We are back talking about the steps to an effective job search. So far we have covered managing stress and change, goal setting and coping with challenges of a career change. On my holiday, I was thinking (not) what could I write about resumes and covering letters as there is so much written on these two topics.
Because of so many books and websites and the multitude of ways suggested to do resumes and cover letters, I know it becomes confusing and frustrating for people looking for a job. Everyone knows how important a good resume is – but how do you know if your resume is good when there is so much contradicting information!
In our competitive marketing place, the only reason an employer hires new people is to utilize their abilities to make money, save money or improve productivity. If you agree with this statement, then you will agree that your resume has to represent you as a problem solver who clearly understands you are hired to impact the bottom line.
If you are not getting good responses from your resume, then probably it reads like the white pages of telephone book instead of a billboard. Most peoples’ resume look like a list of the companies they have worked for, duties and education. Your resume should be a marketing tool, which highlights your key skills, abilities, personality traits, achievements and experiences that will catch the employer’s attention.
The only purpose of a resume is to get you an interview. You should write with the intention of creating interest and persuading the employer to call you for an interview. To do this you have to step out of your own shoes – your needs and wants – and step into the employer’s shoes and try to understand what his/her needs are.
As any marketing tool, your resume should be clear, concise and easy to read. A one or two page resume is most effective. Be sure to include only the essential points that make you a qualified candidate; selecting the most relevant skills, work experience and accomplishments that support your suitability for the position you are applying for.
Employers usually spend less that 30 seconds scanning your resume. It has to catch their attention and first impressions are everything. The first 15-20 words on the resume will make it or break it for you. A resume must begin with an impressive heading that catches attention immediately. There is a choice of two key headings you can use to start the body of a resume – “Objective” or “Profile” (Summary of Qualifications).
Stay away from Objective headings. An Objective statement is a glorified ‘what’s in it for me’ statement. It speaks to what you want in your career.
The best heading to use is ‘Profile’. The Profile statement markets to what the employers want to hear – ‘what’s in it for them’ to interview you. It is a powerful, concise description of unique skills, qualities and achievements you have to offer stated in two or three lines. The Profile statement creates excitement whereas, the Objective statement is unnecessary information for the employer.
Employers are primarily interested in your last ten years of employment. Technology has changed the way we do our jobs so drastically that previous experience is obsolete and no longer relevant.
Covering letters are viewed as an irritation instead of another great opportunity to market your background. The cardinal rule for covering letters is do not repeat words or experiences in your covering letter that you have already used in your resume. Most people regurgitate everything they stated in their resumes into the covering letter instead of looking at what other skills, strengths and achievements can they write about related to the specific job they are applying for. Some suggestions for covering letters are:
- Research the company/position prior to writing the letter so you know what important information needs to be highlighted. The Internet is a great resource tool to use before writing a covering letter.
- Always use the full name of the person who is in the hiring position. It is not acceptable to address covering letters to: To whom it may concern, hiring manager, Dear Sir/Madam, etc. To address the letter accurately call the receptionist to confirm the information.
- State a brief description of two or more of your skills or achievements, which match the requirements of the position and how these would benefit the employer. If you do not have 75% of what the ad is asking for, you will probably not get an interview.
- If salaries expectations are asked for in the ad, give a realistic salary range i.e. $35,000 – 45,000.
Once the resume and covering letter are complete, have several people proofread it. It is true-an employer will throw a resume/covering letter in the garbage if they have a spelling or grammar mistake in it. Ask people if your resume sends an inherent message that you are a problem solver. Your goal is to use your skills and abilities to make a positive difference for a potential employer.
To get results from a resume and your covering letter there is both bad news and good news. The bad news is that creating a resume and covering letter that are marketing tools takes a great deal of time and painstaking revision. The good news is if you do it, they will make a significant difference in your career life.