After years of sifting through hundreds of resumés I have come up with a few tips on how to increase your chances of having your resumé chosen among the sea of applicants.
One thing to bear in mind is, although I recruited and hired many university students over the years, I was just one employer who looked for certain key qualities in the applicants which would make them ideal for the job. Each employer will have certain characteristics specific to the job – and I don’t just mean job-related skills.
Personality plays an important role in securing the job. However, personality is very difficult to get across on a piece of paper. Remember that the cover letter and resumé are only the first impressions an employer will have of you!
When I read through application forms, cover letters and resumés, what I would look for was a REASON to meet this applicant. Getting face time with a potential employer is the best opportunity you have to showcase not only your skills for the job, but also your personality.
Your biggest challenge is making your cover letter and resumé speak for you. Imagine reading boring cover letter/resumé after boring cover letter/resumé and how refreshing it would be to stumble across an exciting, unique one: this is your goal!
- Do your research. Show in the cover letter you know what this company stands for. Make reference to such details and how your skills will translate in that environment.
- Highlight unique skills, abilities and experiences. Remember: you are trying to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. In an interview, this was often the first thing I asked the applicant.
- Adapt the writing style used in your cover letter to suit the type of job you are seeking. Remember: Who will be reading these documents?
- Your cover letter should be exciting and make the employer want to read your resumé. Often, employers will not look any further than the cover letter. Therefore your resumé is useless if they don’t make it past the cover letter.
- Proof read. It is embarrassing to read a cover letter and/or resumé that have spelling or grammatical errors. Even worse, is when it’s clear the documents were used for other jobs and have not been updated for the specific job (i.e.: incorrect job title, company name or hiring manager’s name, etc.). It is unbelievable how many people do not take the time to do this simple task and is a sure way to blow the chance of an interview.
- Take the time to genuinely complete the application form (if applicable). Employers create such forms because they are looking for certain characteristics and skills. It’s clear to employers which applicants have taken the time and put in a serious effort, and which have not.
These are some key items to keep in mind when creating a cover letter and resumé that will speak for you. Ultimately, you are selling yourself, so be creative and honest!