What’s the best way to get your application noticed when an employer has a mountain of them to review? Step one: write a great cover letter. A smart, well-written cover letter helps you demonstrate your skills, experience and value to the company and shows them why you’d be a great fit. Some job ads will ask for a cover letter, but even if it’s not requested, it’s well worth including.
Writing the perfect cover letter can be tricky, and there’s a lot of confusion about what it should include. At a high level, a cover letter should engage the reader and make them excited to read your resume. It should demonstrate that you have the ability and skills to do the job, so it’s important to target your letter to the role you’re applying for.
Here are 10 quick and easy tips for writing a cover letter that will impress.
- Choose the right type of letter: Your style of cover letter will depend on whether you are responding to a job advertisement, uploading or sending your letter with a resume, enquiring about potential job openings, mentioning a referral or sending a cold introduction. Think about the purpose of your letter and tailor it accordingly.
- Keep it short and simple: A cover letter is more likely to keep the reader’s attention if it is short and concise. Generally aim for one page, and if your letter goes over, remove some text and decrease the margin size, rather than reducing the font size. A small font is harder to read. Use clear, direct language, avoid long sentences and use bullet points where relevant to visually break up chunks of text and highlight important content.
- Research the employer: Tailoring your letter so it’s relevant to the company and position you’re applying for shows that you’ve done your research. Employers and recruiters can tell when a generic cover letter has been used for several job applications. Customise your letter to the company and role and it’s more likely to be noticed and read thoroughly.
- Highlight your skills and experience: Read through the job advertisement and select two or three of the required skills, abilities or experiences that you have. In your letter, provide brief examples of times you have demonstrated those skills. This is also an opportunity to include keywords from the job listing, which is especially important if you are submitting your application electronically.
- Focus on the positives: Highlight the skills and experience you have and explain how they make you a great fit for the job. If you lack a required skill or qualification, there’s generally no need to mention it. However, your cover letter does give you an opportunity to explain any obvious gaps in your employment history (within the past year or so), such as being made redundant, taking time out to spend with family, travelling or studying. If you decide to mention this in your cover letter, do it very briefly, then finish by highlighting your skills and abilities.
- Identify a contact person: Adding a personal touch is really important and shows you’re interested in the role. If the job ad doesn’t specify a contact name, you can check the company website, research on LinkedIn or phone them to ask who you should address your application to. If you have any contacts at the organisation who referred you or are willing to put in a good word for you, mention their name in the first paragraph of your letter. This is a great way to get the attention of the employer or recruiter. Just make sure you check with your contact in advance.
- Be yourself: Your cover letter needs to be professional. But this doesn’t mean you have to use awkwardly formal language and completely omit your personality. You want to come across as polite and professional, but not fake, so don’t use language that feels uncomfortable or cliched. And include a little of your personality, to help differentiate your application from the rest.
- Think beyond your resume: Your cover letter shouldn’t be just another version of your resume. Instead, it should provide evidence of what you will bring to the company. Highlighting the examples mentioned in tip 4 above will help make your cover letter different from your resume. Your cover letter is also a place for slightly more personal content than your resume, and it’s an opportunity to explain why you’re excited about the role.
- Format and edit your letter properly: Your cover letter needs to look polished. If you are sending a physical letter, include your contact details and address the letter with the date and employer’s contact information at the top. If you’re sending your letter as an email, your format will be a bit different – it’s a good idea to include your name and the job title in the subject line. Regardless of format, read through your letter carefully to check for spelling and grammar errors, and consider having someone else do a final check for you.
- Follow the instructions: The easier you make things for a recruiter, the more likely they are to read your application. Read the instructions carefully and be sure to send your documents in the correct format, include all information requested, and let the receiver know how they can contact you to schedule an interview.
Searching for a job can be overwhelming. Our team of professionals are here to help with Resume Writing services and Career Counselling. Our consultants can write a customised cover letter for you that highlights your unique value and boosts your chances of getting the job you want.
You might think there’s only one way to structure your resume, but there are actually different ways to do it. And it’s important to choose the type that helps you put your best foot forward.
Functional resumes can be useful in several situations – primarily where your recent employment history and achievements don’t directly relate to the role(s) you are applying for. It should still include the same kind of information as a traditional-style resume, but the way it’s formatted is different.
A functional resume focuses on your skills and expertise rather than the jobs you’ve held. It allows you to highlight certain elements of past roles, along with your relevant skills and accomplishments, rather than simply listing your experience in reverse-chronological order.
Should you use a functional resume?
We don’t often recommend using a functional resume since it’s not the standard style, and a recruiter might have a harder time making sense of it. However, a functional resume can be useful in some situations. These include when:
- Your recent job history is not at all relevant to the roles you’re applying for.
