Updated: Oct 19, 2019
Laying on your desk or chilling on your desktop is your resume and cover letter. All of your experience and skills are summarized on a single piece of paper. But is it enough to get that dream job?
Within your resume and cover letter, you need to describe yourself and your experiences in a way that encourages a potential boss to hire you. According to Jobvite’s Recruiter Nation study, skilled candidates are lacking. 65% of recruiters see a lack of talent as an obstacle in the hiring process. Talk yourself up! This is the perfect opportunity to show what you’re capable of.
The problem is that there are hundreds of other people in your field that are also trying to get work. Hiring managers get hundreds and hundreds of these on their desk every single day. It’s their job. And it’s your job to stand out among the crowd. From that immense amount of candidates, only 2% of them will get a job interview according to Job Market Experts.
Let's Start With The Resume
Create a professional resume Start with what you know. Write up your resume with subheadings relevant to your industry. These subheadings can include education, certificates, experience, projects, volunteering, objective and so on. Pick and choose how the headings best highlight your candidacy.
Work experience is one of the largest (and most important) of these sections. The majority of employers want to see relevant work experience only (53%) and specifically within the last decade (57%). From the same survey, almost half (41%) of workers over the age of 45 include their first job on their resume. Pick the work experience that highlights your strengths.
The average length of a resume is a page or two. If you’ve been in the field for quite some time 77% of employers prefer a resume that’s at least 2 pages while only 44% of employers prefer a two-page resume for new college graduates.
Having a professional resume also includes having a professional email. Unfortunately, firstname.lastname@example.org doesn’t quite cut it. Over three-quarters, (76%) of resumes with an unprofessional email will be thrown out, according to Total Jobs.
Job postings are describing the exact person they're looking to fill that position. This is your chance to show them that you are the perfect candidate. Most recruiters (72.8%) don’t get relevant candidates which means they get resumes that have little to do with the job posting. Don’t let that happen. If you edit your resume and cover letter to the position, you’ll be ahead of the game. Using keywords or industry buzzwords are ways to increase the relevance of your resume. Adding keywords every 3 to 6 sentences, and adding 15 to 20 buzzwords will increase your chances by 29% and 58.8% respectively.
Be action-oriented Using active language and specifically active verbs gives the impression of a confident and independent candidate. Moreover, personal pronouns in a resume aren’t professional. According to a study by Talent Works, even a single personal pronoun within the job descriptions will decrease your chances by 54.7%. Write your job descriptions with active action verbs. Doing this will improve your chances by 140%. Instead of using ‘led’ use Coordinated, Executed, facilitated, Operated, Organized. Instead of ‘increased’, use words like Accelerated, Advanced, Boosted, Capitalized, Enhanced, Expedited. Examples like these and much more are available on this comprehensive list from The Muse.
Use Numbers to Provide Context. Employers want to know exactly what you can offer, and using concrete figures in your resume is a great way to increase your chances by 40%. Instead of just simply saying how you ‘increased readership’ or ‘limited program redundancies’, you could say ‘increased readership by 45% in 6 months’ or ‘decreased 35 program redundancies saving an average of 35 minutes per employee’
Avoid Cliches If it sounds like it's been done before, it most likely has. Simply use a thesaurus to say the exact thing differently. Over half of job recruiters will right out reject a candidate for cliches. Here are the top ten resume cliches, according to the New College of the Humanities (NCH). Proofread your resume for these following terms and change them up.
Can work independently
Works well under pressure
Excellent written communication skills
Be creative but not flashy Judge the industry your applying for and match that aesthetic. Don’t give up on the visual side of it though, you need to impress. eye-tracking research by The Ladders shows that recruiters spend 6.25 seconds on average looking at a resume before deciding if they fit. That’s not a lot of time and you need to make a positive impression.
Although you need to have a resume and cover letter that stands out, a resume shouldn’t be flashy or tacky. Too much design can turn off over 40% of recruiters, according to Undercover Recruiter. You need to make sure you stand out from the rest in a good way.
Now for the cover letter.....
You need to portray yourself and make a great first impression with a simple piece of paper. A cover letter is important as it shows your potential employer that you can communicate effectively and your attention to detail. For the cover letter, you aren’t repeating your resume. Your potential employer already has your resume without needing to read it in prose. This cover letter is where you get to show off more of your experiences, to delve deeper into projects. Essentially, you’re explaining why you’re good for the position.
If you find yourself writing cover letters all the time, consider writing a standardized letter that you can adjust for each specific job. This way you can apply with catered cover letters but not spending your time creating one from scratch every time.
Length Does Matter Make sure to make the most of it by writing for clarity. This isn’t a biography but a way to pitch yourself. The standard cover letter is 3 or 4 paragraphs long. According to a Saddleback College Resume Survey reports, employers prefer shorter cover letters. A quarter of the respondents (24%) consider the shorter the better, while 43% prefer a half-page. Only 12% consider a full-page necessary.
Use A Name
If you can, find the name of the person that will be reading your cover letter. This shows that you took the time to read about the company. Many job postings will include something along the lines of “contact Jane Doe with your resume and cover letter”. Address the cover letter to the contact. However, sometimes there isn’t a name attached. In that case, don’t use ‘To whom it may concern’. Use a position such as hiring manager, recruitment manager, personnel supervisor or something along those lines
Showcase your Networking
There’s nothing wrong with name dropping. Networking is a much more successful way to get a job by a factor of 3:1. Most jobs (39.9%) are received through referral programs while just 14.9% of hires are made from job board candidates. Highlight peers you’ve worked with, impressive employers that you’ve had. But be careful that you’re not making a better cover letter for your network than yourself.
With all of these tips and tricks, you can improve your chances of getting the job. Good Luck!