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Welcome to Recruiter Q&A, where we pose employment-related questions to the experts and share their answers!

Today’s Question: What is the most important thing for applicants to customize in their cover letters or resumes?

The answers below are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs.


matt1. Alignment With Cultural Values

Especially on the cover letter, we need to see that candidates understand and relate to our core values. Passion for the product certainly matters, and of course so do skills, but a poor culture fit is bad for everyone. The more confident we are that a candidate will fit our culture, the more likely we are to move forward with them.

Matt Hunckler, Powderkeg

joel2. Your Background and Goals

An applicant’s prior work history should be tailored to fit the position they are applying for. They should also tailor their goals and what they want to accomplish to match the initiatives or services the company offerings.

Joel Mathew, Fortress Consulting

mike3. Details That Demonstrate Your Learning Aptitude, Initiative, and Independence

The goal of a resume is to get the interview, and most hiring managers are looking for somebody who learns fast, takes initiative, and does not need supervision. Resumes are usually generic, so sharing your background with specific attention to those three elements should get you an interview.

Michael Hsu, DeepSky

Kalin4. Knowledge About the Position and Company

Take the time to research the company, its products, and its culture. When possible, address the letter to the appropriate individual, as opposed to “Hiring Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern.” Say something about why you want to work for the company and how you can make a valuable contribution.

Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

serenity5. Technical Skills

We are experiencing such gaps in technical talent. The more descriptive about your technical skills you can be in both the cover letter and resume, the more attractive you’ll be.

Serenity Gibbons, NAACP

Codie6. Your Obsession With the Company

Show the company what you know about its work, its leaders, and its wins. Employers will take an engaged employee who wants nothing more than to grind for them over a talented, agnostic employee any day. Get obsessed. Obsessed people win.

Codie Sanchez, Codie Ventures

rachel7. How You’ll Fit With the Team

When an applicant goes out of their way to show that they’ve done some research about my company and how they might fit in, I’m much more likely to call them for an interview. Their attention to detail and willingness to put in the effort are very enticing.

Rachel Beider, Massage Outpost

david8. Keywords From the Job Posting

Candidates often reuse a standard cover letter and resume for efficiency’s sake. While they normally update these documents with the job title they are applying for, they tend to forget to also update the keywords.

Use some of the same keywords the job ad uses. These words appear in the ad because they mean something to the role. You application will likely be filtered by an applicant tracking system based on those words, so it is a good idea to make sure you include them.

David Ciccarelli, Voices.com

jared9. Your Personal Mission Statement

When I review a cover letter or resume, the most important thing I want to see is a well-written mission statement. It gives me a sense of who the person is before I delve into their work experience and history. A poorly written mission statement is a non-starter, because our business relies on being able to communicate clearly via email.

Jared Weitz, United Capital Source

matthew10. How the Role Would Fit Into Your Life Story

Your resume and cover letter are the composite novel of your work life. In your cover letter, save a short paragraph to explore how this new position will contribute to your life story. Don’t just focus on what you’ll do in this new position. What will you have accomplished by the time you leave this new position? What will you do next?

Matthew Manos, verynice

sweta11. Quantitative Results

Most of us tend to get caught up in the tasks, but it is all about results and what you have achieved. When you focus on the results, you will see a different reaction from the employers who interview you. They will see what you are capable of, and they will focus less on your effort and more on what you can contribute to the company as a whole.

Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing

michael 12. Offers Insights Into Your Personality

I’ve read a lot of really bad cover letters, ones where it is painfully obvious the candidate simply copied and pasted a generic letter. To catch my eye, a cover letter should clearly indicate the candidate is interested in a specific role at our company, and it should offer some insight into the candidate’s personality.

Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group


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