Even before I was a professional resume writer and coach I heard about bad resumes. When a position was posted and resumes started to stream in, the bad resume jokes and stories circulated throughout the office almost as fast as juicy gossip.
People laugh at resume blunders. It is not nice, it is bad karma or against golden rules and yet it still happens. It will continue to happen, but I would like to make sure it does not happen to you.
So here are 10 ways to tweak your resume, cover letter and communication to make sure you are noticed for the right reasons and not as water cooler conversation.
1. Apply to the job that is posted.
A friend recently had a writing position open within her company and requested applicants attach a copy of their best work. A young woman attached a logo design. This was for a position in which the candidate would be writing, words, lots of words, not doing logos. To make matters worse, it was a bad logo.
Do mention the job for which you are applying, please do not make the mistake of assuming they will k now. Companies have more than one position open at a time, people finding candidates have many, many other things on their plate – make it easy for them by spelling it out.
2. Use proper grammar and spelling.
Another candidate stated in their cover letter, “I am current looking for a job relating in ….heard about your company which I am interesting.” Ouch. Please, please, please have someone proofread your resume. If you do not feel comfortable asking anyone you know I will let you in on a secret:
Libraries are one of our most forgotten gems.
Not only do they have wonderful staff that you can ask to help you in proofreading, they have great resources and often free classes. Go get your library card.
The statement “I worked four Big Company” will not appear with a red or green line in Word. It does not recognize the wrong “for” – proofread.
Spellcheck is not foolproof. Try reading your resume from the bottom up. Often we read what we expect to see and overlook small errors which a prospective employer zooms in on right away.
3. A little creativity goes a long way.
You want your resume to stand out, yes; however, keep in mind that an actual person is going to be reading it. To many font changes, colors, graphics and creative touches can make it difficult for someone to actually read your resume.
One candidate submitted a resume in all caps. It was small caps, but it was all caps nonetheless. She was yelling at the prospective employer, not a way to make a good impression.
4. Connect the dots.
It is not enough to read the job description; you need to use it as a blueprint. They tell you what is important for the job. Integrate those skills and factors into your resume. Make the connection; allow them to see that you are qualified for the position.
Write to where you want to go, not where you have been. Look back at your previous and current experience and tell your story so that it demonstrates the knowledge and application of the required skills and abilities. Paint the picture of you already in the job.
5. Exaggeration is entertaining and eliminating.
People who are forced to read resumes – and I say forced because I have yet to meet anyone who says they like doing this – read a lot of resumes with “fluff”. Over exaggerations, stretching the truth, lies; whatever you want to call them, they have seen it all. They tend to become skeptical and only believe about half of what you are saying – more on this in tip number six.
If you used Excel once to make a grocery list do not proclaim to be proficient or expert level.
If you are not familiar with the industry jargon, do not attempt to use it to fool them into thinking you are all that and the bag of chips. They will read your resume and proclaim out loud, “Liar, liar pants on fire.”
6. Demonstrate rather than simply state.
Telling them that you are the world’s greatest anything is not only an exaggeration, it is irrelevant. They are not going to believe you just because you said so, you have to prove yourself.
I once had a candidate that stated he should be at an executive level because he had a “CEO mindset”. He could not explain what that was but believed because he thought like a CEO and had a master’s degree that was darn well good enough to move from a floor sales position in retail to a executive position.
How do you prove it? Demonstrate. Instead of making a statement, tell them what you did, how you did it and the benefit that was received in you doing so. The proof is in the pudding.
7. Job descriptions are for job postings.
It is easy to copy and paste your job description into your resume as bullet points. But that only tells them what you were hired to do, not what you actually did. They do not care what you were hired to do, they want to know how you contributed and made a difference.
“Prepared reports for quarterly sales meetings.” = so what
“Gathered all sales data from three departments to prepare detailed reports utilized during quarterly sales meetings for projections, tracking and ensuring each representative was on target with goals.”
8. Desperation is not flattering.
Actual statements seen in resumes include:
“I just need a job”
“Give me a chance and I will prove it”
“I can do anything”
Along the same lines is telling them what you want, i.e., “I am looking for a job where I can utilize my skills and abilities to help a company grow and increase my knowledge.”
They do not care what you want. They care about what you can do for them.
Instead, open your resume and include in your cover letter what you bring to the table, how you can succeed at this position and provide the relevant proof to back up your claims. This is what is most important to them.
9. Cover Letters Count.
If they are read.
Not everyone reads your cover letter. Some people read it after your resume. Others read it before your resume. You just never know. It is better to have one and not need it rather than the alternative.
I have a friend who is the President of a company and he reads every cover letter for any position within the organization. He uses the cover letter as a filter. If there is a mistake then the entire package is dismissed, not matter what the qualifications of the candidate.
The Cover Letter is your introduction. This is where proper grammar, spelling and business writing comes into play. Do not assume that it will not be read and put little effort into it.
Open with why you are applying – not because you saw the job posted – but because you are a match to their requirements and you are interested in the position and company.
Use supporting paragraphs to demonstrate how you are the best candidate speaking directly to their requirements and expectations.
Close on a positive letting them know your interest and availability to discuss in more detail how you can do great things in the role and look forward to talking to them soon.
10. Common sense and courtesy.
A friend uses an auto response on their website when candidates submit their resumes. It sends a nice note letting the candidate know that their resume was received, would be reviewed and if it meets the criteria, they will contact them.
One candidate replied to the auto response email informing them that he is applying for X position and attached his resume and cover letter to his email.
They got it the first time, the same resume that contained errors and was in no way related to the position.
Follow up appropriately. There is a fine line between following up and stalking. Do not stalk, people do not like that. Check in, be upbeat, professional and helpful. Instead of asking when they think they will move forward or start interviewing; restate your interest and ask if there is anything else you could provide to assist them.
Take your time in preparing your resume. This is your personal sales presentation. It is your story, tell it the way you want them to understand it yet make it applicable to their needs. Present yourself as the solution to their problem.
Once you have compiled your resume, take the time to break it down word by word to ensure it will hold up to any scrutiny that might ensue. Getting a job is a job in itself; prepare your resume and any additional communication as though your job depends upon it, because it does.