Though we learn much in school, vital skills can fall through the cracks. Perhaps you understand the depths of computer science and programming but were never taught the importance of penning a stellar resume or cover letter. Dedicating quality time to both can make all of the difference when it comes to landing an interview and winning a job.
Just like an engaging narrative, your resume opener must catch the recruiter’s eye, enticing this gatekeeper to keep reading. Put it this way: if you’re not lured into reading your own resume, why would a potential employer be? Marketer and author Dale Carnegie has two important quotes apropos to this conversation. The first applies here: “People aren’t interested in you. They’re interested in themselves.”
Carnegie is famous for instructing his many devoted readers to think like the other person they wish to influence. Put yourself in the employers’ shoes. They want to find the person that will make their job hunt easier. Do them (and yourself) a favor by taking the guesswork out of their search. Construct a concise, focused resume that’s easy on the eyes and gets to the point. After all, employers don’t have all the bandwidth to analyze your resume; spoon-feed them the info they crave to get yourself in the door.
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion,” is another Carnegie quote germane to this topic. Though coldly analytical HR algorithms would have us believe resumes must pass some sort of SEO semantic keyword test, the truth is employers are flesh and blood organisms longing to be moved, to be affected. Again, do them (and yourself) a favor by eschewing broad, boilerplate cover letters in favor of something gripping, authentic, and whenever possible, inspiring. A generic cover letter will do you no favors. Research what makes your intended company special and why you would be special for them.
When it comes to the technical mechanics of resume writing, it’s imperative your resume be laser-focused. Yes, though it’s preferable to be perceived as multi-skilled and adaptable, employers desire employment consistency. They would much rather see five previous jobs listed in a similar field than ten that are all over the place. In the same vein, cater your resume to each specific employer. Overtly display your interest in working for them instead of using a scattershot approach, spraying every vocational opportunity in sight. Again, do your research so you can discuss how your qualifications are perfectly matched for the company’s needs.
Next, decide what kind of template is right for you. A chronological resume featuring your most recent employer at the top, working chronologically down, can be ideal if you have been consistently employed in the same industry. However, if you’re switching fields or you’ve had a shaky employment history, this format won’t do you any favors. If your employment tenure is spotty, consider a skills-based resume, highlighting your proficiency in specific departments. This format can distract from employment gaps while capitalizing on your stronger qualities.
Never shy from boasting of your accomplishments. This is your opportunity to shine. If your resume and cover letter won’t get your foot in the door, you will never have an opportunity to interview and land your job. Seize this moment to sparkle on the page (while remaining concise, focused, and mindful of your reader’s needs). Last, a resume is never done. Continue to update yours as you proceed throughout your employment, adding new experiences and skills along the way to land your next position.
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