Resume Help

Perfecting your Cover Letter

In addition to a user friendly, clutter free resume, in order to secure an interview and a great new job, you’ll need a cover letter. Here are a few tips for perfecting the cover letter:

1) Your cover letter should be brief: No more than a page, including: the date, address and email for you and the recipient, and salutation and closing lines.

2) Each paragraph should have only one purpose. That means that each paragraph should only communicate one theme or focus on a couple of connected ideas. This way, you can construct a cover letter using three or four paragraphs:

  • In the first paragraph, express your interest in the role using the exact title of the job you are applying to. Use two or three keywords to describe how your skills align with the requirements of the role.
  • Use the next one or two paragraphs (about four sentences each) to provide clear examples of how your experience, skills and accomplishments are relevant to the role. Use an active voice and simple language here.
  • Close in the final paragraph (the third or fourth) by expressing your desire to support the organization. You can also make a direct request for a meeting or an interview. If you are really succinct, you can repeat some key skills from the intro to tie the letter together.

3) Keep in mind that your cover letter should augment, not repeat, information from both your resume and the job description. This may sound like a tall order, so let’s look at one example. Let’s say a potential job requires:

  • 3 years of experience in Project Management,
  • Sound judgement,
  • The ability to meet multiple deadlines, and
  • Experience working effectively in a team.

Your resume should clearly show that you have the required number of years of experience in a particular field or business area. If it’s not immediately clear from dates of employment and job titles, list years of experience in a field in a summary at the top of your resume. Perhaps you say “delivered multiple complex products on time and on budget” under one or more job descriptions? If you’ve covered this, your cover letter should say something like:

Between 2006 and 2013, I led design and validation teams on multiple, concurrent projects to deliver more than a dozen software products. By initiating novel working relationships with both R&D and Sales & Marketing, my teams were able focus their efforts on unmet software needs. We fulfilled all department and client quality requirements, leading to successful and profitable market launches for each product.

4) Finally, if you have time, print a draft, set it aside and review it in a couple of hours or days. You’ll be surprised to see how much you can improve your writing when you give yourself some time to consolidate information.

Happy writing!

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Functional Resumes

In our posts about perfecting your resume, we mentioned the functional resume. The functional resume uses sections like Skills, Accomplishments or Training as opposed to the traditional format of chronologically listing your job history and education. If you have gaps in your job history, the functional resume is an excellent tool to draw attention to what you can offer rather than where and when you have been working. It’s also a great option if:

  • You have worked on a number of projects and would like to highlight this experience.
  • You have held a number of jobs and want to reduce clutter on your resume.
  • You have a wealth of industry specific training, education, or skills that an employer will be looking for.

For example, a Product Development Engineer who has worked as a contractor for a few different companies might create categories like:

  • Products: detailing of all the products they have developed or assisted in developing.
  • Software Skills: detailing of the design programs or relevant software in which they are proficient.
  • Manufacturing Skills: a list of manufacturing processes with which they have experience.
  • Training and Professional Development: details of courses or training received. 

To determine which categories will be right for your functional resume, jot down some notes about your skills. Can you group them? Talk to a colleague about how you’d tell someone about your skills and experience.

Check back again for ways to augment your traditional or functional resume with a cover letter.

Tips for a Great Resume, Part 3: Amazing Content

In the competitive market for software sales and technology jobs, employers are looking for the best in the business. Show them you are a winning candidate by ensuring that the limited content you can provide in your resume catches their eye. It may get you an interview.

Job Title Alignment

Employers are looking for candidates that can take on a new challenge with ease. One of the things they look for are alignment in job titles,  this gives them a hint about your skills.

  • If you are a Senior Sales Representative and are applying to a Senior Sales Representative or Sales Manager role, there is already alignment here. Use bold/italics/underline to help these titles to stand out. If you can, ensure this job title lands on the first page of your resume.

Skill Alignment

  • If there is no way to show alignment in job titles, try to highlight relevant content in your past experience that matches the job you are looking for. For example, if you are a Marketing Manager applying to a Sales Manager position, highlight in your job description sales projects you worked on, sales training you have received, your coordination with sales teams, supervision of salespeople or sales objectives you met through your role.

Additions

  • Do you have relevant training, degrees or proficiency in relevant software and job duties? Add this to the first page of your resume or discuss it in your cover letter.

Distractions

An effective way to improve your resume is to streamline content and focus on only the most critical information. Remove extraneous information about:

  •  Your job duties: include only material that is highly relevant to the job to which you are applying. Very long job descriptions can be a chore for the reader and take away from relevant skills and experience.
  • Whether a job was contract/permanent.
  • Why you left a position, explanations for gaps in employment or career wounds: these can be addressed briefly in a cover letter.
  • Your GPA: unless you received very close to a 4.0 or equivalent, don’t include a GPA. Instead, list awards, scholarships or fellowships.
  • Personal activities. Avoid including personal activities, like playing guitar, running. List professionally relevant activities, like volunteer work, training or blogging in your field.
  • Personality/professional traits. Instead of traits, like “hard working” in your job duties, provide examples of contributions you have made to relevant areas of business. How about a sentence like: “Identified a gap in customer service and worked with the Marketing and Sales Teams to correct a process in our public facing information provision leading to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction”? This covers traits like attention to detail, problem solving, goal and results oriented, team player, written and verbal communication and highlights knowledge of business areas including customer service and marketing and sales.

Finally, approach a friend or colleague – one that you’re comfortable sharing your job hunt with – to look over your resume. They may see things that you don’t!