- Read the entire job posting – No matter how excited you get about the position, read the entire announcement all of the way through at least once, and make sure you follow ALL of the directions, no matter what. One of the applicants for the job I mentioned above was incredibly experienced and actually known by some members of our team. She would have been really great to work with and would have done a fine job, but we couldn’t even interview her because she did not answer one of the three mandatory questions in the job announcement. If she’d only followed the directions and answered all three questions, there’s a high probability she’d be sitting behind the admin assistant desk next week.
- Complete the entire application thoroughly – Yes, even if it seems silly or redundant. I’ve encountered job applications where they want you to upload a résumé AND type in your work experience. Seems silly and like a waste of time, right? Well, being on the other side of that application, I can tell you that each part serves a different function. Do it anyway. It speaks to your being able to follow directions, if nothing else.
- Your cover letter is not the same thing as your résumé – They do different things. A cover letter should explain a bit more about who you are, what you have done, and why you are applying for the job. A résumé is a summary of your qualifications, experiences, and other criteria that make you a suitable candidate. Don’t just put your résumé into paragraph form and call it your cover letter.
- Aesthetics matter – Spacing, and the overall visual appearance matter. . Good use of white space helps the résumé and cover letter flow and makes them easy to read. If either document is too difficult to read, the reader won’t waste their time. After all, they might have 113 other applications to get through, so they’re not going to spend extra time and effort trying to figure out yours – even if you do have excellent qualifications and a stellar personality.
- One size does not fit all – Tailor your cover letter and résumé to each job you apply for. You don’t necessarily have to completely re-write them, just make sure that the skills and experiences you list are applicable for the position you’re applying to.
- Do your research and know the company or agency you’re applying to – this will help keep you from saying something silly on your application, which could very easily take you out of the race before you’ve even really started.
- Don’t say things without explaining them unless you’re absolutely sure that your audience will understand them – Today I read several “laundry lists” of very technical skills that a couple of the applicants possessed, and I have no idea what they were talking about. Unfortunately, since I didn’t understand much of their résumés, those applicants went straight into the “No” pile. If they’d only explained what those skills were and what they’d done, they might still be in the running.
- Similarly, do not use acronyms without first explaining what they are – If you say that you worked for the ACR writing and analyzing reports, I have no idea what you actually did, and if it’s of any use for my organization. Maybe the ACR is well-known to you, but if I don’t know what it is, then I don’t care. And I won’t be taking the time to Google it, so you’re far better off just explaining this acronym up front.
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