleep, you’re likely to lose. Dull resumes are full of acronyms, jargon (never assume the person reading your resume fully understands your job and its requirements), snippets from job descriptions, and lists of responsibilities.

Many also commit another fatal sin by not including results. Achievements that are quantifiable and match as closely as possible to the main job requirements are what the employer is searching for. Give them what they want.

When you think you’ve eliminated the sin of writing a dull resume. Read it aloud. How does it sound? If OK, now read it to some friends, and perhaps read it to someone in junior high school. What questions do they have? Get them answered and that portion of the resume rewritten.

Another interesting technique is to ask the question, “So what?” after every sentence. Rewrite until the “So whats?” are eliminated.

To add some color (no, don’t print it on purple paper) to your resume you might consider adding a relevant recommendation. It should be short, relevant to the main job requirement, and by someone in authority.

Many job hunters do not include a cover letter with the submission of their resume. This may times is another potential fatal mistake.

If the recruiter can’t easily discover what position you are applying for you’ll be rejected. As said previously you have a high level of competition for every position and your job is to move to the next level.

Your cover letter should indicate the job applying for and where you learned of the position. It should not be a rehash of your resume but should include something additional that specifically demonstrates you will bring value to the position and to the employer. Including a cover letter with your resume will help you achieve that goal.

There are many other resume and cover letter writing tips that you must consider. But these ideas should get you started in writing a better cover letter and resume.

6 Essentials of Great Cover Letter Writing

Writing a great cover letter is not beyond anyone’s ability if they master the 6 essentials. But most people leave it to the last minute when they desperately need to send a cover letter and so spoil the job by rushing it. To help more people get it right these are the 6 essentials you need to know about:

1. Every cover letter must have a beginning, a middle and an end. This creates a natural flow that the reader will find easy to follow.

2. Cover Letters are all about communication so the language you choose must be appropriate to the reader – using some of their words, from an advert say, ensures they understand.

3. You want your cover letter to stand out from the others so you need to avoid following the same pattern and choice of words that others use.

4. Use positive phrases like ” I am confident that I have the skills you require…” rather than hesitant language such as ” I believe that I may have something to offer…”

5. The cover letter should complement and highlight points from your Resume and never be more than 1 page.

6.Every cover letter must be uniquely tailored to the individual job application with no typing or spelling mistakes.

These 6 essentials of great cover letter writing are the starting point and the framework. Working around that cover letter format you are aiming to be invited to an interview so you must ensure that you:

  • fully understand their needs;
  • can communicate the information they expect;
  • use colorful phrases to add spice and interest;
  • avoid the use of jargon, woolly phrases and intensifiers.

And of course preparation is everything.

This brief outline should demonstrate that writing a great cover letter is not beyond most people’s ability if they master these 6 essentials of great cover letter writing. Most of all it should not be left to the last minute when the cover letter is desperately needed as you run the risk of spoiling this important job by rushing it.

Three Simple Tips for Writing Effective Cover Letters!

Dear Mr Smith,

It is with great excitement that I am writing to you to submit my application for your advertised vacancy.

As you will see from my attached CV, I have 20 years experience working as an accountant and am a qualified CPA. I have worked in the past with a variety of clients from a wide range of industries and I look forward to being able to bring this experience into your firm.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my application and I look forward to being able to meet with you in person for an interview.

Yours Sincerely,

Fred Bloggs. CPA

OK, so that is obviously not a real cover letter, however you might be surprised to know that if it were, it would not be even close to the shortest or most generic I have received as a recruitment consultant or as a hiring manager. There is not anything that is particularly wrong with the example cover letter above, but there isn’t really anything great about it either. It does nothing more than introduce your CV. In my opinion that is an absolute missed opportunity!

In preparing this post, I thought about running through a cover letter paragraph by paragraph. In the end though, I thought it might be more constructive write a short and sharp post that covers what are three very simple (but very useful) tips that I hope will help you land more interviews!

Tip 1 – How do you meet the advertisers requirements?

I see so many letters that talk generally about what skills, experience & knowledge that an applicant has. However, a lot of what the applicant has included does not actually address any specific requirements mentioned in the job ad. Don’t get me wrong, it is always important to showcase and to be proud of your experience & achievements. That said, if you want your application to really stand out, try to specifically address how your skills, knowledge and experience suit the position based on your understanding of the vacant role (from the ad, job description, etc.).

Tip 2 – Show you have done some homework!

If the advertisement you are responding to has been advertised directly by the employer (as opposed to a recruiter), try to learn about the company. Look at their website, talk to anyone you know that works or has worked there, Google search, etc. You can then use what you have learned in your cover letter. For example:

“Before writing this letter, I wanted to learn more about Xyz Pty Ltd and from my research was incredibly impressed with the number of positive customer reviews I found online as well as with the business being recently certified as carbon neutral.”

This can be a great way to show that you have a genuine interest in the role and the business as opposed to just sitting on a job site sending out applications to everything you see.

Tip 3 – If you are using a template letter make sure you update it!

If you are following the first two steps, the process of using the same letter each time may prove more difficult as you will be constantly changing larger parts of the letter to specifically address the role you are applying to. However, the structure of your letter and the opening and closing for example should be much the same. Try and always save a copy (Save As) rather than just overwriting your current template, and give the letter a unique file name. Something I have seen quite a lot of over my career is people sending in cover letters that might be addressed to other recruitment agencies or people and for completely unrelated roles. It is unfortunate when this happens (and I assure you, it happens more than you may think!) because the applicants have in many cases destroyed any hope of getting an interview for that specific role. So ‘Save As’, then ‘Save’ often!

I really hope you find these three tips useful when writing cover letters. If you have any questions about the process of writing letters or have some other tips you might like to share, please feel free to post a comment below.