The current economy isn’t exactly in great shape. This doesn’t mean, however, that getting a job is impossible. Most people just don’t understand the proper way to impress a potential employer. In the world of online applications, it is increasingly important to have an attractive resume that makes an impact. Even more important can be the cover letter attached to it. I have had great success finding employment. I have at the least been called in for an interview for every position I have applied for. There is no magic resume formula that will guarantee you a job, but I have compiled a list of tips that may help you out. Try them out; they will surely work for you.
On a related note, I do resume writing and interview preparation services on the side, so contact me if you need any extra help! Advice you find online can be conflicting sometimes, and actually working with a person is much more effective.
1. Awareness – They say knowledge is power. This is definitely a truism when it comes to job hunting. You must know your employer. You should rarely find yourself applying for a job for which you don’t have to tweak your resume. Employers look for particular characteristics in their applicants. Human resources departments work tirelessly at employee analysis to determine what kind of person they want working for the company. You must know what these characteristics are so you can showcase them on a piece of paper, and there is no better place to find out than the company itself. Don’t be afraid to give HR a call and ask what the company is looking for. Do some research. Log in to the interwebs and look up the company profile. Look at their branding and the language on their website. Do your due diligence when trying to find out information; it will be your most valuable asset.
2. Resume Appearance – Tailor your resume appearance to the job you’re applying for. If you’re applying to be a data entry specialist, for example, don’t have pictures and designs on your resume. Your employer likely won’t care. On the other hand, if you’re applying for a creative design position, don’t be afraid to make your resume more creative and add design elements to it. Make sure your headings are clearly visible and eye catching. Your resume should be divided into clear sections, and it should be strikingly obvious where each section begins and ends. If you can, it would be in your best interest to do this without using borders. If you have knowledge of CSS, you can develop your own design template. If not, Microsoft Word does have some really good templates which look great and are easy to fill out. Too much color is always bad, regardless of what you’re applying for. Avoid rainbows or bright colors like yellow. Stick with your reds, blues, and blacks.
3. Organization and Content – Your resume needs to contain enough information in a proper order to give your potential employer a clear picture of who you are. Organization can be tricky. Always have a header with your name and contact information at the top; this should be obvious. Most times, you should start your resume with your education, especially if you are well educated and have taken interesting classes. Include your relevant coursework for your degrees and majors. Then continue with your skills, abilities, and expertise. Only include relevant information! If you’re applying to be a lab chemist, they won’t care if you are an expert at origami! Some universal skills to consider are computer and communication. Every employer wants somebody who can communicate and interact well with others, and computer skills are almost always a good thing to have in the modern world. Your experience should generally come last. Some people will tell you to put it earlier because employers often don’t make it to the end. This is completely false. If an HR department is only concerned with your experience, they’ll flip to it to read it. But if they aren’t, then you get the added bonus of ending your resume with a valuable impact. Your experience should include your job titles, the employer you held that position for, the dates of employment, and most importantly the functions you performed. You must always include a brief summary of your job functions. This can even be done in a bullet list of three or four points.
4. Show Don’t Tell – When it comes to skills and abilities, people often just list what they can do. The employer then has to take your word for it. Employers often don’t like doing that. They want proof. So instead of saying that you can write business communications, say that you wrote executive correspondences for the VP of Operations for so and so, or whatever you did. If you want to show that you are a good public speaker, mention that you have rankings in collegiate debate, or that you had to develop presentations every other week or something. This method of writing has a lot of benefits. Most importantly, it is a demonstration that shows your abilities. This way, the employer doesn’t have to rely on faith. Also, this shortens your experience section. Now you don’t have to write a book for each job to describe what you did and how you developed your skills as a result. It also avoids having to have an awards section. Most employers don’t care about extracurricular awards you have unless they represent a definite skill or ability. They also want you to be concise, so you need to give them less sections they can skip over and get bored with.
Cover Letter Writing
1. Don’t be Afraid to Brag – You’re applying for a position, so you should believe that you are the best candidate for it. Otherwise, why bother? Tell your employer that. I start all my cover letters with, “Dear ________, I am writing to you today to apply for _____________.” My experience, character, and unique perspective make me the ideal candidate for this position.” This is to the point, tells the reader how the letter is organized, and conveys a confident intent. Never say “I believe I am…,” or “I think I am…” Nobody cares what you think or believe. In fact, legally speaking, employers can’t make hiring decisions based upon what you believe 😛 Tell them who you are, and why you’re the best.
2. Be Concise – This is self-explanatory. Don’t use flowery language or long sentences. There’s no point. Get to what you want to say.
3. Organization – Your strongest qualities should be first and last, with the strongest being first. Unlike resumes, cover letters often do not get read entirely. They don’t have sections, and HR doesn’t like spending time searching for things. As such, open strong. I start with my experience because I want to elaborate on things my resume doesn’t. I want to tell my employer about a specific project I worked on where I made my boss lots of money or something. Fill in the less important details in the middle of the letter.
4. Be More Specific – Your skills and experience sections on your resume are fairly general because they need to encompass a great deal of information in a few words. Your cover letter on the other hand, should be narrower. Talk about a specific thing you did which particularly impacted your development as a professional. Explain how you’ve generated positive results for past employers. Talk about your experiences rather than your experience.
5. Turn Your Weakness Into Strength – If something about your profile is weak or damaging, but you have to mention it, your cover letter is the place to turn it into a strength. For me, my education in philosophy can often turn off an employer. While I may be able to perform the job function very well, the employer may look at my education and think that I am not suited for the position. As such, I devote most of my time in my cover letter to describing how studying philosophy has made me a creative and analytical thinker. It has allowed me to be efficient and incisive, and have a unique perspective on human interaction. I make sure the employer knows this so that my education becomes a strength rather than a weakness. You ought to do the same.
Well that’s it for now. These are just a few general tips that I hope help you in your applications. Look for my interview tips coming soon. Good luck!
For some additional resources, check out these links: