Navigating the world of resumes and cover letters is like trying to do an assignment without any guidelines from your professor.
At school, expectations were always more clear cut. If you wrote an organized and well-researched paper, you’d get a decent – if not a great – mark.
We recently completed a round of hiring at the company I work for and, based on my experience, I’d like to share some resume and cover letter tips that will help you land your next job interview.
1. Pretend you’re on Twitter
If your cover letter was a tweet, what would it say? Get right to the point.
Lose the, “…I’m applying for the ABC position at EFG Corporation that was posted on the student careers website of University XYZ.”
Writing this sentence on Twitter would be a total waste of characters; instead, your cover letter should start with your pitch: “I’d be a great fit for the ABC position because XYZ.”
Stop saying that you have “strong analytical skills” and instead analyze the job description, and craft some very concise and compelling statements demonstrating why you should be interviewed.
2. Ditch the R2-D2 vibe
Write a cover letter the way you would write a blog post – using a human voice.
Read your cover letter out loud. Now read a post from your blog out loud. Notice a difference? Your cover letter is written in a robotic voice that you may think sounds professional. It’s not. You invite employers to check out your blog, yet they won’t click the link because they’ve already seen your writing via your cover letter and, let me tell you, they’re not impressed.
Remove the words “strong communication skills” and “strong writing skills” from your application and just write a persuasive cover letter. Walk the walk.
3. Lose your laundry lists
Why does your resume include laundry lists of each daily task you performed for all the jobs you’ve ever had? If you were a part-time receptionist while you were in university, anyone who looks at your resume will know that you answered the phone. What made you good at this job? How did you stand out?
Recruitment experts rant about this resume problem all the time, yet it came up so often in the round of hiring we just did. According Andy Porter, HR executive and prominent recruitment blogger, candidates should always pitch themselves as accomplishers as opposed to doers.
To land an interview, it’s important that employers see you as a the quarterback as opposed to the kid that gets picked last in schoolyard games. In other words, stop reducing yourself to a laundry list; you’re better than that!
Your achievements are always more compelling. Make achievements the focal point of your resume and cover letter, and cut out the rest.
4. Stop the resume firing squad
We all know the drill: modify a few resume buzzwords, change the company name and job title on your cover letter, and fire off multiple applications into cyberspace.
Instead, opt for a quality-over-quantity approach by applying to a few positions very well. Standing out requires more time than you may be spending right now. The applications we received shortly after we announced a job posting were inferior to the ones which were sent after a few days.
In the end, all of the applicants we interviewed took a bit more time to write something convincing.