Avoid Resume and Cover Letter Mistakes

The top mistake job seekers make is failing to even include cover letters for resumes. No recruiter wants to waste time on an applicant who can’t be bothered to complete this simple step. Read on to learn about the other common mistakes job seekers make on their resumes and cover letters.

Keyword Stuffing and Cramming in Too Much
Yes, you definitely want to use keywords that parrot the “must haves” HR is looking for in candidates for a specific position, but there’s an art to keyword use. If you overuse key buzzwords or use them in unnatural ways, it will be obvious you’re trying to pad your resume with certain keywords. Sure, your resume may pass the automated screening system, but it will likely turn off live recruiters.

Another common mistake recruiters hate? Use of tiny fonts and trying to load in as much information as possible. Any skilled executive resume writing professional will tell you it is far better to use fewer words but more effectively highlight your most important skill sets.

Making Careless Errors
It seems like a no-brainer, but a shocking percentage of cover letters and resumes include not only grammatical errors, but spelling errors that could easily be avoided by simply performing a quick spell check. Especially when you have your eye on an executive-level position, spelling errors are completely unacceptable. They tell potential employers you are careless and do not pay attention to details. Those are definitely not traits that will land you a job or even an interview.

Being Vague and General
Keep in mind recruiters may receive thousands of resumes. Winning resumes provide a quick punch list of your specific skills. Instead of stating on your resume you “worked with the marketing staff,” state you “led a team of six lower-level employees and boosted productivity 45 percent while reducing expenditures by $2.7 million.”

Not Selling Yourself
When you’re seeking a c-level or any other executive-level position, don’t risk missing out on the perfect, lucrative opportunity because your resume does not impress sufficiently to land an interview. Once you make it to the interview phase, you can sell yourself in great detail and show the hiring authorities why you are the right candidate. However, you can’t sell yourself in person if you don’t first sell yourself on paper with a resume and cover letter that stands out.

contributed by Erin Kennedy

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Cover Letter Tips

There are three basic parts to a cover letter:

◾An introduction – a statement of who you are and why you are sending the letter

◾A sales pitch – an overview of your qualifications, skills, abilities, and accomplishments as related to the employer’s needs

◾A call to action – a request for a specific action such as an interview

Ideally, you will cover these three basic parts in just 3 – 5 concise paragraphs typed on one page. Each letter should be personalized, but you can work from the same initial template.

If you need someone to prepare your letter(s), contact my company for details.

HIRE A PROFESSIONAL

According to Erin Kennedy – Invest in Skilled Professional Help

When you’re seeking a c-level position, your c-level resume should change with each job you apply for. This can be time-consuming and a bit mind-boggling if writing isn’t your forte. Don’t risk losing out on a perfect position because your resume or cover letter wasn’t up to par. Do yourself a favor and hire a pro with a proven track record.

I totally agree!!

CUSTOMIZED COVER LETTERS

This advice was found on a LinkedIn post; I totally agree!

The cover letter should accompany the resume, and its importance cannot be stressed enough. While it may be true that some hiring managers do not read cover letters, send one anyway. After all, you do not know into which group your targeted hiring manager falls. In their book Cover Letter Magic, Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark explain that in a cover letter “you can pick and choose the skills and qualifications you want to highlight in each letter based on the requirements of a particular position. Cover letters give you the platform to create a vision of who you are that relates directly to the company’s or recruiter’s hiring criteria…” Thus the purpose of the cover letter is to introduce yourself and clearly define who you are; to highlight your most notable qualifications; identify the value you bring; capture your reader’s interest in you; and motivate the reader to read your resume and call you for an interview. You must send a unique and personalized cover letter with each resume you send out; no “To Whom It May Concern” here. If you don’t know the name of the person, there are ways to find it out, but you must personalize the letter and its contents.

Difficult Interview Question

The one dreaded question that is guaranteed to come up in every interview is “What is your greatest weakness?” Perhaps it’s the interviewer’s way of weeding out candidates to see who is truly prepared to answer this uncomfortable question. Regardless, you can remove some of the awkwardness by prepping for the question and following these rules.

1. Don’t give a cop-out answer

Please don’t give tired answers like, “My greatest weakness is that I’m too much of a perfectionist/workaholic.” Perhaps it is true for you, but unfortunately, it may ring false to the interviewer who is used to hearing these generic answers that come off as a way to dodge the question.

