The most arduous part of applying for a job is preparing your résumé and cover letter. You must custom tailor these for each specific job in order to prevent the hiring manager from throwing your files right in the trash. Hiring managers can tell by reading just the first few lines whether this is the same résumé and cover letter you’ve sent to everyone, so you have to stand out and show why you’d be an asset to that company.
You don’t want to copy the company’s job listing into your cover letter, but you want to include the same ideas. Check the listing for key ideas and information that will align you with what the company is looking for. It will let them know about you and whether you’re the right fit for their company.
Another place to check for ideas is the company’s mission statement. This usually can be found on the company’s website. Look for the about section, which typically features a history of the company. Identifying ideas and concepts that align with the company will help you understand the person that they want to hire.
Just writing the words cover letter is dreadful — bringing up cover letters makes everyone cringe. Some are calling for the death of cover letters, but hiring managers are still looking at them, and when they do, they’re determining whether they will even look at your résumé once they read the cover letter. The introduction is the most important part.
Avoid using “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” It’s better to personalize it to the person who will be reading the letter. The lack of personalization also comes off as lazy since you can probably find the information of the person who will be reading it online, or even in the job description. Also, don’t thank the hiring manager too much for reading your cover letter. Let them know why you’re the one who should be hired. The cover letter should help to personalize your story, to show what’s not on your résumé.
Make the introductory sentence appealing. Avoid starting off with name and the title of the job. A majority of cover letters will start off this way. The cover letter should serve as a way for you to stand out, it isn’t supposed to list what can be found in the job description. If people are applying for the position, they likely have the skills required for the job. Find a way to show you’re above the pack.
Unlike your cover letter, a résumé should be exponentially easier to write. In the past, there would be an objective at the top, but a summary statement is standard these days. The easiest way to think of it is to make it an elevator pitch; make it short, concise and sell yourself. Real estate on your résumé is valuable, so don’t go overboard with it.
Another way to stand out when writing your résumé is your bullet points. Keep the writing tight, don’t just list the tasks from your previous job, list accomplishments. Provide context for those accomplishments, it’s not just about listing what may be impressive — tell them the impact those accomplishments had. Don’t write overly complicated bullet points. The length will cause the reader to skip over what you have to say.
There’s still a debate about whether your résumé should go over one page, but try to keep it from going too long.
Every applicant will be sending similar résumés and cover letters, and yours should stand out. Use the opportunity to show the hiring manager what makes you a cut above all of the people applying for the job. Being able to stand out will put you one step ahead when you’re finally offered an interview.
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