Resume and Cover Letter Tips You Need to Know!

Jul 25, 2016

Resume and Cover Letter Tips

Writing your resume so it stands out against the hundreds of other applicants can be a difficult task. Applicants often create a resume without looking for what the employer is looking for in a new employee. So, although you may be creating a stellar resume, it is important you are catering to what the employer is looking for so that your resume stands out against the stack of applicants applying for that same position. A common mistake made by applicants is making the resume about them, but in reality it is about how your skills and abilities are suitable for what the employer is looking for.

Here are some tips to consider when writing your resume:

1. Read the Job Posting

Take the time to read the job posting you are applying for and highlight the required and preferred skills. For each skill, you want to then write an example of how you demonstrated that skill through previous employment or education. The examples should be kept simple, so they are to the point and outline the relevance. The skills you reflect in your cover letter and resume should be relevant to the position you are applying for, as this increases the chances of the employer wanting to meet with you for an interview. Also, take the time to research the employer, as they would want to hire someone who wants to work for them. Ensure to keep a copy of the job description handy, as this will come into use when preparing for an interview.

2. Understanding what the employer wants

You want to be able to put yourself in the employer’s shoes and view your documents with a critical eye. Employers are looking for candidates who present hard skills with soft skills. Soft skills would include personality traits, social graces, communication, personal habits, friendliness, and the ability to create relationships with others.

When looking at your cover letter and resume with a critical eye, ask yourself questions from an employer perspective:

  • Has the cover letter and resume demonstrated that passion about the position and company?
  • Would the candidate fit well into the team?
  • Does the candidate have the right soft skills?
  • What accomplishments and value have they added to their previous work place?
  • Does the candidate present themselves well?

3. The Goal

For each job you apply to, your cover letter should be different because each employer has a different set of knowledge, skills and abilities that they are looking for in potential candidates. Therefore, a cover letter should be catered and targeted to each employer. Your cover letter should not include information that is copied and pasted from your resume but instead should be engaging and intriguing to the employer.

4. Setting the tone

The cover letter and resume should reflect who you are and should come across as genuine to the employer. As an applicant you should steer away from arrogance, humor, and anything that may be too personal. Anything too personal would include age, marital status, religion or other affiliations that can allow for biases from the employer. Also, phrases such as ‘I am very excited’ or ‘I am the perfect candidate’ should be avoided as these phrases do not provide support to the value you will add. Instead of these phrases, one should stick to facts and examples.

5. Sell the needs of employer

  • Think Money: Think about ways you have earned money, saved money, managed money in previous    jobs, volunteer work, or other activities.
  • Think Time: Companies are always looking to save time and increase efficiency, so display that you are able to meet deadlines, save time, make more time, and manage time.
  • Think Amounts: Always make mention “how much” or “how many.”

Remember to mention the following within your cover letter and resume:

  • Your interest in the company
  • How you will fill the company needs
  • Quantify in numbers- how long you did it, how much responsibility, and what techniques were used?

 6. Creating a cover letter

The following is a suggestion on how to construct your cover letter:

The first paragraph should include the position you are applying for, along with the company. This paragraph should also show your enthusiasm for the company and position. Lastly, it should display your unique selling point, so what makes you the ideal candidate.

The second paragraph could display your hard skills, which are teachable abilities that can be measured and defined such as typing, writing, math and reading. The hard skills should be matched with those that are mentioned by the employer in the job description.

The third paragraph could match your soft skills, which include personality traits, social graces, communication, personal habits, and friendliness. Soft skills should also be matched to those that are mentioned by the employer in the job description.

The fourth paragraph would be where you would the employer for their time in reviewing your resume and cover letter. This paragraph should be kept short and simple; you do not want to reiterate how you may be an ideal candidate as that should have caught that from the previous paragraphs.

7. Recommended format for a resume

The recommended format for a resume is a Traditional/Reverse Chronological Resume which highlights a candidate’s job experiences in reverse chronological order, with start and end dates.

The structure is as follows:

  • The Header- This is your own personal branding, but should be kept consistent on all documents. This is also a chance for your employer to view your formatting skills. The information that should be included should be your name, phone number, email address (keep it professional), website and/or Linkedin (the information on this should be up to date).
  • Profile/Highlights of Qualifications and Attributes/Summary of Skills- This is a great way to open your resume and it allows the employer to seen an overview of your abilities and it summarizes your strong points which are directly related to the position you are applying for. This section can be done in either paragraph or point form. This section should include both hard and soft skills.
  • Education- This section should include all relevant education in chronological order, including designations completed or enrolled in.
  • Work/Volunteer Experience (can be separated)- These sections are the most important on your resumes; employers are looking for the transferable skills that you learned in your previous employment and can be beneficial to them. This should not be about listing tasks but instead should be in the form of accomplishments from the skills used while performing the job.

Some furthers tips on this section are:

  • Use an active voice to describe your experience
  • Do not use personal pronouns such as I, me or my
  • Be straightforward and use clear, simple language
  • Use the appropriate tense to describe the experience
  • Start each point with an action word
  • Ensure to describe the value created
  • Use transition words like by or through

An example of structuring an accomplishment sentence would be:

An action word + describe what you did + what was the value created/how did you do it = accomplishment sentence

Other sections that can be included in the resume are:

  • Awards and Certificates
  • Specialized Skills such as computer knowledge
  • Memberships in Professional Associations

Finally, before sending off your application, here are few things to consider:

  • Have you displayed your knowledge and understanding of the company and position?
  • Have you highlighted your strong selling points?
  • Is it easy to read, and does it flow?
  • Have you reviewed the grammar, spelling, punctuation and verb tenses?
  • Did you provide examples and evidence of your past experiences?
  • Does the formatting look consistent?
  • Do you have good online presence? What would happen if the employer googled your name?