When we do a search at Armstrong McGuire as part of our Executive Transition Management offering, we work collaboratively with clients putting together a detailed position announcement that outlines the opportunity, as well as the primary responsibilities and related candidate qualifications. I’ve been reviewing a lot of resumes and applications as part of these searches and lately I have been struck by a few things.
1. One of the fastest ways to be removed from the pile of qualified applicants is not to tie the opportunity to your credentials. If the cover letter reads like a form letter, is not customized to the opportunity, and doesn’t convey why and how the candidate is interested and qualified, it will be quickly put aside. Yes, some companies use screening software that is searching for key words, but some of us still review materials manually.
Tip: Review the position announcement and jot down the top three reasons you are applying and draft three sentences that succinctly and specifically detail why you are highly qualified for the position. Be sure to include what you think distinguishes you from others.
2. What is with all of the errors? Yes, it’s the digital age of TTYL and IDK, but most professional positions require you to be able to communicate well and with relative ease. Some people tell me that as a country, our writing skills have degraded over the past ten years. Maybe. Probably.
Tip: Use free, high-quality sites like Grammarly that can strengthen your cover letter in a matter of seconds. And use the Spellcheck. Spelling errors, whether they are “typos” or intentional mistakes, are distracting and imply the applicant doesn’t care enough to spellcheck.
3. Candidates should make it easy for the reviewer to quickly understand their experience. I find many examples of candidates misleading a potential employer by minimizing or exaggerating their experience. Some people represent the last position listed as their current activity even when they moved into full time job seeking or independent work. The goal may be to gain an interview, but once you’re in there, you don’t want to spend your time explaining or correcting what was on your resume. Worse than that, it leaves the impression of dishonesty.
Tip: Write a compelling cover letter that preemptively addresses questions that may be in the reviewer’s mind like gaps in your employment, underemployment or short tenures. If you sense your age will be a barrier, address that, too, i.e. “I am accustomed to a rigorous work and travel schedule…”
Even in a strong economy, candidates need to be able to capture the attention of a potential employer and stand out from their competitors. Be intentional in your pursuit of opportunities, favor quality over quantity, and clearly communicate why you are the right fit for that opportunity.