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Resumes and Cover Letters December 11, 2009

Posted by jvmullin in 1.
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There is a never ending debate on the use of cover letters do I or don’t I send one.

The other never ending debate is resumes, which style, which format what content. There must be thousands of books written on this subject alone.

So the big questions would be what works and what doesn’t. Who should I listen to?

We know or should know by now that your resume and your cover letter are pieces of marketing material. Your resume is not your professional life history. It is no longer a list of former jobs and responsibilities either.

We are currently in the most competitive job market I have ever seen in my years of professional work. There is also a very bad trend going on as well (despite the great debate that is brewing in a LinkedIn group) as to companies hiring new talent vs. seasoned talent. Actually they are doing neither. Companies are trying to muddle through this with bare-bones staffing.  They have cut themselves to the quick in order to look profitable.

What does that have to do with resumes and cover letters? It has everything to do with it. In order to compete in this market you first need to understand what the field is. Next you need to learn how to play in this field and be successful at it.

What is the secret? There is no secret! However! You must differentiate yourself from all the others in order to be successful. Okay! How do I do that? You do that with your cover letter and resume. I address this is an earlier post but I am going to do it again.

Your resume and cover letter is a representation of you! That being said how can you differentiate yourself if you are using the format you got out of a book that was written many years ago. Is that resume in the book tailored exactly to you and what you do? I highly doubt it. Does it fit your personality, your style, your capabilities? Again I doubt it. The same holds true with cover letters. I have been caught in right sizing(todays term) many times and each time the rules have changed and so I have found that the many myriad of books on these two subject become basically outdated.

I am not saying that they are totally useless. They are useful in setting the basis but by no means should be considered a bible.

The one consensus today is that the Objective statement is out! If you have this on your resume and you are wondering why yo do not get calls? Well there it is get rid of it.  Everyone knows what your objective is to land the job “where you can use your knowledge and skills and move forward”. ZZZZZZZZZ!

You should have a base resume that includes every accomplishment and skill you have. Do not ever send this resume out to anyone. Unless they are looking for an over-achiever or you want to be placed in the ” we can;t hire them they will get bored too easily” category.  This is the resume you work off of to create your personalized resume for that company and that hiring manager.

What do you mean?

Lets say you had a great accomplishment at a pass position. However, the skills you used to do that are not needed in this position you are applying for. While you are proud of what you did, the company does not need those exact skills. This counts against you!

So what do I put in the resume and cover letter?

Hopefully you have researched the company and have a good understanding of what they need. Then go to your base resume and see what you have that fits. Copy and paste that into your submittal resume. NOTE: save your best accomplishment for your cover letter and do not repeat it in your resume. WHY?  I will get to that. Now you cover letter should start with how you heard about the position. A very brief explanation is sufficient, one line. This helps the company understand where there dollars are best spent in their search process. The next paragraph better be about the company and how you understand their need and how you can help them.  The next paragraph should be your best accomplishment, be brief but concise. It should also fit directly inline with their need. The last paragraph should be a request for a meeting to further discuss. Do not be passive but do not be overly aggressive.

DO NOT COPY THE FORMAT IN A BOOK! HR and hiring managers actually love to see resumes and cover letters written by you in your own language. Your writing skills, your personality, your style. Why? Because this tells them a lot about you and if you will fit in. IF you copy the resumes and cover letters out of a book, it is boring and shows you have not put in the effort and that is the type of work that I can expect of you. If you have someone else write them, it shows that you will expect someone else to do your work. Either way they will get you in the circular file quickly.

WHY? !

Your resume and cover letter as I stated earlier are marketing materials about you. Not the person in the book, not the person writing in their style about who you are but you. The way to differentiate yourself from the competition is to write your own cover letters and resume. These are dynamic documents! You will constantly need to ask for feedback about what they liked and didn’t like about your resume and cover letter. WHY? So that you can make changes to the next ones. Unfortunately this is a trial and error system. Try something if it works use it if it doesn’t why would you want to keep making the same mistake.  Talk to others and see what works for them. This does not mean it will work for you but it may be an idea to think about and if it is valid for you then try it.

WHY? ! Why do I insist that you write your cover letter and resume. Because it will differentiate you from the others and today in this market that is the name of the game. I have been a hiring manager and I am seeking a manager position now. I can tell you as a hiring manager having looked at hundreds of resumes and cover letter, your resume and cover letter will stand out. The next thing I expect from those is good content. I can also tell from your writing if I like you enough to want you in for an interview. I want to see that you have taken the time to research the company and have some idea on how you are going to help me meet my goals. You may not need all the requirements that I asked for if I think you can work with the team, learn quickly and get the job done.

NOTE: You are dealing with humans (when your resume gets through the scanner that is). We all have our preferences and likes and dislikes. We do agree on one thing we want to see your resume and cover letter written by you.

That said let me tell you what I and a number of others don’t want to see; colored paper, fancy fonts, too much bolding and underlining, some people any bolding or underlining, scented paper( I might be allergic to that scent and then where will your resume be) and the same old format as every other resume. Believe or not we can also tell if you wrote it  in most cases.

Length of the resume I believe is based on the position you are seeking. If you are going for a manager position or a C level position I do not see how a 1-2 page resume full of bullet points is going to convince anyone to call me for an interview. But, again that is my opinion.


I mentioned feedback earlier. Where do I get it and how do I get it. If you get rejected by a company call HR and ask for their help. You need to ask if there was any specific about your cover letter or resume that hurt your chances of getting hired. Show your resume and cover letters to recruiters and other unemployed people and get their opinion as to what you might be doing wrong.  Like I said these are dynamic documents that are under constant changes while you find what is working.

Good luck! Any questions please comment to this post and I will try to answer them.


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