One of the most valuable class I took during my undergraduate years was a career preparation class that focused entirely on cover letters, resume, and interviews.
I know that I took a number of terrific classes from great professors during my college years, but many years later, this is the only class that I still have the book from. At least twice a year, I work with the career services department at my local college to conduct mock interviews for juniors and seniors, and I find myself quoting from this book.
Despite all of this, I put all of my energy into my resume, first, and preparing for an interview, second. The cover letter was almost an after thought, and that is where I went wrong.
In 2012, according to a study released by TheLadders, an online job-matching service, recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing an individual resume. SIX SECONDS!!
Considering the time and effort put into resumes, that is almost an insult.
This meant I needed to figure out a way to grab attention and communicate my skills so I could hopefully keep their attention for seven whole seconds.
My first step was to carefully review the job description for my dream job and note any specific skills they were looking for.
If they were looking for successful event implementation, I wrote “Over 20 years of experience in planning and implementing events with an average increase in attendance of 34% each year.”
Need someone with staff supervision skills? “Hired, trained, and supervised up to 40 staff per season.”
Looking for task management skills? “Taught innovative and effective task management systems to management and executive staff.” In other words, focus specifically on what they are looking for and sell those skills.
My next step was to put these bullet points directly into my cover letter. After the standard first paragraph communicating my interest and perfect fit, I literally put these sentences in my cover letter in bullet format.
When I am hiring staff or interns, I usually glance quickly through both the cover letter and resume for anything that peaks my interest.
By providing these points in bullet format, it immediately brings the hiring managers eye right where you want it. They know you are interested in the job, so they can skip that and go right to the good stuff – you bragging!
Finally, I removed the objective (which typically focuses on what I want) and used these same bullet points to create an opening statement in my resume.
Don’t get me wrong – I did not repeat the statements. They were all re-written in more of a sentence format but still focused on how MY skill set was the perfect fit for THEIR job.
If you only get six seconds, you need to capitalize on that. Highlight your strengths right at the top of the resume so they don’t have to dig through your resume to find it.
This was an especially important process to go through when I was applying for my first job after being a stay at home mom. Rather than focusing on the dates of employment that I honestly listed on my resume, they were immediately drawn to the bullet points in the cover letter and the opening statement in my resume.
Through the interview process, the hiring staff did ask about my absence from work, but I was able to focus on the skills I retained or improved during this time.
You are incredibly talented and will excel at your dream job. Now, you can convince the hiring managers of that.