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We’ve all heard the stories of the cover letter or résumé that wowed the employers because of its unique tone or the fact that the candidate went out on a limb and wrote something completely off the beaten path. But those stand as outliers, and trying to imitate them may not end the way you want it to. Yet, how do you make your cover letter and résumé stand above the competition?

For your resume:

  • Utilize the job description. Hiring managers list a specific set of skills that they’d like in a candidate — when possible, address those in your résumé when listing your own skill set and describing your duties at previous jobs. Sprinkle in keywords so they’ll catch the eye of anyone reading the résumé. The better the match, the better the chance you’ll have of getting the job.
  • Add a detailed summary section. If you do include a summary section, it should go immediately under your name so it’s the first substantial portion. Focus on your achievements — they want to know what you’ve done, not that you’re a “self-starter” or a “creative thinker.” Show, don’t tell, by writing about what you’ve brought to other positions.
  • Quantify when possible. Hiring managers like numbers: They’re easy to spot, easy to understand, and easy to connect to the position in terms of your skills and what you can bring to the company. So write up your duties and accomplishments in terms of percentages and hard numbers (brought in the top three clients, increased sales by 15 percent over six months, oversaw a staff of eight people, etc.).

For your cover letter:

  • Start out strong. That first sentence should hook the reader immediately — avoid the preamble of “I am very interested in the position of X and I think I would be a great candidate.” Jump right in with your qualifications: “I believe that my experience in managing and increasing the social media content for a multinational, award-winning advertising agency make me the perfect candidate for the Content Management position at ABC Advertising.”
  • Mention specifics. An astonishing number of candidates never mention what position they’re applying for. Avoid making this mistake. If the job posting lists a specific number or description, add it to the cover letter. If you have a mutual connection, bring that up immediately (“Susan Brown, Senior Copywriter at ABC Advertising, mentioned I should apply for the position of Content Manager.” Then hit them with your qualifications as mentioned above.). You may also want to add in some of those key numbers you’ll have in your résumé.
  • Keep it short and to the point. This isn’t the time to list every qualification, especially if you cover most of that in your résumé. The cover letter gets the person to actually read your résumé. So if you can manage something quick and witty, do so here, but primarily think of it as your ten-second chance to reel in the hiring manager. Mention the position, list your best points to get them interested, add contact information, and close professionally.

It takes a lot of work to finely craft two documents that usually get less than 30 seconds of viewing, so you have to make every word count. For help creating a résumé and cover letter that stand out, talk to the staffing experts at PrideStaff Thousand Oaks.

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