Before you apply to any job, you should custom-tailor your resume and cover letter to match the qualifications described in the job description. This will improve your chances of getting noticed by the hiring manager. It’s easy – just follow these simple steps:
- Review the job description and make sure your resume highlights how your skills and experience match what the employer wants. If the job description is vague about what key skills are required, use the Career Exploration tool to help you research the skills employers typically require for similar positions.
- Write your cover letter, expanding on how the skills described briefly in your resume meet the employer’s needs. If possible, give an example of how you’ve applied these skills in the past, and how that experience sets you apart. Doing this shows the employer how serious you are!
Exactly how you apply for each position will vary depending on the situation. Some companies let you apply online with one click using your LinkedIn profile, while others will ask for your resume and cover letter in Microsoft Word or PDF files sent via email. Sometimes you’ll do a plain-text cut-and-paste in a webpage field. Whatever you do, follow the employer’s specific instructions – this is not the time to rock the boat!
Before you apply for any job, review these tips first to boost the chance your application gets fast-tracked to the top of the pile:
When applying for any job online, be sure to include keywords from the job description. Why? Companies use software that scans electronic resumes looking for these keywords. If your resume doesn’t have them, you probably won’t advance to the next level. Include them in your resume filename too! (e.g., YourName_JobTitleResume).
Not sure which keywords to include? No worries. If you study several job descriptions for similar positions, you’ll start to see a pattern (or use the Career Exploration tool). For example, you’d see keywords like “SAS,” “data analytics” and “databases” for systems analyst positions, or “Microsoft Office,” “calendar management” and “juggle multiple tasks” for executive assistant jobs.
Tips for using keywords:
- Find 10 to 15 keywords associated with each job you’re applying for.
- Use those keywords throughout your resume – but especially near the top, where they’ll be easy for hiring managers to spot.
- Link keywords to your accomplishments, job duties and skills wherever possible.
- DON’T list a keyword on your resume that your skills and experience don’t actually match!
NEVER copy and paste full phrases or sentences from job descriptions into your resumé, that’s plagiarism! Use your own phrasing, putting keywords in context. Submit your resume in the specific format requested in the job posting. Microsoft Word files are requested most, but some employers will ask for an Adobe PDF. Some websites will have you cut-and-paste your resume and cover letter straight into a web field as plain text.
Employers in IT and creative industries like web design, graphic design or advertising will often request an online portfolio -- so if you work in those fields, make sure you have a professional webpage set up, and give them the URL link.
Now that you know all of the tips for applying, it’s job search time. Remember, you can have your cover letter and resume checked by a career guidance expert by connecting with one here.