Fishing with the right bait: Reeling in employers with your resume and cover letter

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Emilio Lorenzo is the assistant director of career advisement in NSU’s Office of Career Development. He understands the importance of helping students reach their career goals and works with all students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional level students, to achieve their professional goals.

Emily Tasca is a member of the career advisement team in NSU’s Office of Career Development. She works with current students and alumni at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.

 

Using the right bait to reach your goals is a strategy that can be used in various aspects of life. The right bait will help you land that champion fish but can also help you in other ways. It’s knowing what appeals to someone to get their attention. If, for example, your dog is hiding under your bed, you know that a tempting piece of cheese will lure them from their comfortable slumber.

In your own career journey, the right bait, in terms of your resume and cover letter, can result in you reaching that grand prize at the end.

Evaluating the job or internship description

The first step in developing your professional documents is ensuring they align with the skills, knowledge and overall abilities asked for in the job description. A good rule of thumb is to read the job description, and put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. Ask, “If I was the hiring manager, what would I be looking for in an applicant based on what I know about the job and the company?”

Even if a job description lists tasks within the job, certain skills are not as clearly articulated. It’s up to you to uncover what other transferable skills are needed in the job and how you can best showcase them on your resume and cover letter. As you evaluate the position, you should also be highlighting key words in the job posting that indicate the most important skills needed for the position. Many times organizations like to use key words or phrases that are prevalent within their company culture. Including those words in your documents can put you in a more advantageous position.

A useful resource in uncovering such key words include websites like Tagcrowd.com and wordle.net, each of which allow you to copy an entire job description and paste it in a text box, which then highlights the most frequent words used in the job post.

How to target your resume

Now that you understand what the company and hiring manager are looking for in an applicant, it’s time to reflect those abilities in your resume. There are multiple ways to target your resume towards the specific industry and position you’re pursuing.

One of the easiest ways to get an employer’s attention is to include a strategic “Key Skills” section after your educational experiences on the resume. This section must focus on the specific knowledge and abilities needed in the job. These skills can be a mix of hard and soft skills. For example, if you are a biology major applying to a laboratory position, there are plenty of hard skills you can mention, including lab techniques or procedures you’re familiar with. However, on the other side of the spectrum, if this position also entails presenting findings to faculty and working with a team of other research assistants, then including soft skills such as communication and  relationship building could be valuable for your application. Avoid being too broad with these skills sets, and ensure that you’re tweaking the section based on what you know about the position and company as a whole.

Outside of your key skills section and having strong formatting on the document, you can also cater the resume towards the specific job by creating targeted headings for your experiences and ensuring your bullet points showcase that you have the skills needed for this position.

If you’re applying to a marketing internship and have past marketing experiences, you should group those experiences together under a section titled “Marketing Experience,” which will grab the attention of the hiring manager. Also, use strong action verbs to demonstrate that you have the required skills and knowledge needed for the position.

For example, if you were the hiring manager, which of these two bullet points would make you understand that this candidate has great problem solving skills? Example A: “Communicate with clients” or Example B: “Communicate valuable information to clients regarding promotions and details on products of interest to ensure they made a well-informed purchase”?  The ability to exemplify to employers that you have these skills in a detailed manner that reads well is key to gaining their buy in.

Connecting the dots with your cover letter

Although a targeted resume can go a long way to providing the employer with information on the value you can bring to their organization, it is the cover letter that can really connect the dots for them on why they should bring you in for an interview.

The cover letter allows you to be more personal and detailed: not just on why you are the right fit for the opportunity but on who you are as an individual and your passion for the position and company. In your resume, you focused on including skills needed for the job, but you can’t follow up a bullet point on communication by stating why this skill is so useful for this job and how you plan to use it within the context of their company. In the cover letter, you can give a direct example of how you have used the skill and be able to relay to the employer why they need that skillset in their organization. It’s all about treating the cover letter as a “pre-interview.” Since we know that the interview is what determines whether we get the job, this strategy provides the employer with a clearer picture of what you can bring to the table.

Overall, targeting your documents towards a specific job and company can get you an interview that could lead to the job and your career goals. Yes, constantly catering your documents towards a specific job can be tedious and time consuming, but it will put you in the most advantageous position to land that dream job.

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