2. Be honest

Dig deep into yourself and figure out what your true weaknesses are at work. Write them down on a sheet of paper, and figure out which ones you can use in an interview. If you state a weakness you’ve struggled with, your answer will sound more honest. Some things that will help you come up with true weaknesses is to look at some of the challenges you have faced in your previous jobs or think about constructive criticism you’ve received from a manager.

3. Avoid deal breakers

Although we mention that you should be honest, it’s also good to remember that there is such a thing as being too honest. You need to avoid weaknesses that will hurt your chances of getting the job. For example, say if you’re applying for an HR position and you say that you’re not good with people, or if you’re trying for a sales job and you say you are bad at negotiating. This doesn’t mean that you have to make up a weakness, but it’s just preferable for you to pick another weakness that isn’t a deal breaker.

4. Talk about your attempts to overcome your weakness

Always talk about the steps you have taken to overcome your weakness. This is your chance to show the interviewer that although you have your flaws, you are proactive and resourceful enough to overcome them. In a way, your effort to conquer your weaknesses will be looked at as a strength.

Whose advice is valuable re: your resume?

I found this wonderful article on LinkedIn.

Whose advice should you follow when you’re writing your résumés? Do you heed the advice of professional résumé writers, recruiters, HR, or hiring managers? They all offer good advice, but their advice will be different. In fact, you can ask 20 résumé experts their opinions on how you should write your résumés, and you’ll get 20 different answers. So who is correct?

While one person may like accomplishments listed upfront, another may prefer them listed in your employment section. While one person prefers two-page résumés, another might favor one-pagers. While one person may not be concerned with flowery prose in your professional profile, another may hate it, as I do.

The point being, you’re the one who needs to decide if your résumé is ready to go.
Now, there are certain rules on writing effective résumés that you should heed in no particular order. These are ten sure things that need to be in place to offer you the best chance of success.

1.Quantified results are more persuasive*. Employers are not interested in a grocery list of duties; they’re drawn to significant accomplishments that are quantified with numbers, dollars, and percentages. Did you simply increase productivity? Or did you increase productivity by 55% percent?
2.Please no clichés or unsubstantiated adaptive skills. The new rule is to show rather than tell. Yes, you may be innovative; but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment, reducing violent crime by 50%? If so, state it in your profile as such.
3.Tailor your résumé to each job, when possible. Employers don’t want a one-fits-all résumé that doesn’t address their needs or follow the job description. It’s insulting. By the way, for all you job board junkies, a résumé using the Target Job Deconstruction method is an adequate alternative to tailoring hundreds of résumés.
4.Your résumé needs to show relevance. Employers are interested in the past 10 or 15 years of your work history; in some cases less. Anything you did beyond 20 years isn’t relevant; the technology is obsolete. Age discrimination may also be a concern, so don’t show all 25-30 years of your work life.**
5.Keywords are essential for certain occupations that are technical in nature. They’re the difference between being found by the applicant tracking system (ATS) at the top of the list or not at all. (ATS are said to eliminate 75% of applicants.) Again, job board faithfuls must have their keywords peppered throughout their résumé.
6.Size matters. Some employers are reading hundreds of résumés for one job, so do them a favor and don’t submit a résumé that doesn’t warrant its length. The general rule is two pages are appropriate providing you have the experience and accomplishments to back it up. More than two pages requires many relevant accomplishments. In some cases a one-page résumé will do the job.
7.No employer cares what you need. That’s right; employers care about what they need. If you happen to care what they need and can solve their problems and make them look good, they’ll love you. So drop the meaningless objective statement that speaks only about you and not how you can meet the employer’s needs.
8.Start your résumé with a punch. Below your name and contact information lies your branding headline. Within approximately 90 characters you can capture the employer’s attention with stating what you do and in what capacity. Project Manager doesn’t do it like:Project Manager | Lean Six Sigma | Team Building | Enhanced Product Line.
9.Make it easy to read. Your résumé should not only be visually appealing, it should be visually readable. Employers who read hundreds of résumé s will glance at them for as few as 10 seconds before deciding to read them at length. Make your résumé scannable by writing shorter paragraphs, three to four lines at most.
10.WOW them. Use accomplishments in your Performance Profile. That’s right, grab their attention with quantified accomplishments early on. “Volunteered to assume the duties of website development and design, while also excelling at public relations, resulting in $50,000 savings for the company” will entice the reviewer to continue reading.

At some point you need to go with what works—a résumé that will land you interviews. If it’s getting you interviews, go with it. If it isn’t getting you interviews, there’s something lacking on your résumé, but carefully chose one or two people who can offer you sound advice. And remember the 10 must have’s on your résumé.