Categories
Career Coaching

Crafting the perfect resume and cover letter

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.

Best regards,

Laura

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:

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.

Categories
Interviewing

How to nail an interview

Interviews can be stressful, especially if you really want to land the job. When you interview, the recruiter/hiring manager is looking if your skills and experience align with the role, but also if you as a person fit in with the team/department you will be working with. Depending on the type of role you are interviewing for, they may be looking for a natural born leader, an outspoken thought generator, a highly effective communicator, a quiet analyst with a passion for statistics, a workhorse with a can-do attitude… it completely depends on the role, company, and team dynamic. There is no one-size-fits-all personality type for all roles, but what you can do is show them your authentic self while selling you to be the best fit.

When you go into an interview, there are questions that are standard that you will be asked, questions to see how you handle situations, questions to “weed out” toxic candidates, and questions that may throw you for a loop. I was once asked during an interview “if you were a superhero, which one would you be?” I couldn’t help but think to myself, what kind of question is that?! Why does it matter? The reality was, once I reflected on the interview, a question like that can show the interviewer how you think on the spot, the traits you admire most in a superhero, how you handle on-the-spot stressful experiences, and how you handle non-business discussions at work. I then started to ask that question when I started hiring people for my own company and it was always fun to hear what people had to say. It’s even more interesting when people do not have an answer and struggle to respond.

Here are two of my favorite answers:

  • Batman because he is an ordinary man without super powers but uses his personal wealth and political standing within the community to make it better.
  • Superman because he is overly powerful, has to control his own strengths, and always does good. He could destroy everyone and everything if he wanted, but he doesn’t because he proves people are intrinsically good. Also, he can fly!

For the record, here was the worst answer I ever received:

  • Roadrunner because he’s nonstop, fast, and always tricks Wile E Coyote.

But the point of this post is not to go over the best and worst superheroes (or cartoon characters), it’s to help you understand how you can nail a job interview and get one step closer to a callback for another round or interviews or a job offer.

Practice makes perfect

When you’re an athlete, you practice your craft. You eat healthy, work on your cardio, build your muscles, practice muscle memory, and strive for perfection. The same goes for a job interview. If you practice answering interview questions, you are bound to be more comfortable, and ultimately turn into an interviewing pro.

Here is the best recommendation I can give you: ask yourself questions and answer them while recording yourself (on your phone or computer). This gives you the opportunity to see how you answer the questions and to go back and correct the answers you know could use improvement.

Once you have completed self-evaluation and improvement, ask a friend or family member to mock-interview you. Will it be awkward at first – absolutely. But once you get comfortable, you’ll get a better idea of how it will feel when in an interview. When you do this, provide the questions to the mock-interviewer in advance, so they can review the questions they will ask and possibly add others based on their job interviewing experience. Here are some standard questions you should always have answers to when going into a mock-job interview:

  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why do you want this position?
  • Out of all the candidates, why should we hire you?
  • How did you hear about this job?
  • Tell me about a time where you had conflict in the workspace and how you handled it.
  • What has been your biggest professional accomplishment? What has been your biggest academic accomplishment?
  • What is your dream job?
  • Why do you want to leave your current position?
  • What kind of environment do you work in best?
  • What are three words people would use to describe you?

Do your homework

Would you walk into a sales meeting not knowing anything about the company you are trying to sell to? Absolutely not. The same goes for interviews. Take the time to research the company you are interviewing with. What do they do? How many employees do they have? Are they a public or private company? What is their mission statement? What impacts have they made in their industry? How do they rank within their specialized industry?

The reality is that you need to sell yourself to the people you interview with. You are the pitch. But to know how to tug at their heartstrings, pique their interest, and motivate them to acquire you, you need to know what their goals and outcomes are.

Spend thirty minutes to an hour on their website and googling the company’s name. Review the interviewer/hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile to see if there is any experience that stands out that you can capitalize on. Did the recruiter go to the university in your hometown? Do you share a love for the same sports team? Do you both volunteer your time with like-minded non-profit organizations? Did you both have the same major or minor in college? Do you have common connections that can come up in conversation?

When you interview, they want to see that you took the time to get to know the company. They want to know you are invested in the company from the get-go, the way they are working for them. Don’t be lazy and show up without information – it can be detrimental to whether or not you move onto the next round of interviews or receive the job offer.

Clean up your resume

Before attending an interview, make sure your resume is up-to-date and free of grammatical and spelling errors. From the time you applied for the job to the point of interviewing, there’s a chance your work experience or skills have changed. Make sure that is completely reflected on your resume.

If you are attending an in-person interview, print out a few copies to bring along. If you are attending a virtual interview, email your updated resume over 30 minutes before your interview. You’ll be happy you did, and the interviewer/hiring manager will see you are proactive with your approach to obtaining the job you’re interviewing for.

Give examples

During the interview, it’s one thing to regurgitate what your resume says, but people love to hear concrete examples and actual statistics. When explaining what you do at your current job, provide specific examples of what you work on and who you work with. If you work with numbers, explain how you get these numbers and the work that goes in.

Tell a story during the interview about your work experience and skills and you are more than likely to leave a lasting impression. You need to always go above and beyond the bare minimum, not only when trying to get the job, but once you have it. Also, these stories help build a picture in the interviewer’s head on how you will contribute and fit into the department/team you will be working with.

Other things to keep in mind when interviewing are to maintain eye contact during an in-person interview, build rapport, display confidence and comfortable body language, maintain an appropriate dialogue and demeanor, and finally, be yourself.

Send a follow-up post-interview

Once you have interviewed for the position, within 24 hours send a thank you follow-up email. Even if you completely bombed the interview, show professionalism, and thank them for their time. Time is money, and that applies to everyone – not just the rich. Here’s a follow-up email you can use, but make sure you customize and make it personal.

Dear [interviewer],

It was wonderful to meet you today at my interview for the [role] role. It was especially interesting to learn more about your role as a [interviewer’s role], your team, and the recent [recent project] you’re rolling out.

You mentioned needing a [role] who’s able to learn on the go and that’s a skill I’m eager to continue. Most recently, I [give an example of what you’ve done – e.g., built my own personal website for this job search] and enjoyed the process of figuring it out.

I’d love the opportunity to continue learning with an innovative team and feel confident I’d be a great addition.

I’ve attached my resume and cover letter, so you have digital copies. Please let me know if you need anything else from me. I look forward to hearing about the next steps in the interview process.

Sincerely,

[your name]

[your email]

[your phone number]

[your LinkedIn profile URL]

Interviewing for a job can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you prepare and are confident and articulate with what you can bring to the table, you will find the right fit at the right company. When you start nailing interviews, you will gain confidence in your ability to sell yourself and how to communicate that investing in you is the best investment the company can make for themselves.