- You are making a major career change.
- You have developed a vast range of transferrable skills throughout your work history, but no single role demonstrates that effectively.
- You don’t have much work experience.
- There are significant gaps in your work history.
- You have held multiple, short, contract or part-time roles or you’ve frequently changed jobs.
- You’ve gained experience in alternative ways, such as volunteering.
The reason functional resumes work well for these situations is that they highlight your transferrable and relevant skills more effectively.
It’s important to note that although a functional resume might be a better way of presenting your relevant experience, some recruiters believe this format can decrease your chances of securing an interview. Recruiters are notoriously short on time and often receive hundreds of applications for a single role. They will scan your resume for relevant information, and want to get a quick feel for whether or not to pursue you. So if you do go with a functional resume, be sure to follow our tips below.
How to write a functional resume that hits the mark
- Summary: Include a career summary at the beginning that focuses on the value you would bring to the organisation. This should provide a quick overview of you – no longer than two paragraphs with a mix of your professional expertise and success, academic/industry training and any relevant personal attributes.
- Keywords: Include keywords from the job description in your resume. You could use these as your subheadings for key skills (see below).
- Key skills: Identify your key skills/capabilities and group them logically. Use bulleted lists to describe them in more detail. Include job-related skills (this could include technical or computer software), transferrable skills (such as communication, leadership, negotiation), and personal skills (such as pro-activity in the way you work or the ability to collaborate/work as part of a team).
- Key accomplishments: This will help the recruiter/employer identify how your abilities match with the job requirements. List them under your ‘key skills/capabilities’ so that each ‘skill’ includes some accomplishments that demonstrate success. For example:
- Built a high-performing sales-focused team of 20 from scratch – with responsibility for recruitment, training, coaching, mentoring and performance management.
- Initiated a significant change program which improved employee culture, morale and retention (>50% on the previous year).
- Projects: Remember to include any projects – personal or professional – that are relevant to the role you’re applying for. Projects demonstrate your ability to develop and complete complex tasks. Try to use quantifiable measures or statistics to demonstrate outcomes.
- Employment history: You should still list your jobs in reverse chronological order; however, you might do this in a simple bullet list under the heading ‘Employment History’. Include your title, company and tenure.
Functional resumes are great for showcasing your relevant/transferrable skills. They work best when they’re matched to the job you’re applying for, with your key points of difference clearly highlighted. You will need to talk about your employment history during the interview, so think about how you’ll present that. Including a strong cover letter is also a good idea, as it will allow you to expand on the skills and achievements that make you a great candidate.
Whether you think you need a functional or traditional resume, a professional resume writer can help! If you’d like some help with your resume, please see our Resume Writing Services.
Have you been applying for jobs but not having much success in getting to that next crucial step – the interview? The problem may be that your resume doesn’t stand out. When you send your resume to a recruiter or potential employer, they most likely won’t read it – they will skim it. So if it doesn’t grab their attention in 10 to 15 seconds, it may be headed straight for the rejection pile.
Here are our tips to make sure your resume stands out in way to catch the recruiter’s attention.
- Start off with a short profile: This provides a quick snapshot of who you are. It needs to be sharp and concise. Include who you are, what you do, your area of expertise and your top three skills relevant to the role you’re applying for. It should be a maximum of two paragraphs (or a quarter of a page) and include keywords relevant to the role.
- Order key sections logically: To make your resume easy to read, your sections should be in a clear and logical order. For example: contact details, career profile, core capabilities or skills, professional history, education/qualifications and references. If you’re relatively new to the workforce, put your education section on the front page. If you have ample work experience, then education should follow your work history. Although qualifications are important, recruiters and employers often place a higher value on your work experience and accomplishments.
- Specify relevant industry skills: Make sure you list skills that are industry-specific and relevant to the job you’re applying for. You can research and use similar or related job adverts or descriptions to figure out some of the most important skills. If you have those skills, list them. Sometimes companies mention current projects on their website. Take note of these, and try to incorporate information that demonstrates how you could contribute towards the success of those projects.
- List achievements from past work experience: For every role, try to include two to three achievements relevant to the job you’re applying for. These should be achievements that had a positive impact on the company, rather than personal achievements – recruiters are keen to know what you can do for them. And if possible, make your achievements measurable. For example, ‘Reduced turnaround time by 20%’ or ‘Saved the company $XXX by implementing XYZ initiative’.
- Sell yourself: It’s human nature to play down our achievements. However, when it comes to our resume, we need to throw modesty away. One of the best ways to make your resume stand out is by showing your personality (in a way that’s appropriate for a professional document, of course). This is your opportunity to shout about all your impressive achievements.
