In such a competitive job market, writing résumés and cover letters that stand out can be tricky. Consider the following tips to give your self-promotional tools an extra kick to help you land that job.
Always include relevant headings
Headings allow employers to identify the crucial information they are looking for. Headers tell your name and contact information. The education section should begin with your most recent college degree and work backward. Only include institutions from which you have earned degrees. The experience section should include meaningful experiences with a short explanation of your skills and accomplishments that relate to the job.
Highlight pertinent information
Résumés are meant to show your potential employer why you are the best candidate for the job. This can be accomplished by using key words and phrases that are important to the position or industry; tailor your résumé to the job you’re applying for. Put the information in order of interest to your targeted reader. For example, education may proceed or follow your experience section.
Strategically include other information
Information such as community service, honors and awards, campus involvement, skills, and interests should only be included if they relate to the job you are applying for. Depending on space availability, consider adding an objective explaining the type of job you hope to obtain, or a short summary highlighting your areas of expertise.
As rule of thumb, résumés should be no longer than one page. If your résumé runs longer than that, edit it down to the most relevant information. If references are requested, list them on a separate page. Try to use action verbs and omit personal pronouns. Make sure your voice is active and enthusiastic.
Make it easy to read
Employers read hundreds of résumés, so yours needs to convey the most important information as easily and clearly as possible. Consider using bold or italic fonts, and make good use of the page’s white space. Put experiences like education and job history in chronological order from most recent to oldest. And remember, it's your job to advertise your abilities; don’t be modest!
To write an effective cover letter, you must do research to understand what the job entails, what the industry and organization is like, and (most importantly) how you will be an asset to the employer. Indicate the unique contributions you can make to the organization. Call attention to your skills and motivation.
Make each letter unique
Each letter needs to be unique to the position. Yes, it is a lot of writing, but targeting your cover letter is as important as targeting your résumé. It's your first chance to market yourself as a potential employee. You can make the employer's job easier by clearly describing your strengths, skills, and interests in your cover letter.
Avoid over-used phrases and clichés when describing your qualifications and interest in a position. Too many people have written that they are seeking a "challenging and rewarding position" where they can "work with people." Boring! If you're seeking these attributes in a job, try to rephrase them in new ways. Be specific about the challenges, knowledge, and opportunities you hope to find in the position.
Back up your claims
Try to draw logical connections between the statements you make. For instance, if you say that you understand the goals of the XYZ Corporation and would be good at sales with the company, give specific examples and reasons for thinking so. Reasons could be you have prior experience in the industry, you've done the job before in a different setting, or you understand the importance of sales to the company's goal of increased growth. In short, back up claims of past or intended glory with evidence that you've demonstrated these skills.
Engage the reader
Assuming an active voice and enthusiastic tone attracts an employer's attention. There are no specific rules for creating an active tone to your letter. Reread the letter. If you sound too passive, apologetic, or indifferent, rewrite the letter to capture the reader's attention. Try to engage the reader with your enthusiasm and commitment to the work.