Resumes are a hard thing to get right, but a very easy thing to mess up. Here are our top three resume pitfalls.
When you first start looking for a job, one of the top things on your To Do list should be to write a cover letter. Some job seekers might think the cover letter is a formality that you add to your resume. They couldn’t be more wrong. Cover letters are the personal introduction to your resume’s more formal application. Hiring managers will go through the cover letter first before even looking at your resume. Here is our guide to the cover letter for beginners.
First Things First
Before we get going, there are a couple quick tips to keep in mind. Slate.com says: “Keep it short. I started putting word limits on cover letters because I couldn’t stand, nor did I have the time to read, the especially long letters I’d receive.”
Another thing to keep in mind is writing in a personable tone. The cover letter is a chance for you to bring out a little bit of your personality. Keep things professional, but don’t be afraid to let some of you shine through.
Addressing the Letter
Beginners often start their cover letters with “To Whom It May Concern’. Always try your hardest to find the name of the person in charge of hiring. If a job is posted on LinkedIn you will be able to see the name of the person who posted the job. If a job posting doesn’t give you a name, call the company, mention that you’re applying for the job and ask if there is someone you can address your cover letter to.
Starting your cover letter off with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager” isn’t going to get your cover letter thrown out, but having the right person’s name there gets you off on the right foot.
Introduce yourself, note the position you’re applying for and give a reason or two why you want this specific job. Note something specific about the company, the way they do business or someone you know working there. Demonstrate that you’ve researched the company and the position you want.
This is the meat and potatoes of your cover letter. In this paragraph you want to talk about you, what you’ve done and what you can bring to the company. Focus on what the job posting mentioned as key responsibilities and qualifications needed for the position. Mention successes you were a part of in your last job. You want the person reading your cover letter to come away thinking, “this person is perfect for the job”.
This is where you wrap it all up. Reiterate the fact that the skills you have are a perfect match for the awesome company you’re applying to.
Finally make sure you let the hiring manager know what the next step is. A lot of job postings say that they will contact you. In this case, make sure you include something along the lines of “I look forward to hearing from you.”
If it is not expressly stated that you will receive a call, we suggest something like “I will follow up with you in a week’s time.” This lets the hiring manager know exactly what to expect.
The Cover Letter for Beginners
You’ve now got a great cover letter to go along with your resume. Writing from scratch can be tough though. Experience.com offers a great example of a cover letter.
After all your hard work perfecting your resume and writing an on the mark cover letter the last thing you want to do is bungle the interview. Here are ten common interview pitfalls. Be aware of them and you won’t fall in!
Not Dressing the part
Remember you are making a strong impression on your interviewer before a single word comes out of your mouth. Even if the job or workplace is on the casual side that doesn’t mean you come into the interview wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Come in looking like a professional. Whether the interview is formal or casual, here are a few tips from the balance careers
Plan your route the day before your interview and check expected traffic conditions the morning of so you can plan to arrive fifteen minutes early. That way if there are any unforeseen problems you’ve given yourself some buffer time. If something does come up that makes it impossible for you to arrive on time get in touch with someone at the location and let them know.
Forgetting your phone is the enemy
As soon as you arrive at the interview turn your phone off. If it rings, if you play with it, if you are distracted by it, you are letting the interviewer know exactly where your priorities lie.
Ignoring your homework
Prior to the interview you should have researched the company in detail, read their website, perused all their social media sites. Have a fact or statistic about the company in your pocket to bring out when the opportunity arises.
Ignore the impulse to embellish your skills and experiences. First off, honesty is always the best policy. Second if you are not caught in the lie during the interview (a few probing questions is all it will take) it will come back to haunt you should you get the job.
Failing to listen
No matter how nervous or distracted you may feel, it imperative you give the interviewer your full attention. You do not want them to have to repeat what they’re saying.
There is a time to talk about benefits and salary, but that is not at the beginning or middle of the interview
Not tooting your own horn
You don’t want to sound overly confident in an interview (or appear overly nervous) but you do want to convey your strong attributes. Be able to explain how your experiences and strengths will benefit the company. Make sure they understand you believe yourself the best person for this job and why before you leave the interview.
An inability to answer standard interview questions
Tell me about yourself. Where do you see yourself in five years? What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses? There are standard questions you will hear at every interview. Be prepared to answer them. Here’s a list of the 27 most common interview questions and answers from Inc.
Not asking for the job
Of course you want the job, you came to the interview dressed for success and prepared with all the right answers but the last thing you need to do is ask for it. That doesn’t mean ending with, Will you please give me this job? Rather summarize your discussion, ask if there’s anything else they need, and express your interest in the position again. Here are ten examples from US News
The job you’ve been waiting for has come up! Your resume is polished, personalized for the position and ready to go. You have researched the company and you feel great about your chances. You know how important first impressions are, so you want to make a great one. Your first impression with any potential employer is your cover letter.
The interviewer should be able to assess exactly why you are such a great candidate based on the cover letter. To ensure that, you need to make sure you cover these three things.
