Let’s face it, peppering your resume and cover letter with terms akin to “result-oriented team-player” is not going to cut it these days. First of all, this tactic is used by so many job seekers, that it won’t help you stand out from the crowd. Secondly, relying on overused terms and recycled phrases tells the recruiter that you’re lazy, unimaginative, and unable to identify more meaningful aspects of your professional brand to present to the potential employer.
Clichés don’t make your resume more powerful, but here are some strategies that do:
What: Tailoring employment documents to the desired position
Why: To demonstrate your motivation, initiative, and willingness to positively contribute to achieving the employer’s business goals.
What: Using hard data, facts and numbers
Why: To prove you are who you claim you are and build credibility with the potential employer. Do emphasize your accomplishments instead of rambling about your duties, and don’t be shy to state how many people you’ve managed and how much money you’ve saved in your previous workplace.
Why: To rank higher in the search results and to show you stay in the loop on current industry developments. But put them in context.
What: Words that project confidence and competence
Why: Weak phrases present you as indecisive and unprofessional. So drop them and opt for more meaningful alternatives.
Getting noticed by a potential employer is very similar to getting your website to show up on the first pages of Google search results. Your key to success lies in making your application documents relevant and easy to find. That way, when an HR looks for a professional in your field by browsing LinkedIn, employment websites, or even their company’s internal applicant database, your name shows up on top of the list. How do you accomplish that?
First and foremost, pack your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile with buzzwords. Read your target job description carefully and incorporate the main concepts and phrases into your application documents. This strategy also applies to situations where you respond to job ads via any kind of automated system on the potential employer’s or recruiter’s website rather than by sending a good old email. And do try to include both abbreviations and full versions of key concepts, as you never know whether an HR will be typing in “SMM” or “Social Media Manager” in the search field.
If you are posting your resume on an employment website, such as Monster.com, and are targeting several job titles, create a customized version of your profile to match each alternative. That will dramatically improve your chances of being noticed amidst hundreds of your competitors.
And finally, take care not to go overboard with optimization and make sure you can back up each and every one of the claims you make on your resume.
Not so long ago I’ve shared with you a list of phrases that have the power to seriously sabotage your job hunt if used in a resume or cover letter. If you’ve already weeded these out of your employment documents, it’s time to move to the next level and add some meat to your job application. It’s no secret that a great writer creates compelling stories, carefully choosing each word so that their piece conveys information in a way that would evoke a certain response in a reader. Thus, an effective resume prompts the Hiring Manager to call the applicant for an interview.
Sadly, more often than not, HR’s end up going through piles of resumes crowded with unimaginative phrases that have been repeated so often that they have started to lose their meaning. Yes, I’m talking about endless lists of duties all starting with “managed” and “communicated”. The best way to turn your application into a piece of engaging writing that the recruiter will actually read is by adding some variety to your vocabulary. So here are some of the most overused verbs along with great alternatives that you should take advantage of:
– coordinated — gives an impression that you’ve successfully juggled a number of tasks
– oversaw/supervised — both imply that you have been directing both processes and people
Check out more helpful alternatives to overused verbs!
Many people think that in this day and age sending a cover letter is pointless. Some are convinced that their resume already contains all the necessary credentials. Others infer that HR’s are too swamped with applications to read any cover letters at all.
However, even though you never know whether the cover letter you have carefully crafted will end up being read, you should write and send it every time. Why? Because most Hiring Managers will give your application bonus points just for submitting one. After all, the fact that you took the time to write a cover letter demonstrates your motivation, initiative and genuine interest in the position. And if actually read, an effective letter will set you well apart from other candidates.
So don’t forgo a chance to get bumped to the top of the employer’s list and follow these five useful tips to take your cover letter from passable to powerful:
1. Be focused
The cover letter gives you a perfect chance to state your case and present yourself as the best possible candidate for the position. Take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate your professional value. Tell the HR what makes you better than others. Do you have any accomplishments you’re proud of? What can you do for your potential employer?
And in case you were wondering: yes, that means you write a different cover letter in response to each job posting you apply for. You can either create a general template and add relevant details for every application you send out, or have a long comprehensive version of a cover letter ready, deleting unnecessary facts to suit each vacancy.
We’re people, we’re not perfect and we all make mistakes from time to time. But in a world where one or two typos can cost you a job, you just can’t afford to be sloppy. What to do?
- It’s a no-brainer, but you’ve got to proofread your documents, edit, and proofread them again.
- Ask a friend to take a look. After working on a resume for a long time you’ve probably learnt each word by heart, so you might be missing some obvious errors.
- For the same reason, sleep on it to see your documents with a fresh eye the next day.
