Resume & Cover Letter Tips for Articulating Your Awesomeness
Shannon Smedstad | Career, Job Search| By
Today, when I opened my inbox and skimmed new messages, I noticed this headline: 6 Words that Kill Your Resume. The blog post that followed began with “Writing a resume seems easy.” I paused and thought to myself, you know what? For a lot of people, writing a resume doesn’t seem easy. There are not only resume words to avoid but recruiter expectations and design preferences. This month alone, several friends asked me to review resumes, and all required edits and had multiple opportunities to improve.
During a recent Twitter chat about resumes and online job applications, the moderator tweeted a question to me, “Can u immediately spot a professionally written resume?” My answer: “Sure, but not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion. Some people just need help articulating their awesomeness.”
Now, I am not a certified professional resume writer (CPRW), though I have helped hundreds of people with their resumes, both as a function of my full-time job and “on the side.” I am an advocate for and understand the value in having a well-written resume. Do you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a “professionally” written resume? Maybe, maybe not — that’s for you to decide.
Resume & Cover Letter Tips for Articulating Your Awesomeness
– Your Resume is a Marketing Tool. Recruiters may not always accept resumes during career fairs, but they still want to review them via email or their company’s applicant tracking system. Your resume is your marketing tool and key to landing interviews; you’ll need one in order to sell your experience to the recruiting gate keepers.
– Recruiters actively source candidates online. Having a resume that clearly articulates your work experience, areas of expertise, accomplishments and strengths, technical and work-related skills, and anything else that makes you awesome will better your chances of being found via resume databases, LinkedIn or Boolean searches.
– Resume or Online Profile is Expected. Hiring managers still want to see resumes of potential candidates and those selected for interviews. They may even ask you for a copy during on-site interviews. Therefore having a well-written resume, free of typos and other errors that also highlights your skills and accomplishments, is important.
How to Get Feedback and Insights from Experts Regarding Your Resume and Cover Letter
– Ask a friend who works in human resources to review your resume and provide suggestions. If you don’t have a friend in HR, ask a friend of a friend. Heck, reach out to your social networks and see if anyone works in recruiting and can give you some pointers.
– If You’re in College, Reach Out to Your Career Services Department. Your university actually employs people whose job it is to help you with your resume. Many schools often host resume workshops with employers, for free.
– Talk to Your Agency Recruiter. When working with an agency recruiter or executive search firm, ask for assistance. They are going to want to showcase you in the best way possible to their clients. It pays for them to put some polish on your resume.
– Negotiate Resume Writing Services in Your Severance Package. If you have been laid off or recently received notice of a layoff, talk to your HR department about any outplacement services they may be providing to employees. Depending on your tenure and/or level within the company, you may be able to negotiate outplacement as part of your severance package.
– Most Professional Associations Offer Member Services. If you’re a member of a professional association, check their website and see what career-related services are offered as member benefits.
– Read Books and Career Related Websites. A quick search on Amazon yields many resume writing books for under $10 and ebooks for less than $5. I’d recommend reading some of the customer reviews before deciding which book(s) to purchase.
– Follow resume writers on Twitter … better yet review their profile pages and click through to articles chocked full of resume advice. (I have created a list of tweeps actively sharing resume tips on Twitter.) You can also conduct a search on Twitter using #resumetips that will lead to people, blogs and even more advice.
Are you a professional resume writer or HR pro? If so, please share your best piece of resume advice below for our readers. If you are a job seeker looking for resume advice, post a question below. We’ll be checking post and sharing our own resume tips and tactics.
Get more resume writing and cover letter tips, by downloading Blogging4Jobs’ FREE career toolkit including resume and coverletter templates. Click here.
I am a professional resume writer and on occasions I find my clients expect their resume will land them their dream immediately or because they have gained a certain license/ticket/qualification it automatically puts them in the running for the job of their dreams.
First of all, it’s about being noticed and utilising the services of a professional resume writer can help you achieve that, however you must be applying for positions that will get you noticed.
I recently completed a resume for a young woman that wanted to be a dump truck operator up in the mines. She went out and obtained her HR license. I directed her resume towards this area of work, but explained to her that she would need to seek alternative avenues to eventually land herself in this type of position. She has never driven a dump truck before in her life, so she isn’t going to get this type of job in an instant, it will take hard work and determination and eventually it will pay off.