- Other activities: Often candidates overlook this section of a resume, assuming it’s unimportant. However, to recruiters, this section can help show the type of person you are and make you a more interesting and memorable candidate. For example, you might include awards you’ve received, challenges overcome, other qualifications, professional memberships and major achievements outside of work.
- Personalise your approach: Find out the recruiter or hiring manager’s name and use it in your cover letter to add a personal touch. Another approach is to call the recruiter before submitting your application. This can help your application stand out by putting you at the front of the recruiter’s mind. If you do take this approach, be sure to present in a polished and professional manner over the phone.
- Make it appealing: Pay attention to the aesthetic of your resume. Structure, formatting, spelling and grammar are all very important. Look for consistency with things like line breaks, text alignment and bullet points. Use of subtle colour is fine, especially in the key section headings, but don’t go overboard.
- Include your LinkedIn profile or portfolio: As well as getting noticed, you also want to make life easier for the recruiter. If there’s a link they can click on to get a better idea of you as a person and candidate, why not include it? Keeping your LinkedIn profile updated and including the URL in your resume is great, as it means recruiters can keep up to date with you, even if they’re reviewing your resume months down the line.
Writing a resume that stands out among hundreds is no easy task. A well-written and formatted resume is key to securing the all-important interview. But before you can do that, you need to understand the value you have to offer and what’s most important to your potential employer. For more ideas on how to write a resume and what you should include, visit the Resume section of our Career Advice Blog.
Are you interested in getting assistance from a professional writer to prepare a winning resume for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services.
When you’ve spotted a great job and you’re preparing your job application, it can be tempting to rush it. You want to get it in quickly and it can all feel a bit tedious. But since your application is your first (and sometimes only) chance to show why you’re suitable for the role, it’s important to pay attention.
If you’re applying for roles and not hearing back from recruiters, you might be making some of these common job application mistakes. So what do you need to avoid?
Mistake 1: Typos – Spellcheck and proofread all your application material meticulously. Spelling and grammatical errors are still a primary reason applicants are rejected, and it’s a mistake that’s easy to avoid. For any online responses, we suggest writing your response in Microsoft Word or Google Docs first, then copying it over once you’re happy. Feel free to use the spellchecker but make sure you also read everything multiple times to correct any incorrect autocorrects! Plus, your spellchecker won’t pick up on everything. Ideally, you should also have someone else read through your materials.
Mistake 2: Ignoring selection criteria requirements – Not addressing the criteria is a key mistake, but reordering them or not adhering to page, word or character limits are also big no-no’s. Don’t be tempted to rewrite or re-order specified criteria. Respond to it exactly as it appears in the job description, address the points they’re looking for and take careful note of page and word limits. You can provide other relevant ‘value add’ information in your resume and/or cover letter.
Mistake 3: Too much information – We regularly receive resumes from clients that are 10 or more pages long. No recruiter will read that much detail so determine what’s most important and cut the rest. Aim for a maximum of 3–5 pages. Use short, sharp paragraphs (5–6 lines) and plenty of white space. Break it up into clearly defined sections using subheadings and bullet points, and if you’ve held multiple (similar) jobs in the one company, consider grouping them rather than giving each one a new heading.
Mistake 4: Incorrect document file format – Make sure you follow any instructions about the document file format to use; for example, some job ads ask you to submit a PDF or MS Word document only. Many recruiters can’t open documents saved in Pages for Mac or other open-source or less-common formats. We recommend sending your document in MS Word format if the ad doesn’t specify.
Mistake 5: Not personalising your cover letter – Taking time to address your letter correctly can make a difference. If there is a name listed in the job ad, do a quick LinkedIn search to find out their correct job title and look at the company’s website to find their address. If no name is provided, add in the company’s address and attention the letter to the Recruitment Manager.
Mistake 6: Not customising your application – It’s important to tweak the content of both your cover letter and resume to suit the job requirements. Clients often ask us to write a ‘general’ resume or cover letter they can use for a range of different roles. By taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach, you miss an important opportunity to show why you’re ideal for the role and you may end up appealing to no one. If other applicants have highlighted more specific and relevant experience and skills, there’s a good chance they’ll be selected for an interview over you.
Mistake 7: Excluding contact details – If a recruiter likes what they see, they may want to call you immediately for a quick telephone screen or to organise an interview. Make it easy for them by including your email and mobile number in a prominent place on all application materials. And ensure your voicemail greeting is professional and friendly. (Read more about why your voicemail greeting may be hindering your chances of getting an interview.)
Many job applications contain mistakes – make yours stand out by eliminating any errors. Check, double check and triple check your application and ensure your content is clear, concise and relevant to the role you’re applying for.
Are you failing to get results from your job applications and feeling frustrated? Our professional writers can help you prepare a winning resume or job application. See our Resume Writing Services to learn more.