Catch them right off the bat with a hook of some sort. Tell them something fabulous about yourself to grab their attention. Tell them about recent successes and how you plan on benefiting this company. Be the opposite of Dear Sir or Madame I would like to present myself as a possible candidate for the upcoming position…
The music behind the words of your resume
Your resume is a cut and dry explanation of your experiences and accomplishments. The cover letter is where you get to embellish. It’s where you get to explain exactly how you improved things at your previous company with concrete statistics. And how your experiences teaching English on the other side of the world are exactly what this PR company needs. Gung-ho as you may feel about your potential don’t give in to the temptation to go on at length. Respect their time and attention span and stick to the highlights. You want to capture their attention so they are intrigued enough to meet you. You can dazzle them with the rest of what you want to say in person. Which brings us to our next point.
Ask for the interview
Great as your intro was and spot-on your accomplishments, statistics show that people who actually ask for the interview in the cover letter are twice as likely to actually be invited in for that interview. “I welcome the chance to meet with you in person to discuss how I can benefit…”
Enthusiasm and confidence are the impressions you want to leave them with.
If you’re on the job search, life is tough enough as it is. Unemployment is never a walk in the park especially when you also have to consider your budget and expenses. Don’t make your job search any harder than it already is. Avoid these job search mistakes.
Have a Plan
Don’t go head long into your job search with a bunch of resumes and start throwing them at store fronts and receptionists. You need a plan. What kind of job do you want? Where do you want to work? Do you know anyone who has contacts there? Is your resume up to date? You need to address all of these things before you even start your job search.
You’re resume might be impressive, but the quickest way to torpedo an offer for an interview or job is if the hiring manager has to send the invitation to snugglesNhugs42@hotmail.com. Make sure your resume is professional. Something as simple as your first name and last name with a period in between will work.
Tailor Your Resume
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to send the exact same cover letter and resume to each and every job you apply for. You don’t have to have totally different resumes and cover letters, but you should tweak both for each different job. Call out specific skills mentioned in the job ad and focus on the skills you have that are part of the job you’re applying for.
Don’t Focus Only on Posted Jobs
If you only look for jobs on job boards, you’re missing a huge opportunity. As much as 80% of jobs are never posted on online job boards. Take time to talk your friends, former colleagues and even family members to see if they have any leads for you. A personal connection can be key to landing a new job.
Always Include a Cover Letter
More important than tailoring your cover letter for each job, is just including one. Even when the job listing doesn’t specifically ask for a cover letter, include one anyway. The cover letter is a personal introduction and will help the hiring manager get a better sense of who you are.
Research the Company
Chances are, if you get an interview, your interviewer will ask you what you know about their company or why you’d like to work for them. If your answer is a blank stare, you may have just missed out on a great job. Find out what they’ve done, where are they headed, and think about how you could be a part of that.
These small mistakes are all easily preventable. Make sure you’re not making one of them.
It happens so often that people miss a job opportunity because they actually don’t have the qualifications or experience listed on the job posting so they don’t apply. Well NEWS FLASH! All the requirements and experience listed on the ad just make up a “wish list” for employers. They may not expect a candidate to have all those qualifications but still list them to weed out anyone who is not 100% qualified for the position.
An easy rule to remember is that if you have more than 50% of the qualifications and experience listed in the posting, you should apply. Most employers are willing to train new candidates and make exceptions if the qualifications and experience are very easy to learn.
That said, don’t apply to a job if there is a very specific and mandatory education or skill requirement that you don’t have.
The bottom line is, apply even if you think you don’t have experience, but feel like you can confidently take on the role.
Transferable skills are an asset
After all that school and the work experience you do have under your belt, there have got to be some skills you already have which can be transferred over to the job you’re after.
See if the skills you’ve picked up during your previous work experiences can be applied to the job. For example, if you were a leader of six people and the job ad requires a supervisor to oversee 10 people, you still have the potential to become a supervisor because: a) You were already in a role that required some kind of leadership of others b) You know a thing or two about managing others, even if it’s less than the amount in the job ad.
Breaking into different industries
Breaking into a different industry can also work because employers might want new insight in the company. If you are an accountant and want to work in a payroll company, they might take a second look at you because the skills of an accountant are similar to payroll positions.
Use your cover letter to sell yourself
Your cover letter can make or break your chances at getting the job. So even if you don’t have the exact experience they’re looking for, use your cover letter to highlight the experiences you do have that would make you an asset to their company.
Make a convincing case for yourself
This goes back to thinking about all the transferable skills you have. If you write your cover letter well, you will have the hiring manager sold on the fact that even if you don’t have experience, you do have the skills. In the letter, talk about how your skills can be applied to the role and how you can benefit the company as a whole.
Show your knowledge for the position/industry
Do your research on the position or industry you are applying for so you know the key points to hit when writing the cover letter. That knowledge may make the difference between an interview and being passed over for one.
Maybe You’ll Get Lucky
You never know what is going on in the minds of hiring managers and their intentions for the company. Maybe they want someone who isn’t familiar with the industry to bring in new perspectives. Or they like your resume and cover letter so much that they are willing to offer you an interview. The possibilities are endless. Applying for a job even if you don’t have exact experience doesn’t hurt but you’ll certainly have a better chance at the job than if you don’t apply at all!
In the past it was thought an employment gap was poison to resume. Does that still hold true? It all depends on what you did during that gap.