- Don’t rely on the spellchecker to do all the work for you. Otherwise you may end up having experience in “renovating horses” instead of “houses” and be an expert in “sock control”.
It’s no secret that the job market is tough these days, and finding stable long-term employment is a feat in and of itself. So it’s not surprising that many qualified professionals take up consulting and freelance projects, or even start their own private businesses to make a living. And while some derive great pleasure out of being self-employed and go on to develop successful careers this way, others strive to eventually return to being an employee.
This latter group of jobseekers is often hesitant about mentioning their short-term projects and experiences on their resumes for fear of being considered job hoppers. However, this perception is quite misguided. In reality, your freelance or consulting history can turn out to be an ace up your sleeve.
Still don’t see how? Think about it this way: you most likely had to get out there, find and negotiate with clients, strike deals, deliver on targets, solve problems and ensure top-notch quality all by yourself. Now that’s impressive! It shows a potential employer that you are proactive, independent, inventive and great at getting along with others.
So how do you convey all this through your resume? Here are a few tips!
You’d be surprised at how many people feel uncomfortable talking about themselves, particularly when it comes to describing work-related successes. However, failing to mention your achievements is likely to greatly impede your job search. Practice shows that listing professional accomplishments on the resume gives you an instant boost in the eyes of a Hiring Manager, which translates into more chances of landing you the job interview.
So if you’re still struggling with recollecting your professional victories, try answering the following questions:
- Have you exceeded sales or performance targets at the workplace? How often?
- Have you suggested or implemented any improvements to operations or processes?
- Have you saved your employer money?
- Have you contributed to business growth in some way? (Expanded the client base? Attracted funding?)
- Have you successfully completed any challenging projects?
- Have you received any awards or commendations from your employer? How about praise from customers or clients?
Remember, if you did something well – don’t be afraid to own it!
You might not be aware of it, but by using weak words and phrases in your resume, you are sabotaging your own chances of landing a great job. These employment-speak clichés can make even the most qualified candidate come across as incompetent, dull, and lacking both initiative and confidence to succeed in the workplace.
Take a minute to go through your resume line by line and see if any of these seven phrases are the reason why you haven’t received as many interviews as you’d hoped for.
1. Responsible for / In charge of
Saying that you were “responsible for” or “in charge of” something does not mean you did it well. In fact, these statements create an impression that you might be hiding some major mishaps or know next to nothing about the subject in question. So spell out what your responsibilities entailed using active verbs. For example, instead of saying “Responsible for opening and closing the store”, write “Opened and closed the store independently every day” and add any other relevant details. A small tweak like that instantly makes your profile much more attractive.
2. Duties included
Again, by using this phrase you’re essentially saying what you were supposed to do instead of what you’ve actually achieved. Your best bet here would be to shift focus from your duties to your accomplishments.
But wait, there’s more!
Using Curlz MT font coupled with boldface on a hot pink background will certainly make your application stand out among others; in a bad way. So in addition to ensuring that your resume is relevant and targeted to your desired position, make it eye-pleasing, or, at the very least, readable.
Unless you are a professional graphic designer, go by the “Rule of 2 or less”:
- No more than 2 fonts. – Defaults like Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri are a safe bet, while Georgia and Cambria are great for headers. And don’t go lower than 10 pt in font size.
- No more than 2 colors. – Aside from black or dark grey for the text, you may safely use light blue, grass green or some other neutral color to embellish section headers. Take care not to pick hues that are too bright, as these are distracting.
- No more than 2 types of bullets. – And only one of them should be fancy (i.e. a check box or an arrow).
- Boldfacing, italicizing, underlining and using small caps in a phrase all at once is overdoing it. Combining any two of the above-mentioned formatting tools is okay.
And here are a couple of other helpful tips:
- Regardless of how much (or how little) formatting you decide to apply, make sure you leave enough white space.
- Avoid lengthy paragraphs. Opt for bulleted lists and clearly defined sections instead.
- Make sure your formatting is consistent. That means same design of headers, same font and size for the main text, same intervals between sections and so on.
Even if your credentials are a perfect match for the position, you won’t be invited to the interview unless the recruiter has some way of contacting you.
- Forgetting to put your contact info on the resume sounds like a silly mistake, but it happens. Needless to say, it’s a fatal error.
- Typos in your e-mail address and phone number will definitely hinder your chances of landing a job.
- Use a professional e-mail address, preferably the one that contains your name. email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and the like are appropriate for personal communication with family and friends, but they don’t belong on a resume.
- Think twice before including links to your social media profiles. Make sure that they will serve you well and contain no controversial or rude material. Portfolios, industry blogs and LinkedIn are acceptable, but only if they complement your professional image and are relevant to the position.