What’s the best way to stand out during the application process and get yourself an interview? In today’s job market, it’s common for recruiters to receive upwards of 100 applications for one role, so there has to be something special about yours. Here’s how to give yourself the best chance of success.
Customising your job application to suit the specific requirements of a role is one of the most effective things you can do to secure an interview. When we talk about a ‘job application’, we’re referring to a collection of documents: your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and response to any selection criteria or specific questions.
While you might think it’s too hard or time consuming to customise this content every time, we encourage you to look at your application from the recruiter’s perspective and ask yourself ‘What’s in it for them?’ Your application should immediately present you as someone who can add significant value in the role. If it doesn’t do that, you’re not giving yourself the best opportunity to succeed.
Follow these steps to create your best ever job application.
Step 1. Research: Read the job ad carefully. If possible, obtain a more detailed job description from the recruiter and identify exactly what’s required. Highlight skills or experience that seem important and make notes. If you know the company, view their website and search for any news or recent activity that may impact on the job. And take some time to understand the corporate culture. Emulating the kind of language the company uses and/or writing just one sentence in your cover letter referencing a current challenge or opportunity for the company could mean the difference between success and failure at this initial stage.
Step 2. Sell yourself: If you don’t show the recruiter you have what they’re looking for, you probably won’t succeed. This process is simple once you know their pain points (i.e. problems) because you can clearly demonstrate how you have the best solution. Again, customisation is important, so make sure your documents address as many of the role requirements as possible. Use previous successes and achievements to show how you’ve added value in the past.
We recommend including a strong, carefully crafted career profile as the first section of your resume that gives a snapshot of your skills and experience. This also applies to your LinkedIn profile summary – you can tailor that section to cover off the key skills and attributes required in the role you’re applying for. In LinkedIn it’s not necessary to do this for every role, but if there is a role you’re applying for that involves new, different or unique skills that aren’t covered in your profile, you should incorporate them.
Selling yourself throughout your job history is also important. Within each role listed on your resume, provide examples of projects, successes and accomplishments where you added value.
A cover letter provides another important place to ‘sell yourself’ and is a great opportunity to customise content to the specific role and clearly state why you think you’re the ideal candidate.
Step 3. Use keywords: Once you know the top attributes a recruiter is looking for in a candidate, you can create a customised checklist of key capabilities. Your resume should already contain a section highlighting your key skills or capabilities. To tailor this section, check the job ad for important keywords and incorporate those into your list, and re-order your list so the most important/relevant skills come first. You can go one step further by rewording those points to suit the role.
Again, this applies to LinkedIn too – check you’ve covered off the main areas within your ‘Skills and Endorsements’ section. Writing a customised cover letter also allows you to use keywords – and it’s one of the best ways to make your application stand out. Research has shown that you literally have seconds to make a good first impression. If a recruiter receives a large number of applications, having a cover letter that highlights key skills, experience and achievements that are highly relevant to the role you’re applying for will help you get noticed.
Step 4. Tweak your experience: For certain people, getting strategic about how they present their experience in their resume is a good idea. But we only recommend doing that in the following cases:
1) When recent experience is not relevant. You can reorder roles to prioritise relevant experience from your earlier work history. Simply create a new section called ‘Relevant Employment History’, then move your most recent and other irrelevant roles to a later section called ‘Other Employment History’. This ensures the recruiter sees your relevant experience first but the section title will make it clear why that experience is not recent.
2) When you have 15+ years’ experience. We usually recommend going back 10–15 years in your resume – so long as that job history provides a good picture of your experience in the context of the role you’re applying for. Any more than that will unnecessarily date you, while also potentially providing too much information for the recruiter to read. Think of your resume as a concise sales tool rather than a lengthy list of everything you’ve ever done. However, be guided by the job ad – if it says you need 20 years’ experience then include it.
3) When you’ve been out of work for some time. We generally don’t recommend including hobbies or other interests in your resume (you can list anything relevant on LinkedIn), but if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while – or you’re new to it – you could include experience outside of full-time work. Think about things you’ve done that highlight your suitability for the role, such as freelance, consulting or volunteer work. List them in a similar way to your other jobs, with the role, organisation, dates and description of what you did.
If you’re serious about landing a great job, preparing a customised application for every role you apply for is something you should make time for. While it might seem tedious, the reward outweighs the effort. Be selective about the roles you apply for and create an application that will make you stand out from the crowd.
Would you like help preparing a top-quality job application or LinkedIn profile that helps you secure your dream job? Our experienced writers can help you create a professional resume, customised cover letter and LinkedIn profile designed to make employers sit up and take notice. To find out more, read about our Services.
