We’ve talked a lot before about cover letters and resumes, but sometimes a refresher course isn’t a bad idea. So, when I was invited recently to participate as a facilitator for one of Mashable’s #BizChats Twitter chats, I was really looking forward to discussing the ways that people can improve their resumes and cover letters.
The other facilitators were Amanda Augustine (resume writer, career management expert, and career consultant at The Ladders), Erin Kennedy (career consultant and executive resume writer), and Debra Wheatman, (CPCC, CPRW, and Careers Done Write president). During the one-hour event, we covered eight questions. I’ll present them in order.
1. Is it important to have both a cover letter and a resume when applying for a job?
Personally, I think it’s important only if the position announcement specifically requests a cover letter. Amanda pointed out that her research indicates that only half of recruiters place any importance on a cover letter. The other half typically throws them away. Many participants felt that it’s disheartening to have your cover letter tossed when you’ve worked so hard on it, but it’s a mistake not to include something that could help land you the job. In other words, include it and let the recruiter decide whether or not to toss it.
2. How can you make your resume really stand out?
Debra felt that although content is king, aesthetic value is what gets you noticed. Most agreed that you should focus on your achievements, instead of just listing tasks and responsibilities. Some also pointed out that Microsoft templates, re-done to death, should be avoided. After saying that cover letters weren’t always important, I recommended a great cover letter!
3. What features should you showcase? GPA, school, skills, etc.?
Erin recommended including your GPA only if you’re at entry level. Again, achievements were agreed upon as the most important features, and I added that your value proposition should be stressed—what can you offer that another candidate may not?
4. What are employers and recruiters looking for in resumes and cover letters?
We all agreed that they’re looking for information that is going to help them select the right candidate. They want concise resumes that display a bit of your personality—so humor is fine, but only if appropriate.
5. What are the biggest cover letter mistakes?
Debra loathes poor grammar and spelling. Amanda cringes when she sees applicants writing more about why they want and need the job than why they’re uniquely qualified. Erin says not addressing it to the right person is a huge mistake. I think attaching a cover letter to an e-mail instead of including the text in the body is one of the better ways to ensure that it’s never read.
6. How important is design when creating a resume and cover letter?
We all agreed that it’s not as important as content, but it is what creates the first impression.
7. What are top resources for cover letter and resume support?
I recommend checking out resume experts on LinkedIn, and reading their blogs. Erin suggests that contacting a professional resume writer can be very useful.
8. Final tips?
We all agreed once more that you must focus on your achievements. Debra added that it was important to be authentic. I suggested that applicants get rid of generalizations—if it can apply to anyone, it says nothing specific about you.
I loved being part of this #BizChat, and I hope they ask me back again soon!
For a play-by-play recap of the entire chat, check out the link: http://mashable.com/2015/02/12/improve-resume-and-cover-letter/
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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