~ ASK THE EXPERTS ~
Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock
Getting attention for an average resume
Q: Supposing, and I am, that most applicants are following the general advice given by the Cynopsis crew on resume writing. Profile rather than objective, bullet points, etc. If most people are doing this, how can I make my resume stand out if my experience is fairly average for my industry?
A: Internalize all the advice you are given, then put it aside it and create your very own resume that paints a strong picture of a unique candidate. This means not just a list of the skill sets indicated in the job spec and which many candidates will tend to parrot. The first paragraph must compel the hirer to HAVE to keep on reading it has to distinguish you powerfully from all other applicants and I am not averse to adding your own style to bring life to your “average” experience.
So if your specific career highlights are not strong enough (though surely there must be some success that only you could claim) you might describe some powerful work habit that will add strength to your pitch. I recently saw great results from a resume opener that was bursting with colloquial enthusiasm, energy and personality. It broke through the boring usual and hirers responded.
But don’t forget that the written resume is just one component of your campaign to get hired. Advocates within the organization can also be most valuable and you should put a lot of energy into finding one to speak up for you. Their passion for your cause can get your resume pulled out of the pack.
Cover letters: the basics
Q: Cover Letters are still a bit of a mystery to me. Is there any way you can provide a schematic as to what I should be trying to accomplish with each paragraph I write?
A: Assuming you have had no prior communication, then the first sentence should indicate why you are writing: e.g. I’m applying for the Project Manager position and my resume is attached. The second sentence should say why the reader should give a damn: e.g. I have achieved such and such specific exciting and relevant triumphs at this impressive and relevant company. The third sentence should indicate something else that you offer or have achieved that no one else can say. The fourth should say that you are looking forward to hearing back from them and will be available for interview at the drop of a hat.
Well that is the general idea: Why are you writing, and why should they care about you above all others. Keep it short and strong note that I used the word “sentence” to answer your question about “paragraphs.” Don’t get hung up on that, but do keep it concise imagine they are reading it on a Blackberry. The cover letter is the trailer that gets them to want to read the resume.