Whether you are between jobs, looking for new opportunities, or just keeping your options open, knowing how to write a cover letter or résumé is a valuable skill to have. It can also be a bit daunting, especially since a good résumé or cover letter requires a careful balance between content and concision. You want to showcase your experience, but you don’t want to inundate potential employers with long descriptions of it or give them an unfavorable impression of yourself. The following tips will help make your résumés and cover letters tastefully stand out.
Know the Company and the Position
In order to catch an employer’s attention, you need to show that you can offer exactly what that he or she is looking for. This means being familiar with the position and the company. What do they value most in a team member? What skills does the position demand? What qualities might they have difficulty finding in candidates? With just a bit of research, you can showcase experience that highlights the skills and attributes that the company needs most. You can do this research online, but you might also want to talk to people in the company. You will get a much more complete feel for what they are looking for by doing so.
Keep a Master Copy
This is especially true for résumés, but it can help with cover letters as well. As you learn what experience will be most valuable to a company, you will want to have a ready inventory of all of your own experience. Your master résumé will probably be much longer than anything you would ever give to an employer (which should generally be only a page), but it will give you a nice, convenient list to choose from as you tailor each résumé to its recipient’s needs.
The formatting on your résumé or cover letter indicates your own level of professionalism. By keeping formatting consistent through every item on each document, you show that you care about the quality of your work. If anything is inconsistent, it looks sloppy, and it won’t get you the attention you need. Pay special attention to the placement of dates, spacing, headline and section formatting, and body text font and size.
Be Concise, but Thorough
It sounds a bit paradoxical, but the idea is that you should be as complete as the résumé or cover letter length will allow. Knowing the company will help a great deal with selecting which experiences to highlight. As you show your work history in a résumé, include details for the most relevant items and drop details from the less-relevant ones. Then point those out on your cover letter, in which you may elaborate briefly on one or two key points. Show how you can be an asset to the company, but don’t pile thick masses of data onto potential employers. They won’t bother wading through it.
Be Bold, but Professional
You want to stand out from everyone else, and having a bold, creative design for your résumé and cover letter can accomplish that. Using a larger, bolder font for your name, changing the layout of the résumé, and using interesting headers and borders can help grab the attention of a prospective employer. However, it is equally important to keep it as professional as possible. Keep formatting consistent and crisp, keep colors, if any, to a minimum, and avoid clutter. Keep it simple. The design should draw attention to you, not to itself.
These are just a few general ideas on how to show your best self to companies. For more information on getting your talent noticed, contact us.