Match Your Resume and Cover Letter to the Job You Want

November 25th, 2011

In the world of resumes and cover letters, one size definitely does not fit all. It’s a common error. Many job-seekers submit the same resume for every open position they find, no matter what the business or job title.

But these days companies employ tracking systems that mine data from resumes by searching for relevant phrases or keywords. If your resume stays the same from one place to another, chances are the tracking system won’t find the keywords it’s looking for and your resume will get tossed in the “rejected” pile. So it’s vitally important to take the time and effort to customize your resume for each specific job opening.

The good news is, this doesn’t mean starting from scratch each time. Instead, follow a few simple steps to help increase the odds that your resume will get reviewed.

  1. Look closely at the job description. Highlight the skills and experience the company is looking for. Focus on keywords included in the posting.
  2. Now write down any experiences from your background–past jobs, internships, part-time positions, etc.–that match up with the job description.
  3. Take out your resume. What’s already there that matches up with elements in the job posting? Circle any matches so you can review and expand as necessary when the time comes to tweak your resume.
  4. What’s not on your resume that should be to fit this specific job description? Probably there are tasks, activities and responsibilities that you didn’t previously include that may be relevant here. If needed, you can include volunteer work or extracurricular activities that align with the roles described in the job posting.
  5. Now it’s time to revise your resume. Add and/or edit what’s there to more closely match the job description.  Make sure the resume includes keywords that correspond with the posting. The more keywords, the better. (You can also take this opportunity to delete extraneous or irrelevant points in your resume.)
  6. Proofread what you’re written, put the resume aside for an hour or more, then come back and proof it again. You can’t have any typos or errors in  punctuation!

Things not to include: personal photographs, your date of birth or Social Security number, hobbies or high school attendance records. No one but your mother cares about that stuff.

OK–you now have a tailored resume that fits the specific job you’re interested in. But you’re not done yet. There’s still the targeted cover letter to add. Here are tips for doing this right:

  • Address the letter to the person doing the hiring. If a name isn’t included in the job posting, try researching online (LinkedIn is a good place to start) or just call the business and ask for the name of the person in charge of hiring.
  • Mention specific information that you believe singles you out for the open position. Include several key statements if possible (bullet points are OK).
  • If you have some knowledge of this particular business (either from experience or doing some research), include a brief comment about industry trends that may relate to the position you’re interested in.
  • Finally, close your cover letter by repeating your interest in the position, include all of your contact information and note that you’ll follow up in a few days to make sure the application was received.

A resume can be up to two pages, but no longer. A cover letter should never be longer than one page.

Learn more about how Meador Staffing’s career advisors can help assess your skills, craft your resume and determine which opportunities are best matched to your skills and goals.