Applying for a job these days usually involves sending your resume electronically, which may then be processed using an applicant tracking system. Recruiters and organisations are also increasingly using LinkedIn to recruit. This means that using keywords is an essential part of getting your application seen and demonstrating that you’re the best person for the role. Here’s how to identify the right keywords and use them effectively so you can get the job you want.
A high percentage of resumes are now scanned using applicant tracking systems (ATS), which means your resume may not even be seen by human eyes – unless it makes it through the initial round of scanning. More organisations are also using LinkedIn to find candidates. That means you need to use the right keywords in your resume, online profile and other content if you want your application to be seen.
A keyword is simply a specific word, set of words or phrase that relates to or describes a job, skill or experience. They can be general or specific – for example, ‘general manager’, ‘administrative assistant’, ‘report writing skills’ and ‘agile software development’ are keywords that a recruiter might use to search for candidates.
Regardless of the job you’re applying for, there are some common principles for selecting and using keywords effectively. Here are our top tips.
- Your name: Use your full name and ensure your online profile is consistent with your resume and other application documents. For example, if your resume says Greg Smith but your LinkedIn profile says Gregory C Smith, you’ve made it difficult for a recruiter to connect the two. There’s no need to include your full birth name if that’s not your preferred name. While we don’t recommend using nicknames, we do advise shortening (for example, Christopher to Chris) if that’s how you’re known in the workplace.
- Job title: Recruiters need candidates with experience that matches the role requirements. To get noticed, you should include your target job title. This doesn’t mean deceptively changing previous job titles, but simply tweaking title(s) to better describe what you did. With many of today’s organisations opting for more ‘interesting’ titles for employees, it can result in the title not necessarily articulating what you do (think ‘Director of First Impressions’ versus ‘Receptionist’). A good solution can be to use a slash to include two titles – for example, ‘Receptionist / Director of First Impressions’ or ‘Senior Administrative Assistant / Executive Assistant’. This will help you get found regardless of which title is being searched.
- Qualifications: Include relevant education, licences and certifications with the organisation that conducted the training as well as the year you completed it. Always include study you’re currently undertaking (with an estimated completion date/year). And translate difficult-to-understand qualifications (or those gained overseas) into the commonly understood equivalent. There’s no need to include high school qualifications unless you’re a recent graduate with no other training or education.
- Skills: Include a succinct list of relevant skills and capabilities focused on those most frequently mentioned in the job ad. You should create a section in your resume called ‘Key skills and capabilities’ or similar, which could include up to 15 individual skills, if necessary. This helps a recruiter to match your strengths with the right opportunity. And it’s just as important for your online profile as your resume. According to LinkedIn, members with five or more skills listed are contacted (messaged) up to 33 times more by recruiters than other LinkedIn members, and receive up to 17 times more profile views.
- Location: Many recruiters check your location so it’s important to include a city and state on your resume. If you’re searching for a new role in another state, you could say ‘relocating to Queensland in June’ or something similar. It’s also important to include your location on your LinkedIn profile. According to LinkedIn, more than 30% of recruiters will use advanced search based on location, so omitting it will reduce your chances of being found.
- Industry: Be sure to use commonly used keywords in your industry, such as ‘sales’, ‘marketing’, ‘information technology’ and ‘customer service’ to describe your field and area(s) of expertise. For LinkedIn, select an industry and sub-classification from the ‘Edit Intro’ section to better define your focus.
- Seniority: If it’s not clear from your job titles, use words such as ‘graduate’, ‘mid-level’, ‘senior’, ‘executive’ or ‘C Suite’ to show the level of seniority of past roles you’ve held or people you’ve dealt with.
- Legislation and regulations: Many roles require an in-depth understanding of, or experience interpreting and applying, laws or regulations. If that’s the case for your role, include the names of these laws, acts, regulations and codes of conduct on your resume, including shortened and extended versions if possible. Including memberships of industry groups and specific licences can also demonstrate in-depth understanding of a specific area and provides another way to include relevant keywords.
- Jargon: Include industry jargon and technical terms that are relevant and appropriate to your expertise and future goals. This includes acronyms, with the full description in brackets the first time they appear, so both versions are included.
When preparing your application and online profile, think like a recruiter filling the job you want. How is that job described in job ads? What skills, capabilities, qualifications and tools are required? Decide on your keywords based on the categories we’ve listed above. Then incorporate those keywords logically into your content.
Avoid madly listing or repeating keywords – this is known as ‘keyword stuffing’ and applicant tracking systems can easily recognise it and may reject your application. But get your keywords right and you’ll be well on your way to your next great job.
Would you like help preparing a top-quality job application or LinkedIn profile that focuses on the right keywords? Our experienced writers can help you create a professional resume and LinkedIn profile designed to make employers sit up and take notice. To find out more, read about our Services.
