When you’re searching for your first job or ready to switch roles, creating a standout resume and cover letter is an important step. These documents are your first opportunity to impress potential employers, so they must stand out from the crowd. To appear more professional and competent as possible while applying for jobs, keep these tips in mind when writing your resume and cover letter. It’s natural to feel nervous about applying for jobs, but with preparation and practice, you can help your chances of success. The key is thinking about it like any other interview process – prep beforehand, tailor your resume and cover letter specifically for each company, and practice reading them aloud. Follow these tips to make sure you have the best chance of getting an interview:
Don’t just have one resume – personalize it for each company
Your resume is your first chance to impress a hiring manager at a company you’re interested in. This is your one opportunity to present yourself as a competent, professional candidate, so you must make it tailored to the job and the hiring manager. Tailoring your resume to each position you apply to is critical, and it’s often the first thing employers will see when reviewing your application.
Your resume should include information that shows you’re a good fit for the job, such as your education and work experience, as well as how you would benefit the company. Your resume should also reflect how you want to be perceived by the company beyond the professional headshots you provide.
If you want to be seen as a go-getter, for example, include achievements and experiences that reflect this. If you want to be seen as someone with a lot of potentials, include indications of this instead.
Use plain, simple language
The language you use in your resume and cover letter is crucial, and its clarity and simplicity are critical. It’s easy to fall into the trap of using industry jargon or using overly complicated language that isn’t clear to a wider audience. If your resume isn’t understandable to a hiring manager outside of your industry, it may not make it past the first stage.
Make sure you’re using a clear and simple style of language that is suitable for a wide range of readers, including hiring managers and colleagues who may not share your level of technical expertise.
Use simple language that is easy to understand, and be mindful of staying away from industry jargon, acronyms, and insider language that may distract the reader and weigh down your resume.
Show — don’t just explain — why you are qualified
Your resume should directly show why you’re qualified for the job and how your skills and experience are relevant. Avoid including statements, such as “I am qualified for this position because…” or “I’m qualified for this job because I have 5 years of experience in this industry…” Instead, include examples of what makes you qualified for the job.
If you have 5 years of experience in the industry, for example, don’t just state it — explain what you accomplished during those 5 years. If you have relevant education or qualifications, similarly, don’t just state that you have them — explain how they are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Be clear about your current job
Your resume should list your current job responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean you have to list every single task you’ve ever done at a job. Your resume should be tailored to the job you’re applying for, but it’s also important to be clear about the duties and achievements you’ve had in previous roles that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
If you’re applying for an entry-level position, you don’t need to list your previous role as vice president. But if the VP role is directly relevant to the job you’re applying for, such as if you’re applying for a managerial role, you should include it.
Point out any skill gaps and how you’ll address them
If you are lacking certain skills or relevant experience, you should be honest about this in your resume and cover letter. While you don’t want to downplay or appear to minimize your experience, you also don’t want to mislead your potential employer about your skill set.
You can address this in your application materials by highlighting the areas where you have experience and proficiency, as well as which skills you are looking to develop in your new job. You can also mention any relevant courses you took or certifications you earned while working towards your degree that is relevant to the job.
Use the same words consistently throughout your applications
The more you write, the more you will find a rhythm of language that feels comfortable and authentic to you. But it’s important to be consistent with the language you use. If you start each application with, “My name is Jane Doe,” each application should use that same sentence. If you’re listing your skills and abilities, each application should use the same wording.
Similarly, if you have to use acronyms or abbreviations on your resume, make sure that these are consistent throughout all of your application materials. If you have a long list of acronyms or abbreviations, it’s helpful to have a key to reference the definitions.
Go the extra mile with formatting
Your resume doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be professional and easy to read. You don’t have to use a fancy resume template, but do make sure it’s easy to read and free of typos. Use common sense when formatting your resume — don’t try to cram too much information on one page and keep your formatting consistent across pages.
Your resume should be printed on high-quality paper and use a font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman. Don’t use fancy fonts or paper colors that are too bold or flashy — keep it simple and clean with black paper and a simple serif font.
When you’re applying for a new job, it’s important to appear more professional as possible. This means taking the time to create standout resumes and cover letters that are tailored to specific positions, as well as writing application materials that are clear and concise. Follow these tips to help you create application materials that will help you get noticed and land an interview.