Top Ten Tips For Your Resume and Cover Letter
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I’ve been doing a bunch of resume and cover letter review for some friends and family members. I actually enjoy doing this cause it gives me an opportunity to impart my wisdom and experience to helping someone close to me find the right job (notice I didn’t put “a job”). Also, I get a feel for what’s trending in the “resume building” world.
Resume and Cover Letter Tips
Over the years, I’ve seen some blatant resume issues that I feel were never taught, were old-fashioned, or were just in bad form. In an effort to help out those who’ve “never been told” how to do this. Here’s ten suggestions, from your friendly neighborhood HR Manager, of what you can do with your resume to get noticed by a recruiter.
- Personal Cover Letter – For the most part your cover letter content will looks the same (detailing out in summary your past experiences and your best qualities), however it shouldn’t be generic so that you can just send out mass e-mails to everyone. Utilize mail merge in Word if that is really necessary, otherwise you should be reviewing each job posting looking for “key words” and qualifications that match your own. Highlight your history that matches these qualifications in your cover letter.
- Get Rid of the “In Between Jobs” – If you worked at a sno-ball stand over the summer (like I did when I was 15), there’s really no point listing that if the job you’re seeking has nothing to do with Underwater Basket Weaving. When you’re not sure whether you should list that job that you were only at for 3 months, chances are, you shouldn’t. There’s nothing wrong with listing a gap or listing “various” if you feel it necessary to put something. Remember, you want the meat of your resume to be read, not the potatoes. There’s always the opportunity to explain in detail at the interview.
- List Personal Clubs/Organizations (with caution) – I’m sure you’ll find 50 other blogs who say differently but I’m a big fan of listing personal clubs/organizations. For example, I was once a Girl Scout Troop Leader, a volunteer teen youth adviser at my church, and I currently belong to a local running club. Wouldn’t it be great if the person reading my resume were either involved in girl scouts, a member of my same church, or a fan of running? I list these, because not only does it help with someone saying “oh, I know that club” but it also helps with giving a more personal dynamic that I care about my community, am actively involved in something, and choose to (in my personal time) invest in something greater than myself. (Caution: I don’t recommend listing clubs that would be construed as negative, religious or political. Use caution and your best judgement when doing this. Remember that despite every one’s best efforts – people have prejudices.)
- Don’t Use Templates – You know that Word doc template that you used because gee-whiz it was so easy to write your resume… yeah well, so does everyone else! Granted HR recruiters aren’t judging you based upon your formatting (usually), but if you want to stand out, create your own or reformat. The idea behind your resume is to showcase you, so don’t rely on Word’s template to do that for you.
- Put it in PDF Format – PDF format is the best way to e-mail out your resume for a couple of reasons a) compatibility, since not everyone uses the same document editors b) it prevents your resume from being edited or portions deleted c) it maintains your formatting in case someone has to convert. There’s some free sites like PrimoPDF that let you print to PDF. Give it a try!
- It Doesn’t Have to be One Page – I know that the old textbooks and teachers you had in high school will say, “Don’t make it longer than one page or they won’t read it!” Well that’s just not true. Especially in higher level careers. My resume has been two pages for a very long time, it’s comprehensive, it’s thorough, and it’s gotten me some great jobs. Good HR recruiters know it’s their job to read through these, all pages.
- Exact Dates Aren’t Necessary – (except on the job application) You don’t need to list your end dates with Month, Day, & Year. If the job role spans many many years, then a year to year is appropriate, but if it’s only a couple of months, you may want to list month and year. Day is something you very rarely need to list.
- List Your References – Traditionally these are at the end of the resume and these people should attest to your good character and work ethic. Make sure you’ve contacted them ahead of time to let them know you’ve listed them as a reference and that you have their current contact information. Be careful on adding friends or family members, while they will be the best in singing your praises, HR recruiters will hardly see these references as “unbiased.” Find former bosses, colleagues, teachers, or vendors you’ve worked with. It’s an opportunity for you to continue those relationships – which also helps you to network (but that’s for a different blog post).
- Professional E-Mail Address – Please please please don’t use your personal e-mail address that has “questionable content” For example: sexykitten123 at gmail dot com or violentthug at yahoo dot com are hardly appropriate to send to a recruiter. Plus they bring to question the values/morals of the applicant. Create a professional e-mail, like ours hrtact.blog at gmail dot com (firstname+lastname at gmail dot com is usually standard). Something you can send out with out fear of being judged on it. Plus it helps with organizing your job search.
- Highlight your Successes – This is a big one for me. Traditionally resumes list “what we do” almost like a job description, detailing out the tasks that are entailed in this particular job role. While I concede that this is important, in my opinion, it’s not what gets you hired. Highlight your successes; which means add things you have done like “lowered expenses by 10% in the first year” or “streamlined production which created more efficient work flow” or “expanded demographic that resulted in $10K of revenue last quarter”. Make sure you’re putting the things you did well at your last job(s) so that the recruiter can see these and want to interview you.