True story: this anonymous blogger works in an office that is currently hiring. The hiring process obviously involves reviewing the resume and cover letters that candidates submit for an open position. And after reviewing many, many cover letters and resumes, I have some tips about using key words and tailoring your cover letter to a particular position.
Here's what not to do, based upon my personal experience:
1) Do not state in your cover letter that you do not possess the skills that I am looking for. Instead, highlight the skills that you do have, and indicate how those are relevant to my position.
2) Don't be vague. Instead, use key words that are found in the job posting. If my job description says I am looking for a strong writer, in your cover letter discuss your strong WRITING skills.
3) Don't use a generic resume. Just as your cover letter should be targeted, the same is true for your resume. If my job description calls for management experience, your resume should indicate when you've MANAGED a project or a team.
The idea of using key words is also important, because in some cases it's not a person like me reading your resume or cover letter, it's a computer program. This can be true when you're applying to large organizations who simply do not have the human resources staff on hand to review hundreds of resumes a day. To help crack those software programs and get your resume into the hands of an actual living and breathing human being, here are some more tips, courtesy of Edison International's website:
To maximize our computer's ability to read your resumé, you should provide a "clean" original, and use a standard style. Follow these style tips:
• Use white or light-colored 8 1/2 x 11" paper
• Provide a laser quality original if possible
• Do not fold or staple your resume
• Use standard fonts such as Times or Courier
• Use a font size of 10 to 14 points
• Place your name at the top of the page on its own line
• Use standard address format below your name
• Use boldface and/or all capital letters for headings
• Avoid fancy treatments such as italics, and shadows
• Avoid vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, and boxes
• Avoid two-column formats
• Don't condense spacing between letters
A Word about "Key Words"
Because the computer extracts information from your résumé, you may want to include a few key words that will increase your opportunities for matching job requirements. Recruiters and managers access the résumé database in many ways, either to search your resumé or search for specific experience. Here are a few tips to get your resume noticed:
• Use enough key words to define your skills, experience, education, professional affiliations, etc.
• Describe your experience with concrete words rather than vague descriptions
• Be concise and truthful
• Use more than one page if necessary. The computer can easily handle multiple-page resumes
• Increase your list of key words by including specifics
• Use common heading such as: Objectives, Experience, Employment, Work History, Skills, Affiliations, etc.
• If room allows, describe your interpersonal traits and attitude
• Use jargon and acronyms specific to your industry (spell out the acronyms).
Bottom line: Tailor your resume. Because even if a person is reading your materials and not a computer program, trust me when I say that presenting your most relevant skills in an easily understandable format will really make that person really happy.
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