We often tell our clients that job applications are like sales proposals and any good sales person knows how important tailoring is for success. If you’ve been applying for jobs unsuccessfully, taking a more tailored approach to preparing your application might be a good place to start.
While we always recommend that our clients write a customised cover letter for each role, working to tailor your entire application is often something relegated to the ‘too hard’ basket. The process of tailoring your resume and/or LinkedIn profile can sound time consuming, but we challenge you to take a good look at your application and ask yourself (as the recruiter) ‘what’s in it for me?’ Your job application should immediately highlight you as someone who can add value in the role. If it doesn’t do that, you’re not giving yourself the best opportunity to succeed.
Before we start with the tailoring process, we are assuming you have a great resume in place already – a document that highlights who you are, identifies your key skills, and shows the value you have added in previous roles. If you haven’t already done that, then focus on that step first – see our previous article How to Write a Resume – Top 10 Tips to get started. Then, follow these simple steps to tailor your application for success:
- Do your research: The first step is research. Read the job ad and identify exactly what’s required. Highlight specific skills or experience that seem important and make notes. If the company is advertising directly, view their website, search the company name and find out if there is any news or company activity that may impact the job. Writing just one sentence in your cover letter referencing a current situation, challenge or opportunity the company is facing could mean the difference between success and failure at this initial stage.
- Customise your career profile: We recommend including a good strong career profile as the first section in your resume. Your career profile should highlight what you bring to the role. It should clearly demonstrate your skills and past experience and highlight how they add value to an organisation. Most people see this section as fairly standard, however by customising the content to address specific individual job requirements, you’ll put yourself a step ahead. Make it personal, enthusiastic, passionate, easy to understand, and engaging – and clearly demonstrate to the recruiter how you’ll excel. This can also apply to your LinkedIn profile summary – we would take a similar approach to tailoring the content to ensure you’ve covered off the key skills and attributes required for the role. We don’t recommend doing this for every role, however if there is a role you’re applying for that mentions new or different skills (that you possess but aren’t covered effectively), you should work to incorporate them.
- Change your key capability list: Once you know the recruiter’s main priorities in terms of what they’re looking for in a candidate, you can customise your key capabilities to meet those needs. In its simplest form, this means re-ordering your ‘key capabilities and skills’. Get more involved by rewording those points and/or customising them to suit the role. Again, this also applies to LinkedIn so make sure you’ve covered off all the main areas within the ‘skills and endorsements’ section.
- Show your value: If a buyer can’t see the value in a product or service, they simply won’t buy it. Same goes for your job application. If you don’t offer the recruiter what they’re looking for, you won’t succeed. Your application needs to demonstrate to the recruiter how you are going to add value. This process is simple once you know their pain points because you can clearly demonstrate how you have the best solution. Again, customisation is important so spend time ensuring the content in your documents targets and addresses as many of the requirements of the role as you can. Use past successes and achievements to show how you’ve ‘added value’ in the past.
- Write a customised cover letter: We can’t stress enough how important this step is. Writing a customised cover letter is the simplest way for your application to stand out. If a recruiter receives 100 or so applications, how do you think they’re going to choose which ones to actually read in detail? Research has proven that you literally have seconds to make a good first impression. Preparing a cover letter that highlights your key skills, experiences and past achievements that are highly relevant to the role you are applying for increases your chances significantly of getting noticed.
- Change your job history order: This is not something we recommend doing unless absolutely necessary because it can confuse the reader. However, where we would recommend doing this is if you have highly relevant experience in your past work history, where your recent roles and experience are not at all relevant. In this case, we recommend applicants make a new section which is included upfront and entitled “Relevant Employment History” then list the relevant job history. You would then move your recent and other roles to a section called “Other Employment History”. This ensures the recruiter sees your ‘relevant’ experience first but the title of the section will give insight into why that experience is not recent.
Preparing a tailored application for every role you apply for is something you should strongly think about making time for. While it might sound time consuming, the reward far outweighs the effort. You’ll end up with an application that screams ‘look at me’ to the recruiter and that is exactly the position you want to be in!
Are you interested in tailoring your application for improved success? Would you like some assistance from a professional writer to prepare a winning resume for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services and Job Search Coaching Services.
We’ve long held the belief that the cover letter is one of the most important parts of your application. It’s the best way for you to grab the attention of the recruiter, introduce yourself, showcase what you offer, and highlight why you’d be a great hire. But with research showing you have just seconds to make an impression, you’ve got to get it right!
