Resumes take time. When you’re first starting out, you include everything you can to fill that blank piece of paper. Then, a few years into your career, you struggle to keep the text on one page. Once you find the perfect format, you breathe a sigh of relief. Done! Right?
Not quite. If you aren’t making at least subtle changes to your resume for each job application, you aren’t putting in the necessary time to get the job. Tailoring your resume is crucial. Highlight the accomplishments in your past jobs that best reflect your ability to succeed in the position for which you are applying. Every job has a different set of requirements, so your resume should reflect those differences each time. Make sure your resume includes key words from the qualifications listed in the job posting.
The same rules apply for cover letters. You do not want your cover letter to read like a form letter. In a recent hiring process, I received a number of cover letters highlighting experiences that had nothing to do with the job and/or didn’t even mention the open position. The vague nature of these letters told me the jobseekers were sending out the same letter for every job.
The key to a great cover letter is personalization. Prove to the recruiter that you put in the time to write this letter for this job, and this job only. When possible, use the recruiter’s name rather than phrases like “To whom it may concern” or “Attention: Human Resources”. You want to create a connection with the recruiter, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by using his/her name. Connect yourself to the organization’s mission right off the bat. Be sure to include the name of the position to which you are applying and tell the recruiter why you want this particular job.
I know resumes and cover letters are time-consuming, and you may be shocked that I’m suggesting you put in more work before applying for every job. But if your end goal is to land one of those jobs, putting in the extra time to ensure your application stands out is quite worthwhile.
Emily Miller is Director of Employment Placement Services at the Leadership Institute where she coordinates the networking and employment site, ConservativeJobs.com. She also assists jobseekers through resume and career consultations, job fairs, and training events. You can reach Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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