Resumes are kind of a pain in the ass. Pretty much every job requires one and since it’s usually a company’s first impression of you, hair will be pulled out as hours are spent trying to cram all of your achievements, skills and personality into a typed document. How can two little pages possibly evoke the awesomeness that is you?
To make it past that first selection round and score an interview (where you can prove just how amazing you are!), consider these eight helpful tips when drafting your resume and cover letter.
1 Invest in a template.
If formatting isn’t your thing but you want your resume to stand out amongst the crowd, invest some money in a template. I love the options available from Vancouver-based design studio Refinery Resume Co. – they’re clean, well-structured and customizable.
2 Research the company you’re applying to.
Sending the same generic resume and cover letter to every business in your field isn’t going to get you very far. Show how keen you are by researching each company you apply to. Make reference to their brand mantra, the history of their company, their core values, past campaigns – all of these things show that you’re eager to work for that specific company and not just desperate for a job.
3 Edit your experience to the job you’re applying for.
Your past experience as a cruise ship co-ordinator may be relevant for another travel industry job, but it’s likely not that important to the editor of the fashion magazine you’re applying to. Shine the spotlight on your relevant achievements and work experience, removing anything that doesn’t contribute to the job requirements at hand. Also, if you’re a college graduate, there’s no need to include high school credentials.
4 Include keywords from the job posting.
Picking out keywords from a job posting and including in your resume does three things:
- It reflects that you took the time to craft a resume specific to that job.
- It shows that you have the exact skills they’re looking for.
- It will help get your resume into the hands of a real person if HR’s initial step is to run it through a keyword-scanning computer program (which many major companies do these days).
5 Show, don’t tell.
Where your resume reflects the straight facts, your cover letter is an opportunity to be a bit more persuasive and to connect the dots between your experience and the job you’re applying for. If the job requirements ask for someone with strong leadership skills, give an example of an award-winning project you took the lead on. If it asks for a team player, share how you organized a team building day at your last job. Showing how you’re the best candidate for the job is much more effective than just telling.
6 Make it readable and scannable.
Make your resume a sight for sore eyes by having it easy-to-read and scannable for the person hiring. Include all the relevant information, but be concise, keeping lengthy paragraphs to a minimum and using consistent bullets, bolded fonts and headers throughout to format. Oh, and stray away from crazy fonts like Comic Sans or Papyrus (shudder) – the simpler, the better.
7 Edit tone for company culture.
A resume written for a government job will require a more formal tone of voice than a less corporate, creative job (like an advertising copywriter or a photographer). Creative jobs sometimes allow you to be a bit looser with your vocabulary, but at the same time, always be professional – LOL, OMG and ‘totes’ have no room in your resume. Look at the company’s website to get a feel for the tone of voice and cater your resume to that.
8 Spell check. Then spell check again.
And then get someone else to spell check for you. A spelling error or typo reflects laziness even if you’re the most driven and well-suited person for the job. If you claim you have a strong eye for detail, then prove it by submitting a clean resume that focuses on your awesome skills rather than draws attention to one little flaw.