A cover letter provides the best way to introduce yourself to a recruiter. You need to convey who you are, what you have to offer, and why you want the job – but many experts believe you have just 20-30 seconds to do so. This is the time it takes an experienced recruiter to scan your application in enough detail to make a decision about whether or not to read further. In a crowded job market, recruiters notice ‘stand-out’ applications. This means it must be attention grabbing – easy to read with information that identifies you as an ideal candidate. Here are our tips to ensure your next cover letter stands out:
- Tailor the content – while many candidates believe they can take a standard approach with their cover letter, this is not usually the case. Take notice of what the company is looking for by studying the job ad and/or position description. Customise your content to suit the role, cross-matching your applicable skills, experiences and qualifications to ensure everything you mention is highly relevant to the role.
- Show passion for the job and/or the industry you’re applying for. Anything that demonstrates a love for what you do or for what the company stands for will grab the recruiter’s attention.
- Talk about your love for the company – companies want to hire people who already know and love their brand. Ideally you want to incorporate some unique piece of company information into your letter – this could be a piece of current industry or company news and your opinion on it (so long as it’s not controversial or negative of course). It’s also perfectly okay to flatter. You could tell a short story about what attracted you to the company. Have you been a fan of the brand since you were a child? Has the product improved some aspect of your life? Have you dreamed of working there since XYZ? Stories bring everything to life – but keep them short, sharp and succinct – no one wants to read an essay.
- Emulate the company’s ‘voice’ – take note of industry buzzwords and specific language in the job ad and use them throughout your letter. By mirroring the same language in your letter, you can demonstrate you understand the company’s environment, industry and culture.
- Highlight successes – but make sure they’re relevant – the reality of the job search process is that it’s competitive. For most roles applied for, you’ll be competing with many other applicants. Usually, several of these applicants will be just as capable and/or qualified as you. A great way to grab attention is to highlight successes that demonstrate why you’d be an asset in the role. Focus on short stories that convey what you’ve done which have strong relevance to the new role. I like to list out the job requirements or repeat the bullet points that appear under ‘What you’ll need to succeed’ in the job ad – then provide short statements about what you bring for each one. If your background is extensive, start culling – only include examples that you think will interest the recruiter – those that showcase your skills, experience and accomplishments that directly relate to the role you’re applying for.
- Inject personality – or add some humour. This is a great way to make a recruiter smile, and therefore give you a better chance that they’ll remember you. Showing you bring the right experience and skillset to the role, as well as some personality is important – but be careful about trying to be too funny, informal, sassy, or quirky.
- Make it visually appealing – your cover letter should match your resume, with the same header, font and style. Use a modern template with a classic font and no clutter – something that looks professional and clean. Always save your documents to PDF format so there are no formatting issues when the recruiter opens it.
- Quantify examples – if you can, use numbers, percentages or specific results to demonstrate successful outcomes. Try not to make generalised statements about what you can do or have done – back these up with concrete examples.
Remember, it takes many recruiters just 20-30 seconds to decide whether to read your application in more detail, so give them every reason to do so. Make your application stand out by showing you’ve done your research! Talk about the company, the role, your love of everything about the industry – and highlight why you’d be an asset. Taking the time to really understand the role and explaining exactly why you want it will impress most recruiters.
If you would like assistance with writing an attention grabbing cover letter, please see our Customised Cover Letter and Resume Writing Services.
It’s about this time of year that people begin to think it’s too late to start applying for new roles. Even if you believe you won’t be able to secure a new role between now and the new year, there are things you can (and should) be doing over the festive season to help you gain a great head start come January. Whether you’ve been at it for a while, or are just starting your job search, keep it up during the holidays.
While it may be unlikely you’ll be offered a job between now and the new year, that doesn’t mean you should cease all activity. On the contrary, using this time could pay huge dividends down the track. Here’s our top five things you can do now to help your job search in the new year:
- Know what you want: Go through job search sites such as Seek and LinkedIn and search for specific titles, companies, industries and keywords. Play around with combinations and open your search out to other geographical locations or industries to expand results. While the market may be quiet and you might not find exactly what you’re looking for, there’s a strong chance that some positions will be a close match to what you’re after. Read the job ads closely and get a feel for what’s required. Doing this allows you to decide what’s important to include (and just as importantly exclude) from your application – as well as determining if you have any major gaps in your capabilities.
- Get organised: Today’s job market is not only competitive, it’s complicated. There are many avenues to tap into – including advertised and unadvertised job markets. Getting organised will help you to more efficiently find and apply for all the positions you may be suitable for. Set up automated job searches, identify relevant recruiters, update your application materials, polish your interview skills, use LinkedIn, check your social media settings, and think about who you could be networking with. Read our previous article Winning Job Search Strategies for detailed tips on developing a structured job search strategy.
