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3 Keys to Focusing Your Cover Letter & Resume

I worked with a friend this past week to help aim her cover letter for a phone call or interview. After all, that isthe goal of your resume and cover letter — TO GET YOU IN THE DOOR.

So... how can you increase your chances of getting in the door to meet the people behind the job posting? There is a bunch of information out there, but there are 3 key strategies that I believe play a huge role in your job hunting success. Use these three tips well, and you could have managers calling you before they call the other applicants.

1. STUDY the Job Posting

If you are responding directly to a job posting, remember this:

The employer wrote that job posting as if they were trying to describe their next employee.

You can read the job posting, or you can study the job posting. I would like to encourage you to STUDY it. A few tips:

 

  • Read through it a few times, and try to pull out a few common themes or repetitive phrases that are stressed. Do they find a way to weave “Excellent written and verbal communication skills” into the bullets? Start to highlight, underline, or circle common threads.
  • Once you have read through it 2-3 times, write out the 3 top traits you think this employer is hoping for in this job. Do they want a teacher with creativity, classroom management, and curriculum focus? Or do they want a teacher that is inclusive, focused on student achievement, and a strong verbal communicator? Describe what type of employee are they looking for.
  • Pull out common words or phrases, and plan to use them in your resume and cover letter. They put them there for a reason, and they are hoping someone notices.
  • Read between the lines, or have a friend do it for you. Employers don’t usually write “Someone who is not a pompous jerk” in the qualifications. Instead, they will write “Ability to communicate and work effectively between different departments.” Try to analyze what need they are hoping to fill.

 

2. Do Your Homework on the Organization

Take some time to do the following before composing your application materials:

 

  • Scour the Website: Look for the goals, mission, vision, and current strategy of the organization. What do they appear to focus on? Where are their locations? What is their history? What is unique?
  • Google Them: Look for articles, blog postings, possible job postings on other sites. Read them, find links, and go down rabbit holes to learn more.
  • Follow Them on Social Media: Find them on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and see what they are up to. How to they focus messages to the public?
  • Reach Out to Connections: Whether it’s a recruiter, a friend, or an old coworker- there is a chance that someone has either worked there or knows of the organization. Try to find out if there are any connections you might reach out to, and follow up.

 

3. Customize Your Resume & Cover Letter

You might think this is crazy. You are thinking, “How in the world could I ever have enough time to make an individual cover letter and resume for each job??”

You can, and you should. Here are some quick tips on how to make this possible when job hunting is in full force:

 

  • Keep a “Master Resume”: This is a resume that has every job, every accomplishment and responsibility, every volunteer opportunity, every key skill, and all the experience you have accumulated over the years. You will not show this to anyone, but instead use it as a bank of information to pull from.
  • Stay Organized: Create a folder for each organization or job. Keep resumes, cover letters, CV’s, and any other information you might have grouped strategically. (This is helpful when another job comes up that is very similar to one for which you have already created the materials. Instead of pulling from the “Master Resume,” you can pull from one of the similar ones and save yourself energy.)
  • Tailer the Materials to Your Homework: If you’ve done the homework I listed above, you will spend much less time trying to decide what to put on your resume. Get clear on who they are and what they want in an applicant, then focus your resume and cover letter on those top three traits you found earlier.
  • Only Include Necessary Information: It’s tempting to want to show the employer everything you have ever done when applying for a job, but they don’t want to know everything. They want to know why YOU are the BEST person for the job they are desperately trying to fill. That’s it. Focus all your information on what they want to see, not what you want them to see.

 

Pass this on to anyone you know that’s on the job hunt- you might save them some valuable time and energy moving forward!

 

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