There’s nothing worse than seeing a bright future in a candidate, then receiving a sub-par resume and cover letter on their behalf. Your resume is a representation of what you can bring to the table. Your cover letter should lead the recruiter/hiring manager to want to read your resume and learn about you as a person and employee. If one falls short, the other does too.
Crafting the perfect resume and cover letter isn’t as easy as it may seem. However, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as many make it out to be. When crafting both, you want to remember:
- Maintain the same voice throughout. Standardizing your resume and cover letter to always be in the same tense is key and will keep you in the running. I’ve had multiple resumes come across my desk and if I see a lot of inconsistencies, I chuck it.
- Include your “pitch” in both. A paragraph on who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for will help recruiters place you in the right position. You need to sell yourself, and this is the first step in doing so.
- Be transparent. Include your social media handles, address, phone number, etc. By doing this, you are showing you have nothing to hide, that you can maintain a professional demeanor in and out of the office, and that you’re well connected.
- Keep everything in order. If in the past you had a job that doesn’t 100% align with that job you’re applying for, keep it in there anyway. A hiring manager would rather see your honest work history as opposed to a gap in your work history. Also, having to explain in an interview that you did have a job during that time but didn’t want to include it can raise some red flags. Also, go backwards in time. The first job that should be on your resume is your most recent position. A recruiter/hiring manager shouldn’t have to scroll to the bottom of your resume to see what you’re currently doing.
- Tailor your resume and cover letter to the market you are applying within. If you’re applying for a job as an analyst at a healthcare IT company, call out tasks that relate specifically to that industry or job-type. Too many times I get a standard resume across my desk and all I can think is, did they take the time to read the job description? Even worse, when I read a standard cover letter that has the wrong market highlighted throughout. Once again, you’re selling yourself, so put in the work.
- Quality outshines quantity. A resume and cover letter doesn’t need to be too lengthy, in fact, a resume shouldn’t go over two pages if you have 10+ years of experience. Your cover letter isn’t your opportunity to write a memoir of your life. Remember that term “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid)? This is where it applies. Show your highlights, if you’re in sales, provide statistics. The easier it is to read your experience, the more likely you will get a call for an interview.
- Make sure your resume represents you. You’re not writing a boring report about your findings – you’re writing about YOU. Make it sound like you, read as if you wrote it, and give it some flare. This may seem counterintuitive based on some of the bullets above, but you can convey who you are in short concise sentences while also giving the recruiter/hiring manager a taste of who you are.
- Always include your achievements and awards. Recruiters and hiring managers want to not only know you have the experience, but you can execute as well. If you were a member of the National Honor Society and you are applying for your first job out of college, include it. It shows dedication to your education. If you completed an internship, include it, and talk about what you learned.
- Watch your formatting. Use templates provided by Google and Microsoft. They make it so easy for you to focus more on the content, rather than the design. The templates are customizable (don’t like the color but the layout? Extremely easy change that will take five minutes once you’re done adding your information) and will save you time. It will also ensure that when you save the document and go back in, the formatting will be the same.
- Depending on the industry you’re looking to gain employment in, you may also want to add a headshot. Most industries do not want or care about this, but if you’re a graphic designer or entering into an art-driven industry, it can definitely make you more memorable.
This was one of the best cover letters that ever crossed my desk:
Dear Mr. Zides,
My name is Laura and I just graduated with my bachelor’s in communications with concentrations in Public Relations/Organizational Communication and Journalism from Babson College – go Beavers!
I came across the role of Marketing Strategist at CoreAxis and I was excited to see this opportunity was available. During my tenure at Babson, I interned at two major PR firms in Boston: Inkhouse and PAN Communications. During my time at Inkhouse, I was in charge of maintaining media packets for ten of their major clients, owned communication to those clients notifying them of all media that has been published on their behalf, as well as maintained and created lead generation lists for new clientele.
During my senior year internship with PAN Communications, I was able to take a more active role in research marketing. Additionally, I was part of greater discussions with the Director of Marketing and Director of Sales to find creative solutions to generate new business in outside-the-box and thoughtful ways – all while keeping costs down. I am proud to say that I led one of the email campaign initiatives, with minimal hand holding, that yielded five new clients.
I want to continue my work with lead generation and client communications, as well as learn more about marketing initiatives that can help a company grow. I am passionate about finding innovative ways to solve problems, increase sales, and create long-lasting relationships. I love to take on a new challenge and am a fast learner – you don’t need to tell me twice how to do something!
Attached, please find my resume. I am excited about this opportunity and look forward to discussing it. I am available whenever is best for you.
Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information.
Why do I love this cover letter? Because I felt like I knew Laura by the end of it. I felt her passion and excitement. I appreciated her transparency on what she has learned and her willingness to learn more. I loved that she took the time to see we shared the same alma mater and she added “Go Beavers!” Did I hire her? You bet!
When you can feel a person’s passion for the job, it is unmatched by years and years of experience with little to no excitement. Employers want to know that you are experienced, passionate, and malleable – not every company follows the same process and it’s important to show your flexibility.
I’m not going to put an entire resume on here because you can google resumes and get examples. However, here are a couple job descriptions that have stood out to me over the years:
Hiring a full-stack web developer:
Project Manager & Systems Administrator
- Built numerous WordPress websites for Brazil-based clients.
- Liaised between the brand and upstream supply chain through the product development process.
- Conducted internal trade and health ministry research for international markets.
- Prepared in-house documentation including proposals, consultation reports, invoicing, formula spec sheets, and quoting forms.
- Filed for and successfully acquired numerous trademarks.
Hiring a technical writer:
Senior Technical Writer
- Created, maintained, and managed (product) services Foreign Exchange, Economics, Commodities, Intelligence, and Vault Help Pages using XMetal and HDMS.
- Created function overview and new enhancement walkthrough tours using Photoshop.
- Managed the creation and release of the monthly newsletter.
- Designed the Global Product Documentation department’s summer internship program, then managed summer interns, their projects, and provided status reviews on their progress.
- Created the Global Analytics and Product Alignment statistics spreadsheet and process, then implemented across the Product Development department.
- Collaborated with Advanced Specialists to provide monthly statistics to companywide groups to maintain communication between departments and improve terminal functions.
- Designed and delivered training on terminal discoverability and internal function usage, including Confluence.
- Awards: 2014 Woman of the Year Nominee, 03/31/2014 Business and Technology Innovator Recipient
Hiring a marketing coordinator:
- Assisted marketing director with creation of materials, such as flyers and incentives for clients using Photoshop. Yielding a 20% increase in clientele.
- Wrote press releases and managed the firm’s social media accounts, reaching 250K followers.
- Edited and maintained external content on the firm’s website. Published new content weekly.
- Prepared proposals and scope of work documents.
- Tracked client survey records with an in-house CRM database.
- Organized events and maintained guest lists. Performed event setup and breakdown.
Why do I love these descriptions so much? Because they show versatility. Not only are they experts in the roles they’re applying for, but they collaborate with other departments, use multiple tools to do their jobs, and communicate with direct and concise details.
When it comes to your resume and cover letter, make sure they tell a story about what you can do and what you want. If you don’t perfect this part of your job search, you will have a hard time landing a position. My last bit of advice, always have an extra set of eyes take a look. With anything you create, you’re “in it” and it can be hard to see errors from the inside. No one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean your resume and cover letter can’t be.