There is a lot of great advice available on how to charm potential employers during that nerve-wracking “first date” known as the interview, but the interview is not the most difficult part of the hiring process – scoring the interview is.
Your cover letter and resume are similar to an online dating profile—they must be attractive enough to intrigue potential employers, and they must include substantive content. Employers often sift through the profiles of thousands of potential candidates to find just one promising applicant, and the challenge for job seekers is how to stand out from other applicants.
Here are some tips on getting your resume noticed:
Make a great first impression. Like a dating profile, your cover letter and resume are a place to list your recent job experience, your likes or dislikes, and even certifications that make you enticing to a potential employer. Both must be accurate, well-written, and organized. Make sure both your cover letter and resume are presented neatly so potential employers can focus on the content. Spell and grammar checking is a necessity, and black type (at least 12 point font) on white paper typically works best for potential employers.
Be honest. One of the most uncomfortable situations that can happen while dating is to realize that your potential partner has been misrepresenting him/herself online. Did he say he had a full head of hair? That he is 6’2”? That she’s a lawyer? While it is natural to present yourself in the best light possible, remember that stretching the truth in your cover letter or resume can be career-ending. Just ask former Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson. Your cover letter and resume should show potential employers that you are enthusiastic, motivated, and a real go-getter, so keep it positive and upbeat. However, always strive to represent your career as honestly as possible.
Focus on your common interests. If you want potential employers to fall in love with your written cover letter, you have to see the world from their perspective. Don’t make them work harder than necessary to see who you really are as a potential employee. Examine the language they have used in their job description, and make sure that you are incorporating their word choice and values into your cover letter and resume. This may require that you customize your application to each job for which you are applying, but it is worth the time.
Say something different. Even if long walks on the beach are your favorite activity, you probably would not admit this in your online dating profile because it is too cliché. Potential employers are looking for candidates who can think outside the box to concisely, creatively communicate their interests. Most job applicants believe that they have excellent communication skills, but you need to show potential employers that this is true with your choice of language. Use only vocabulary you are comfortable with; keep your sentences fairly short; structure your cover letter logically.
In summary, your cover letter and resume should be as complete, succinct, and attractive as possible in order to help you stand out from the crowd. As in the dating process, it is also helpful to let your potential employer know when you are available for an interview – and to make sure you include your contact information to be easily reached.
Fresh off of Valentine’s Day, only you have the power to make an employer fall in love with you as a potential employee. So, poke them, wink at them, and fix up your cover letter and resume. Whether they notice you, or not, is in your hands.