Over the last few months, my daughter has been working hard on college applications to set herself apart from other applicants. It had me thinking that in some ways, applying to college is much like applying to jobs, except the traditional resume submission method doesn’t offer much in the way of standing out compared to the essays prospective college students write. I’m not suggesting employers start asking for essays, but job hunters do need to employ tactics that set their submission apart from other applicants. Here are some tips on how to do that.
1) Address your submission to a specific person. It’s unfortunate that many job announcements don’t include any information about who’s doing the hiring. Many businesses have multiple people involved in the process, which makes fulfilling this suggestion; addressing your resume to a specific person, difficult. However, if you can ferret out who’s in charge of hiring, adding their name to the cover letter and/or email will set you apart. Most applicants will go with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir,” which could be a problem if a woman is doing the hiring. Adding a name makes it personal. If you can’t find the name, include something that personalizes the resume to a specific company, such as “To Whom It May Concern at ACME Inc.” This at least suggests that you’re not sending a generic resume.
2) Match your skills and experience with the needs of the job. Employers are looking for people to fill specific jobs that can vary depending on the industry and/or business. An administrative assistant in a tech company will likely have different duties than an admin assistant in a real estate firm. Read the job announcement and circle key items the business wants the applicant to have knowledge of or experience in. Match these items to your own skills and experience, and highlight them in your cover letter and resume.
3) Speak the industry’s language. Each industry has its own jargon and language. If you know it, use it in your resume. It shows you know the job, and also that you understand the industry.
4) Focus on what you know and have, not on what you don’t know and don’t have. A friend of mine wants to apply for a job that he’s skilled at doing. In fact, he’s been asked to cover 90 percent of the duties in this job. However, he doesn’t have the right educational degree. Because he’s planning to pursue the correct degree, I’ve encouraged him to apply. When he showed me his cover letter, he’d made a statement “I know I don’t have the degree.” While you never want to lie or embellish, because hiring professionals often scan first and read later, pointing out your shortfalls will get your resume purged from the bunch. Instead, focus on all the qualities you have that shows you can do the job. The goal is to make it to the next round, where you’ll have an easier time pleading your case regarding shortfalls.
5) Back up your statements. Numbers impress. Did you improve sales by 25 percent? Can you type 80 words per minute? Did you graduate top 1 percent of your class? Quantify your qualifications whenever possible.
6) Submit clean, clear copy. Sometimes applicants try to set themselves apart by being clever in fonts, colors or formatting; however, these tactics don’t necessarily work to stand out in the right way. You’re better off to deliver a clean, easy to read resume that stands out because it uses strong verbs to describe you, than one with fancy formatting. Further, if you’re emailing or pasting your resume into an online form, fancy formatting will be lost and instead you’ll submit a hot mess. For email or online submissions, create a basic resume that has no fancy formatting (no bullets, bold, tabs etc) that’s justified left. For a print resume, you can use bullets, bold and tabs, but again, it should make your resume easy to read and understand.