You might very well have a sterling handshake and a winning smile. But, believe it or not, a heck of a lot more goes into snagging that job you want so badly. Although what you bring to the table in terms of personality and charm most certainly can take you a long way as far as impressing your prospective boss and securing a favorable impression from him or her goes, I wouldn’t count on it for taking you all the way. Here are a few considerations that you will want to take into account when applying for the job, and showing up for the interview.
When crafting a superlative, or even a halfway-decent resume, there are a few things that you should be sure to include just as there are a few things you should absolutely be sure to avoid. To the best of your ability, and insofar as it is possible, you should be sure to include job titles from your past that pertain in some way shape or form to the job that you are currently applying to. For instance, if you are applying to a tech position, it would be worth your while to have something regarding tech on your resume.
Did you know that, upon a first reading, the typical resume is scanned for an average of only 25 seconds? This means that your type shouldn’t be hard to read, the margins should be fairly spaced out as to maximize legibility, and the headings should be clearly indicated. Consider bullet points to draw the reader’s eye to your most important or noteworthy accomplishments. If your resume is too long or arduous to read, it will be scrapped faster than you can say, “I didn’t get the job.”
Focus on what you did in your various jobs. Not what your job was. There is a difference. Most of the time, job positions are intended to fill a void in the company. As such, the interviewer wants to know how you can fill their void or satisfy their specific need. For self-analysis, for each job you list, as for each accomplishment, ask yourself “what was the benefit of having done what I did here, and have I included something that will impress my interviewer?” Avoid using generic descriptions of jobs you held. Personalize them to you specifically so that your interviewer sees you as an individual and not “Resume number 14.”
Err on the side of being conservative stylistically. Your accomplishments, error-free writing, grammatically correct, clean, crisp type and paper will make your good impressions for you. Not a gratuitously fancy type.
Finally, once you have crafted an impressive resume, you should make sure that a maximum amount of employers see it. You should make handing out your resume a full-time job in and of itself. Network, network, network! Contact absolutely everyone you know in addition to recruiters who are in a position to hire you or share insights. With a solid resume in hand, you’ll greatly increase your odds of earning a closer look and getting that interview. But before the interview, you need a well-written cover letter first.
The cover letter
First off, use some of the buzzwords from the job posting. It shows not only that you can get done what they need doing, but also shows that you pay attention to detail. It shows that you are not just mindlessly applying to job after job (even if that is in fact what you are doing). Remember, you want your employer to believe that you care especially, and a large amount, about their job posting, and their opportunity. You might not be, but you should still want the prospective employer to believe that about you.
Include specifics instead of generalizations. For instance, instead of including something like “I was a content creator at…” discuss what exact kind of content it was that you were creating. instead of “team-player,” describe how you led a team or something you specifically did to help your team. This stylistic choice is necessary to catch the cover-letter reader’s attention. Remember, they are reading a boatload of resumes and cover letters. So if your cover letter seems rote, then it will be tossed, and the prospective employer will move onto the next applicant. So be specific and avoid sounding un-individualistic and, in a word, boring.
Don’t regurgitate your resume. They already saw your resume. Your cover letter is your chance to get into even more specifics, and include even more detail, than you did in your resume. A cover letter gives you the freedom to use full sentences — instead of bullet points — so use them to expand upon your resume points and tell the story of why you’re the perfect fit for the company.
Don’t talk so much about what the company can do for you. Be more insistent on what you can do for the company.
If your resume doesn’t really include a past job that looks similar to the job you are applying for, then your cover letter is a chance to make up for that by focusing on your skills and how, even if your resume isn’t a perfect fit, you can still excel at the company and in the position.
When you don’t meet all of the job requirements, it’s common for job seekers to use lines like, “Despite my limited experience with marketing…” or “While I only have work experience doing administrative tasks…” But why apologize? Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, try to focus on the skills you do have.
Do NOT use the same cover letter slightly tweaked for every position. You’re NOT getting away with it, even if you think that you are. Instead, write a brand new cover letter for each job posting that you apply for.
Be real and don’t try to get one over on the reader. Also, don’t go too crazy with your rhetoric. Write like a normal person. Just because you’re excited about the position doesn’t mean you should be going wild with adverbs. If you find yourself writing sentences like “I am excitedly and with extraordinary zeal applying for this position,” pull back a bit. You’re coming on too strong.
A few other things you should try to do:
- Don’t add fluff in lieu of substance.
- Try to write in the company’s tone of voice. You can pick that up from their job posting language.
- Have some fun with it. Cover letter writing doesn’t have to be boring!
- Have a friend read it over and ask them this question: “Does this cover letter present me as the best possible version of myself?”
- Keep it short and sweet!
Study up on the organization. Know their work, accomplishments and their values. Research research, research, and come prepared and knowledgeable so you don’t get tripped up on any of the interviewer’s questions. Another tip on preparation: Be prepared to ask plenty of questions. It shows that you are inquisitive and enthusiastic. Be sure to take time to practice for the interview at home or with a friend. Practice never hurts! What you wear is a big part of your first impression. Therefore, you want to make sure you look professional and appropriate for the work environment. Remember that it’s not only the hiring manager who makes the decision on who to hire. Be polite and gracious to everyone you meet from the time you walk in the door to when you leave. The people you meet could be your future co-workers, so make the best impression on them that you can.
It may seem brutal out there in the job-hunting world. But the fact is that, like with most things, if you do your homework and figure out what the people in charge want and are looking for, you can make the process much less painful for yourself. You might even land a dream job, or, at the very least, a job that you can bear.
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