As May approaches, we are surrounded by the hype of commencement and senioritis. During this time, it is not uncommon to think, “I’ve graduated, now what?” Neither is being nervous and scared of not knowing what’s coming up next. Not knowing what you would do as your community sees you as an adult ready for the real world can be scary. And perhaps some of your loved ones, friends and coworkers have already began asking you “what’s next?” After years of training in school, you are suddenly expected to know these answers. But don’t panic. With some planning, you can be on the path to the career that you want.
After ten years of participating on varying search committees and scholarship committees, I have a good idea of what job application reviewers are looking for in an ideal applicant. For the most part, search committees receive applications that have already gone through a process of elimination; therefore we get the second batch of “most fit” applicants for the job. But what happens next is not what you’d expect.
I’ve seen search committee members hardly look at the application itself; we often go straight to the cover letter and then the resume. Sometimes search committees receive applicants’ resumes and applications no earlier than the day before the interview. Most people though, don’t even look at them until a few minutes before applicants are interviewed.
So how do you stand out in just a few minutes? In a difficult economy , a stellar cover letter and resume are a must to even be considered a good candidate.
Here are four cover letter and resume tips that’ll help you stand out from the crowd!
Submit a Cover Letter and Resume Even if They’re Not Required
Some job applications do not require a cover letter or a resume, so some applicants simply do not submit them. However, I recommend that you always submit both your cover letter and resume. Why put in the work, you ask? Well, those who submit cover letters and resumes when they’re not required stand out! It tells managers that you are truly interested in the position and that you want them to know about you and why you are a good fit. It demonstrates that you care and are willing to go beyond the minimal requirements.
Tailor/Frame Your Cover Letter and Resume
Framing your cover letter and resume in’t that difficult if you pay attention to what you are trying to get across. If prospective managers only have a couple of minutes to look at your resume, they want to know that you are a good fit and that you speak their language. Use the same vocabulary utilized in the job description to tailor your letters and make them stand out. However, beware: Don’t get caught up in jargon. Make your application easy to understand.
Proofread Your Cover Letter and Resume
You have no idea how many applications are turned in with basic grammar errors. That’s not how you want to stand out! When your letters are all done, proofread for grammar errors, then proofread again for tense consistency. Then proofread your application once more for names, titles and anything else that you might have missed.
Make Your Letters Easy For Hiring Managers to Read
Don’t make hiring managers look for your applicable credentials. Be organized and list your job experience in reverse chronological order, listing your most recent job first. Make sure your cover letter and resume include your contact information, education, experience and skills. Don’t be afraid to use bolding, bullets, or line breaks when needed.
Remember that your cover letter and resume are the places to brag about your accomplishments. If you feel that you don’t have enough experience, it is okay to list volunteer experience and other leadership positions that you might have held in clubs as a student.
Not so bad, right? With a little planning and focused time spent on your cover letter and resume, you can be on your way to your chosen career. Good luck!