Over a year ago I was on the job ‘dating scene’. I was busy with resume and cover letter writing and completing HR applications. Now I’m on the other side running selection processes, and traveling to conferences to find that great next professional. I’ve been busy reviewing resumes and cover letters, and also prepping my mentees. It’s so much fun, but at the same time sad. Because for every resume I get, I have to make a decision that may changes others’ lives – do I grant an interview or not? I do feel bad looking at a resume and writing a no thank you note. I know what candidates will think when they get the note. ‘Why don’t they like me?’, ‘Fine I didn’t like them anyway’, or ‘That was so embarrassing’.
So candidates, here are some insights to the process. First, really read the job description and align your cover letter with the job. Provide exact examples of ONE program or initiative that directly connects to the job description. You only need four paragraphs for your cover letter: Intro – I like you and hope you like me for these reasons, Current – what I’m doing that relates to your job, Future – what I can bring to you that can’t be seen from the resume, Wrap-up – last words, tie in school mission/goals and contact information. Have a nice letter head with your information, and please use large font size. (Remember, we are reviewing hundreds of applications and our eyes get tired.) If the words are too small, we really won’t have a chance to read your information and will go straight to the resume.
For the resume, try to be as precise and concise as possible, and stick to two pages. For mid- or higher level positions, it is expected to have longer resumes. You won’t be able to articulate everything you did in your position but highlight those points that directly relate to the job. Customize your resume and cover letter to make it as easy as possible for the reviewer to make the connection that you should get an interview. Remember your goal is to get an interview so the resume and cover letter really need to connect to the position and make the reviewer want to meet you. Again, make sure the font is at appropriate size, and the design and space of the resume is balanced. Use your resources on campus like the Career Center and individuals in similar positions you are applying for. Ask them to review your resume and cover letter, and listen to their recommendations. They got their job so use their advise!
Additionally, in the past few years the use of HR applications have come into play. No longer is it enough to submit a resume and cover letter to be considered for a position. You also must complete a HR application. I have found that candidates have little or no understanding on how important this aspect is. This is your official application to the position, and you need to complete it as much as possible. Copy and paste your information in there. Give your salary preferences (aim low always!), and enter your updated references. Review the application before submission and follow up with the HR department to be sure they have received it and forwarded it on to the search chair. More than ever, I spend time explaining to candidates that I can’t consider them for a position before they fully complete their application with all their employment history or documentation. HR uses the application, not only the resume and cover letter to vet candidates. For example, if you don’t put in all your years of experience, and only put in your most recent employment HR may not consider you a candidate due to lack of years working. Trust me, I know filling these applications is redundant and tedious but if you want a job, do it!
So for the most part, if you do all this you should be able to get an interview. Realize it’s a employer market right now. If a job prefers a master’s degree and you don’t have one, go ahead and apply but understand there are hundreds of candidates bidding for that position. Employers can be very picky on who they offer interviews to so please don’t get offended that you didn’t get an interview. Keep your options open and do yourself to make yourself as marketable as possible.
Good luck to all those looking for a job. It’s a crazy process but you’ll get the best if you put your time and energy into it.