Candidates needs to be patient and understand that having your resume completed by a professional will not guarantee you a job, but it will certainly better improve their chances of being noticed – but they have to be applying for the right jobs.
That is so true, Verity. Even the world’s best Resume writer cannot turn a bricklayer into a brain surgeon. It is surprising how many people think this is possible!
It is very frustrating Zoe, especially when people you have assisted make comments about your service in public forums. Not bad ones – but just recently a girl wrote she had her resume done by me…”excellent work but mind you i’ve applied for over 50 jobs and it hasn’t got me anywhere”
I am curious to know what types of positions she is applying for. If they are her dream job or if she is making applications to get her foot int he door to work her way towards her dream job.
This is the key, isn’t it – what jobs are you applying for? I work with a lot of people trying to break into the Australian mining industry and while I have a high success rate, not everyone is cut out for this line of work. Instead of considering this as a reason why they haven’t made it to a shortlist, they blame the mining companies for being giant corporations who don’t care about the ‘little guy.’
There is a danger when a person is applying for the salary and not for the job. Counselling people in the appropriate career strategy for them is a big part of the job! Even a professional Resume cannot guarantee you a job if you aren’t the best candidate for it in the first place!
Couldn’t agree more, Verity 🙂
I am a professional Career Development consultant and my number one tip is consistency. Make sure that your “brand” is consistent across the board from social media profiles to application documents to physical presentation at the interview.
You don’t want to be gunning for an admin job citing your outstanding communication and software skills but you can’t get your Resume formatted correctly or construct a sentence. Similarly, you don’t want to present yourself in a an application as a quiet achiever with a conservative outlook and then have a social media profile stocked to the brim of photos of you in a beer guzzling hat sporting a tshirt that says “Do I look like a people person?” It happens. Believe me!
One final pointer on consistency – make sure that your application is consistent with the ‘real’ you. There is zip point pretending to be someone you aren’t to land the job you think is the one of your dreams. If you have to pretend to stand a chance, then it’s not the job for you.
These days, applying for jobs is no longer simply about handing a resume in. Social media has put everyday people are in the public forum and we all need to have that celebrity mentality towards our privacy. Personally, I employ a simple rule: if I wouldn’t be okay with my mother knowing/seeing what I post, don’t post it!!
Good Luck all!!
Shannon Smedstad says
Thank you to everyone who has read, shared, liked and tweeted this post! And a special thanks to those of you who commented and shared your expertise.
Lisè Schwartz says
I am a performance improvement coach and I work with career transitioning individuals and groups (departments that are being outsourced, for example) to help them create resumes that get results.
I find the most common mistake is writing a resume that is too long or too detailed. It is important to really step away from the experience as a personal story and to describe the event as it relates to the desired skills for the job you hope to get.
I agree with you. A majority of the resumes I see are 5-6 pages long and each job description lists every single detail of their job duties. My advice is to stick to the most important things or those that are relevant to the position you are applying for.
A resume that is 2-3 pages long is what I aim to achieve. Anything longer and I am not satisfied. Of course if I can get all the information onto 2 pages, I am thrilled 🙂
In Australia, the requirement is very different. Over here, the terms CV and Resume are interchangeable and detail (albeit relevant detail) is expected and required for Australian applications.
I have found it interesting to note the differences in job application requirements in the different countries around the world – particularly as I have worked with people in the US, Canada, UK and even Egypt (isn’t the internet a wonderful thing?!!).
I am actually writing a book on the Australian job application prcoess and requirements because most of the information available is based on the US format which is simply too brief most of the time for an Australian context.
Funny how different trends have developed in different countries!
Ian Spinney says
And don’t ever forget to provide a 1 page covering letter summarising why you are interested in the role, and your key experience, qualifications and achievements in relation to the role. You will substantially improve your application if you also provide a statement addressing the key selection criteria in the advert or position description, ie: give brief but pertinent examples of qualifications, experience, knowledge, training, skills, competencies, attitudes, etc that are required by the employer or recruiter. The recruiter will love you for this, because it makes it so much easier to scan through your application and pick out the relevant attributes. No matter how good your resume is, Don’t ever rely on this one document to sell your skills – You will appear more professional if you tailor you application in this way. And finally, don’t rush your email (when attaching these 3 documents to it). So many people wreck a perfectly composed application by submitting it in a poorly prepared email with typos and txt abbreviations!