- Update your materials: This includes your LinkedIn profile, Resume and Cover Letter. Many recruiters use LinkedIn to find suitable candidates, so it’s important to optimise your profile with keywords, so you can be found. Include comprehensive and up-to-date content, a current and professional photo, and try to complete every section. Make sure to leverage the summary section – use it to introduce yourself, provide an overview of your key skills, experience and strengths – a picture of who you are and the value you could bring to an organisation. Your Resume should also be updated and we recommend writing a customised cover letter for every job you apply for – addressing as many ‘job requirements’ as you can. Use the holidays to prepare sample letters and/or paragraphs that can easily be modified to suit specific roles as you apply. While you will have to tailor them for each position, getting these documents into shape now will make the job much easier when the time comes.
- Prepare for interviews: The biggest mistake you can make when searching for a new job is not preparing for the interview. Ways you can do this in the holidays include brainstorming the types of questions you might get asked and coming up with some examples that demonstrate your success. Think about examples that demonstrate strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, and how you’ve handled different work situations. Having a bank of these examples will ensure you feel more confident and prepared during the stressful interview process. Read our previous article here that talks about using the STAR approach to help you formulate them for an interview.
- Network: Think about who you know that you can connect with now. Let your network know you are seeking new opportunities. While it may not be the best time to reach out to everyone who might be of assistance to you in your job search, that doesn’t mean you can’t get the ball rolling. Do your research, brainstorm and scroll through LinkedIn for potential people to contact, then start drafting emails that can be sent in the new year. Be mindful of people taking time off and coming back to an inbox full of emails which may get overlooked – think about your timing before sending. Remember all the different ways to connect with your network and use them – phone calls, emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, face-to-face and online networking groups.
Today’s job market is competitive and complex so being organised and prepared will help ensure your success! With so many avenues to pursue, using the quieter holiday period to plan your strategy will ensure you are ready and raring to go in the new year.
Would you would like help developing a winning resume, detailed job search strategy, or professional LinkedIn profile? Perhaps you’d like to work on your interview skills? If so, please see our Resume Writing, Job Search Coaching, and Interview Training services.
We are asked almost daily by clients if writing a cover letter is really necessary. Our answer is always YES since we know that many employers and recruiters don’t even consider candidates without one. Writing a cover letter is your chance to stand out from other applicants – so use it to your best advantage.
Many clients come to us requesting a ‘general’ cover letter that addresses a variety of roles they would like to apply for in the future. Whilst this can be achieved, we can’t stress enough the importance of specifically targeting your cover letter to individual roles. We advise clients to modify their cover letter for each role they apply for rather than just re-use the same letter.
It’s important that the recruiter immediately identifies with you as someone who could do their job well. This means you need to spend some time analysing the role you are applying for and matching the requirements to your own skills and experience.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to making it to the top of the recruiter’s pile:
- Review the job ad – identify what the recruiter is really looking for and take note of industry buzzwords and specific language.
- Cross-match your skills – identify your strengths, applicable skills, experiences, qualifications, achievements, projects and general knowledge that relate directly to the role.
- Customise your content – recruiters want to see that you’ve taken the time to understand the role and explain why you want it. Take some time to do this and be explicit in communicating why you’d be a great candidate.
- Be succinct – clearly and briefly (no more than one A4 page) highlight your expertise. Use specific examples to demonstrate how you meet the requirements of the role. By all means reference your resume but don’t just regurgitate its content – include additional value.
- Quantify examples – if you can, use numbers, percentages or specific results to demonstrate successful outcomes. Try not to make generalised statements about what you can do or have done – back these up with concrete examples.
- Highlight the right expertise – if your background is extensive, start culling. Think about what’s important for the role you’re applying for – recruiters are interested in your skills, experience and accomplishments that directly relate to the role they’re recruiting for.
- Don’t apologise for what you don’t have – don’t be tempted to mention limitations or areas of partial experience. Instead focus on the positives and any transferable skills.
- Emulate the company’s ‘voice’ – after taking note of any industry buzzwords and specific language in Step 1, show you understand the company’s environment and culture by mirroring the same language in your letter.
- Use bullet points and white space – break up your letter with bullet points to highlight specific areas of expertise. Make your letter easy to scan and ensure your bullet points address all the main requirements of the role.
- Add value – research the company and mention why you would like to work there – highlight similar roles you’ve held or companies you’ve worked for and how that experience might help you succeed in this role. Mention a current company or industry issue you’re aware of and how you might be able to contribute to solving it.
- Request contact – include your contact details (at least email and mobile) in a prominent position and ask for an opportunity to discuss your suitability further.
It’s not that difficult to stand out from other candidates – just including a tailored cover letter will often put you ahead of the majority of candidates! Even in job ads that have not specifically requested a cover letter – we always recommend sending one that highlights the important parts of your background. Doing so creates a more concise and targeted picture of you and the value you can bring to the role.
Would you like assistance from a Professional Resume Writer to prepare a winning cover letter targeted towards a specific role for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services.
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