If you think writing a resume and cover letter is hard, try sifting through 1,000 of them to find the handful that aren’t total garbage. As you’re agonizing over whether or not you’ll get called for an interview, don’t forget that there’s a real person on the receiving end of that email. You want that person to print your resume and draw a big highlighter happy face on it, not fold it into an airplane and huck it across the office.
Hiring managers are looking for any reason to make their lists shorter. Follow these 6 rules and you’ll stand a better chance of getting your foot in the door.
1. Keep it short
I cannot emphasize this enough. Even if you stop here and forego all my other suggestions, please, for the love of God, keep your resume to one page or less and your cover letter to 200-300 words, max. If you want your accomplishments and experience to be noted and remembered, get to the point and just give me the good stuff. I don’t care about your lead in the school play, I don’t care about your life journey, I care about why you’re better than the last applicant who didn’t bore me to sleep.
2. Leave your baggage out of it
No one cares about your hardships. OK, maybe that’s too harsh. Your friends and family care, as they should. Go write a letter to them. Do not toss your baggage into your cover letter. Talking about what a bummer your life is or how much of an asshole your last boss was is like posting a picture of your ex’s breakup letter as your Tinder profile picture. No one will hire you because they feel sorry for you. It may be real, it may be hard, and it’s probably really important to you, but you don’t need to throw it all out there right at the start. Also, see rule number one.
“No one will hire you because they feel sorry for you.”
3. Keep it relevant
When you’re applying to a dozen jobs a day it’s really tempting to just copy/paste your cover letters and upload the same resume over and over. Unless you’re applying to a dozen different meat packing plants and you’re a life-long meat packer, your short cuts are going to out you like a fat kid in dodgeball. You should be tailoring your resumes to each job and writing a cover letter based on what you’ve learned about the company. If that company requires you to have
an intimate knowledge of the local environment and you don’t even live in the same state, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. At the very least, delete the shit from your resume that has nothing to do with the job you’re applying for.
4. Know the difference between optimism and delusion
Look, I get it. You don’t have the required degree but you know you’re hot shit and you’re just as qualified as any of these other guys with fancy degrees. Plus, you don’t have $50k in student debt. Good for you. If you want to try to make an argument why you should be given a chance even though you don’t meet the technical qualifications, I’m all ears. But if the job calls for certain basic knowledge and you clearly have no idea what you’re getting into, don’t expect anyone to go out on a limb for you.
“All your bullshit embellishments are seen as exactly that, and your real qualifications just get lost in the noise.”
5. Cool it with the adjectives
Somebody out there is teaching people that the more flowery language you can stuff into a cover letter, the more likely you’ll be to get the job. FALSE. All your bullshit embellishments are seen as exactly that, and your real qualifications just get lost in the noise.
“With this letter and attached résumé, I am pursuing the open position with your team. My degree emphasizes the importance of clear and effective communication, and my past work experience has allowed me the opportunity to cultivate a team-building mentality, as well as learn the value of customer service satisfaction. I have demonstrated the proven ability to perform difficult tasks under pressure, while developing an attentiveness toward detail.”
“I would like to propose my candidacy for your position of *****, which is advertised on *****. I am enthusiastically applying for the position because I strongly believe that the combination of my natural talents, personality, and education I have accrued will be beneficial to excelling at the position of *****.”
If you’re thinking right now, “WTF did I just read?” you’re starting to understand where I’m coming from. GET TO THE POINT!
6. If you’re just sending out resumes to fulfill your unemployment requirements, at least make it entertaining.
Throw in a couple funny GIFs, tell me a dad joke. This won’t get you a job but it’ll make you seem like less of a jerk for wasting my time and the world will be a slightly better place.