I fully agree with you Ian. Directing your cover letter to the job role and referring back to the key selection criteria in the job advertisement shows you have taken time to read the ad as well as shown genuine interest in the role.
Bullet points in your cover letter, detailing your experience relative to the role will stand out also!
I agree as well – the cover letter should be well structured, logically presented and provide substantiated statements rather than generic valueless content that makes you blend into the crowd eg “I am hardworking and punctual” – as a recruiter, this used to really annoy me because everyone said it and it was never substantiated. Think about *how* you do something – how do you employ time management skills ensuring you are punctual? How do you contribute to a team environment ensuring you are a dedicated employee? etc.
I’ve actually put together a blog video about reading job advertisements and constructing cover letters tailored to the advertisement (please forgive the shocking voice. I was having trouble with my microrphone and was talking slowly so I could be heard!!)
Virginia Franco, CPRW says
As a CPRW, I advise clients that it is more important than ever to write with the online reader in mind, and one that will only skim the document for a matter of seconds before putting it in the “keep” or “discard” pile.
The online eye can simply not process as much as the print eye — which means contents needs to be succinct and skimmable (think Tweet like passages).
And when you have seconds to make an impression, make sure the top portion of your resume provides a compelling overview to keep your interest and give you an idea of what you are about, just like a headline and intro paragraph catch your attention when reading a newspaper story.
Of course I’m biased, but writing your own resume is like cutting your own hair…you are often just too close to the subject to get it right. If for that reason only it is worthwhile to go to a professional who can see your career from a more objective perspective.
Shannon Smedstad says
If you are a professional resume writer and would like me to add you to my resume writers Twitter list, please DM on Twitter so that I can add you. Thx! Shannon
Resume writers Brisbane says
We can share many things in our resume which may or may not relates our job but can possess a place in the target person’s mind.
Are you referring to hobbies and interests? I am not convinced either way it helps or isn’t relevant. For example, if your applying for a job as a mechanic and have a hobby such as restoring old vehicles than this might be relevant as it shows you are passionate about the industry outside of your career – this would be one instance where I would say including this information is fine.
But suppose you put down that your interested in AFL and follow, say Collingwood and the recruiting person supports Richmond – will this help?
In your opinion, what would be something to possess the targets person mind and how would we know what interests them? First of all you have to get them reading far enough into resume to be able to see this information.
It is always risky to include personal information like this. It is always a good idea to keep the information included to the required and not go beyond that. You don’t know why you may be discriminated against and I would keep personal information inclusions to a minimum.
Even if you are a mechanic interested in restoring old cars I would be wary as this is a great thing to add to your application at interview. It will add a greater depth to your application when you can keep on making your application better – if you lay out “all” of your cards in your Resume, you won’t have anywhere to go from there.
Your Resume should really be tailored to the job advertisement and should be selling you as a potential employee, not providing your life history! As an ex recruiter, I always preferred an applicant that could add extra depth at interview (otherwise, why bother interviewing?!).
That said, every hirer is different and you can’t please everyone. Make sure your document represents YOU and isn’t a fake template that doesn’t speak to your nature at all and hopefully the “right” company will ask you in for an interview!
Resume writers Sydney says
If you don’t have an online portfolio, get in your time machine.You did an awesome job on the resume and cover letter!
Laura Boullosa says
I was looking for ideas to write my resume and cover letter and I decided to read your blog. The first thing that caught my attention was the title and the picture. Great job using your sense of humor to attract the audience. Also, I found out valuable information in your content. I also have a blog about how to brand yourself in an interview . I invite to check it out and leave some feedback. http://pwsatusf.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/branding-yourself/
Cori Swidorsky says
Great tips on resume writing. You can check out my eBook too:
Straight Talk from a Recruiter: Resume Writing Strategies and Easy To Follow Techniques
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