The first impression that a company has of you is your resume and cover letter. But how can you make them stand out from the crowd? Watch this lesson for tips on how to create a winning resume and cover letter.
Martin is almost finished with college, and it's time for him to start looking for a job. But he's not sure where exactly to start. How can he let companies know that he's available to work? And, more importantly, how can he convince companies that he's the one they want to hire?
Martin needs a resume, which is a document that includes a person's education, experience and qualifications for a job. It is a way for employers to look at everyone who wants to apply for a job and see at a glance who is qualified.
But resumes are usually not sent alone. Most people applying for a job will also need to send a cover letter, which is a personalized letter to the person hiring to expand upon why you are the right candidate for the job. It often offers information that the resume doesn't or explains parts of the resume in more detail.
Martin should think about his resume and cover letter like they are an advertisement with him as the product. They should clearly tell the company, 'If you buy this product, you will get these specific benefits.' In other words, his resume and cover letter are meant to convince the company to hire him.
Let's look closer at what Martin should do to create a great resume and cover letter.
Martin is ready to apply for jobs, and he knows that he needs a strong resume. But how exactly should he do that?
Martin has looked online and in the career center at his college and has found several templates for a resume. That is, he knows what it should look like and how it should be laid out on the page. But he's not sure what the difference is between a bad resume and a good one.
There are many ways that Martin can make his resume a strong one that will make people want to hire him. They include:
1. A professional email
Martin should make his email address professional. 'email@example.com' is probably not going to make potential employers hire him. But he can use an email address that is a variant on his name, like 'Martin91@email.com' or 'MartinHaver@email.com,' to look more professional and give him a better chance of being hired.
2. A profile line instead of an objective
Some people write an objective at the top of their resume that says something like, 'I would like to find an entry-level position in the financial services industry.' But that only tells the company what you want. Remember that the resume is supposed to be an advertisement to convince them that they want you. An objective doesn't do that.
In contrast, a profile line answers the question, 'What can you bring to the company?' It might read something like this: 'Driven, energetic and well-educated entry-level applicant who can bring creative thinking to the financial services industry.' See how much more that tells the company about what Martin can bring to them?
3. Use strong verbs
When describing his experience, Martin should avoid saying things like 'I did this' and 'I did that.' Instead, he should use verbs that really give the hiring manager a strong image in his head: 'managed,' 'oversaw,' 'organized,' 'created' and verbs like those make for a much stronger resume.
4. Use buzzwords from the industry
Every industry has certain words or phrases that are often talked about and seen as positive things. For teachers and educational professionals, this may be 'differentiation' or 'standards.' For fitness professionals, this may be 'integrated movement' or 'functional movement.' And for the financial services jobs that Martin is applying to, the buzzwords may be 'valuation' or 'price-earnings ratio.' Martin should try to use the buzzwords in his resume. If he can, using them in his profile line is even better, but if not, including them anywhere on the resume is fine.
5. Prove your skills
If you say that you are a creative thinker, add information about a project you did at work that demonstrates creative thinking. If you have experience writing software, add in information about the software that you wrote. Trying to demonstrate you have sales skills? Put down the sales you got at your job. Martin should think about ways that he can prove his skills through projects or things he's done to show the skills that he has.
If Martin does all five of those things, he'll have a very strong resume. But he's still in college and doesn't have much work experience, and he's not sure what to do. For recent graduates who don't have a lot of work experience, listing a high GPA, relevant coursework, school projects, awards and other college-related information that could help is a good alternative to work experience.
Okay, Martin feels like he's got his resume down. He's included buzzwords, strong verbs and a profile line. He's proven his skills and used a professional email address.
But he's still not sure what to do about a cover letter. What exactly should he be doing to make that strong? The most important thing that Martin needs to do with regards to the cover letter is to make it specific for each job application. Though your resume might not change from application to application, your cover letter should.
There are three basic things that Martin can do to make his cover letter job-specific.
1. Address it to a specific person
Often, a job posting will say who to send your resume and cover letter to. Address the cover letter to that specific person. Look online to check the person's gender so that you know if 'Kelly Williams' should be addressed as 'Ms. Williams' or 'Mr. Williams.' And then start the cover letter 'Dear Mr. Williams.'
Sometimes, though, Martin might run into a job posting that doesn't make it clear who the person doing the hiring is. In that case, he might have to do some online research to figure out whom to address it to. If he's applying to the sales department of a company, for example, he can look on the company website to see who is the sales manager. Not only will that make Martin's cover letter look good, it will show the company that he's taken the time to look up the name of the person in charge.
2. Give a few examples that relate to the job posting
Job advertisements usually list specific skills and qualifications that the company is looking for. Martin should give three to five specific examples of things he's done that illustrate the skills asked for in that particular posting. For example, if the job posting says that they need someone with leadership skills, Martin can write, 'As president of my fraternity, I have developed my leadership skills.'
3. Reference the specific job in the first paragraph
At the very beginning of his cover letter, Martin should say something like, 'I am excited to apply for the position of _.' This lets the person hiring know exactly which position you're interested in, which can be important at companies with more than one job opening.
A resume and cover letter are both key documents that can help in a job search. They are, essentially, advertisements telling the company why the job seeker is the right candidate. A strong resume includes a professional email address, a profile line instead of an objective, uses strong verbs and buzzwords from the industry and proves your skills. A strong cover letter is specific for each job, which can be accomplished by addressing it to a specific person, giving a few examples that relate to the job posting and referencing the specific job in the first paragraph.
Once you are done with this lesson you should be able to:
- Explain how to make a resume more effective
- Remember the points that can help draft a stronger cover letter for a job application