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How to Customize a Cover Letter and Résumé

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.” That comment is sometimes attributed to Albert Einstein.

It’s also identified as the world’s most overused quote. Now why is that?

Jobseeker Catch 22:

Most jobseekers I know would very much like to do something different, but they don’t know what to change. There’s also the concern that they might change the wrong thing and actually harm their chances of landing an interview.

Sometimes jobseekers get a call and the résumé that brought that phone call takes on the sanctity of a treasured old sweatshirt. It becomes their all-time favorite—even after that call becomes a distant memory.

This all sounds like a Catch 22! If you don’t change—nothing happens. Change something and risk making it worse. …but what’s worse than when nothing happens?
* * *

Case Study: Mature Jobseeker beats the system:

Back in 2008 – 2009 I was speaking to a fairly large number of jobseekers at a library in Connecticut. A quiet, dignified woman sat in the back corner of the room. She was conservatively and professionally dressed. Obvious care had been given to her hair, her dress, and her makeup.

She watched the presentation and me with a keen sense of urgency and attention. Occasionally, she made a note in her notebook. She was a true professional: astute, with a high degree of emotional intelligence. She was collected, unflappable, and focused.

Near the end of the presentation I spoke about the importance of making changes to both cover letters and résumés as each jobseeker learns more about the hiring process and how his or her materials are coming across to the readers.

SrWomenExec_FlyHair--245X123 Mind you, this woman was in her 60s and in 2008 – 2009, ageism was a critical and difficult challenge as so many jobseekers had flooded the market at one time. Businesses were floundering to the point that they were hiring the least expensive option they could. Mature workers, who provided depth of value were not considered. (Many people think that it is especially difficult for workers in their 60’s today. However, back in 2008, I believe it was much more difficult.)

As the presentation came to a close and I stressed the importance of learning and making changes, this woman raised her hand. I called on her and she said, “I am in my 60’s and this is the 16th version of my résumé. I’m finally starting to get interviews.”
* * *
Her success was quite a feat! During the Great Recession, hiring technologies were in their infancy and hiring professionals were frantically creating a new approach to finding the right people.

Today, it is a different story and with what we now understand about the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), getting a résumé in front of hiring professionals should no longer be an issue.

If you are struggling, consider these articles:
(If you are having trouble getting interviews,
please consider the Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop.)

What to Change on Your Cover Letter:

The first thing that hiring professionals want to know is whether or not you qualify for the position. Therefore your cover letter should have the following:
  1. Your relevant years of experience in the industry as outlined in the job posting.
  2. Your relevant education as outlined in the job posting.
  3. Your experience with relevant technology as outlined in the job posting.
  4. Why the position is important to you or why you are interested in the position.
  5. If you do not have every qualification listed on the job posting, then you should address why that isn’t an issue on your cover letter.
Remember that you have about 8 to 10 seconds to make your point.

What to Change on Your Résumé:

If you’ve been a jobseeker for very long, then you have (hopefully) learned that your résumé should be customized for the each position when you apply. Here is a list of critical elements that I believe should change with each application:
  1. A compelling reason why you are interested in this specific position.
  2. Your core competencies should match those found on the job posting.
  3. Your education, training, and certifications should be easy to find.
  4. Your relevant work history that pertains to the position for which you are applying.
You have about 20 seconds to let a hiring professional know that you have the core competencies to do the job.

This assumption will eliminate your candidacy:

DO NOT ASSUME that the reader has read your cover letter and then proceeded to your résumé! Often, your cover letter has not been read, and does not accompany your résumé when it is passed to the hiring manger.

Therefore, any critical points mentioned on your cover letter must be reiterated on your résumé.
Perhaps this sounds ridiculous to you—only 8 seconds to qualify yourself for a position. We teach jobseekers how to do this all the time. Our process will get your materials through the ATS and differentiate you. That’s why we call it the “Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop.

Chance_Change_xs

Critical Assumptions about your Résumé:

  1. You agree that the information on your résumé should be accurate and truthful. This means that it is not misleading. (78% of résumés are found to have misleading information and hiring professionals know it!)
  2. You genuinely qualify for the positions that you apply for.
  3. You understand that your résumé is a formal document and should demonstrate the highest degree of polish. This point cannot be emphasized strongly enough. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO or a barista!

    I talk to hiring professionals all the time and they confirm to me that spelling errors, poor formatting, poor grammar and a general lack of care is found on a majority of résumés.

    On the off chance they make it through the ATS, they are immediately discarded.

  4. Information about your work experience contains factual details that demonstrate your core competencies that are important to the positions that you apply for.
  5. Your work experience demonstrate the following critical traits:
    • You are technology-savvy.
    • You are flexible and you can be counted on to manage change with a positive and professional attitude.
    • You quickly adjust to new environments and challenges.
    • You eagerly handle stress with emotional intelligence.

Your Jobsearch is NOT a Numbers Game!

Does this sound impossible to you? Does it sound like a lot of extra work? Are you skeptical?

Here is my reasoning: Would you like to:
  • Apply to 100s of job openings and;
  • Get nothing back, and;
  • Have no idea what to do differently?
OR …
Would you prefer to:
  • Apply to 10 opportunities and;
  • Send your applications off knowing that you have demonstrated care in ways that are meaningful to the hiring profession and;
  • Get at least one call and/or feedback that will help you in future applications?
One client has receive a phone call for every position that she has applied for.

Again, the Forward Motion Application Process teaches jobseekers how to adapt their cover letter and résumé for each job posting to get interviews. Our process will get your materials through the ATS and differentiate you. That’s why we call it the Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop.

I say this a lot because I haven’t been able to find any exceptions to it: “If you keep on learning and don’t give up, you will get a job.”

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2 Responses to How to Customize a Cover Letter and Résumé

  1. Elizabeth November 6, 2014 at 4:19 PM #

    Targeting your resume for any position, company, or job market is crucial. It isn’t enough to just present your skills anymore. You really have to go above and beyond and present your skills in a way that makes you the best match.

    • Marcia LaReau November 8, 2014 at 1:09 PM #

      Elizabeth!
      Thank you for your posting and for confirming to our readers that this is a critical part of their jobsearch.