In today's social media age, you'd be better off taking resume cues from your Linked In page than your parents.
Electronic submission and a tough economy means lots of resumes for HR people to sort through, and very little time and attention to devote to them.
Your best bet for getting noticed? Getting to the point! A former human resources intern and current Gen-Yer Sara Coppola offers advice on grabbing her attention:
Trim the "experience" fat. Focus on those parts of your background that are really relevant for the position you are applying for. Does what's on your resume and cover letter clearly make a case for how can you contribute to the company? If you're not sure, re-read the job ad. What kind of candidate are they looking for? What they require the candidate to have previously worked with and what will the new job tasks require? Add or delete bullet points on your resume accordingly.
2. Proof read
Not just for errors, but for flow, clarity, and extra information. After checking for spelling mistakes, read through your materials again: do the ideas follow each other in a way that makes sense? Is every sentence relevant?
And while it's great to keep things short (you already know to keep your resume to one page), don't “cram” your page with lists so that you can fit more information; you have to let the reading “breathe,” or risk losing your reader.
Are your lists of dates and duties too convoluted? Try reading it aloud, and ask a friend for feedback.
3. Don't copy and paste
At least not in bulk. If your cover letter is generic enough to work for every job you apply to, it's too generic to get you hired.
Look at each new job opportunity and select only the parts of your resume/cover letter that correspond, adding experience if you hadn't previously used and it makes sense.
Copy and paste only the relevant parts of your old CVs into a new document, and build a cover letter and fresh resume from there.
4. Stop repeating yourself
In order not to lose yourself in useless “blah blah blah”, your application letter should be an introduction to your résumé, not a rehash of it. It does not make sense to repeat exactly what is on your CV in a descriptive form. Instead, trying thinking of how you can introduce yourself in a way that will get a reader curious about the experience on your resume. Failing that, try to think what you can add that is important and useful, expanding on a bullet point under one of your job titles.
5. Speaking of bullet points…
Don't be afraid to use them, if you've got strong enough points to make. They provide structure and immediacy, and help display the information in a succinct and direct way. Bullet points drive the reader through what is most relevant from the company´s point of view by:
- Helping to interrupt a stream of words and making your letter easy to read
- Catching the reader´s attention by skipping to the most relevant information
- Easily underlining important points, dates, and data
See what we did there? Now, how to know what to bullet: in a resume, go to town! But in a cover letter, only reserve this tactic for truly arresting information (your top sales figures from last year, dazzling clients you've worked with, high-profile experience that perfectly aligns with the job description).
And no fluff! Having to be succinct about inflated details will only draw attention to your weak spots.
6. Use structure
Everybody loves a good story, so make sure your cover letter tells one! Start with an opening, for introducing of yourself and how you found the job ad; a body, stating and clarifying your strengths and previous experiences; and a close, summing up what you have been writing about and asking for a face-to-face interview.
Any additional information that doesn't "advance" the storyline (the story being, "Why You Should Hire Me"), can and should be cut.
Sara Coppola is a creative content writer within the fashion clothing industry, and former Human Resources intern for a company in Denmark. When not working on launching her freelance writing career, Sara loves to travel, take pictures and keep up with fashion trends.