Making the perfect cover letter and CV for a position is a tricky thing to do. It not only has to complement the position perfectly, but it also needs to be crafted meticulously. Ever since your very first job, you’ve been building your CV whether you know it or not. But when a person starts to take their future career seriously, it’s important to craft this consciously.
Simply put, everyone has an overall goal. Whether it’s the amount of money they want to make, a cause they want to support, or a position they want to be in, everyone has a dream, whether it’s vague or not. Therefore, everyone has to do their best to work towards that dream. And one of the things that are crucial when it comes to your dream is the documents you take with you.
From your degrees to your extracurricular activities, all the way to the milestones of your professional life, everything has to complement that overall dream you have. For example, if you want to be the vice president of a company you admire, you probably can guess the steps you need to take in order to get there.
You’ll need office experience in all kinds of areas, you’ll need a corresponding degree, maybe even some shorter courses along the way to help this process. You also know that you probably won’t start out as a vice president of your chosen company right out of school. Therefore, you’ll need to build your way up to that dream position.
This is where your CV and cover letter come in. If you already have a goal in mind, by the time you apply to that position, all your past experiences need to correspond with that position. So before that application, you need to work on gathering experiences and opportunities you can implement into your CV that will make you look even better when the day comes. This is a conscious path that starts the moment you step out of school.
Whenever you consider applying to a position, you need to craft an entirely new, and perfected CV for the gig to ensure you get an opportunity to enter the race. Making your resume stand out is a hard task, but if you learn how to do it once, it will become second nature after a while.
Creating the best CV also takes some research, because years after years job trends change, and you’ll need to adapt and create a corresponding document that represents the latest expectations.
I. Tailor It
At one point or another, we’ve all done the send-out-the-same-CV-to-multiple-employers tactic, but enough is enough. Take the time to create a personal CV for each role you apply for. For each position, different factors and experiences need to be highlighted, inserted or left out.
The same goes for cover letters as well obviously. A cover letter is more of a personal statement, where you state your case and introduce yourself on a deeper level. Naturally, this shouldn’t be the same document sent out automatically when you apply for a position. Although your goals and ambitions may not change, you need to tailor them specifically to the given position.
Tailoring each document you send in with an application makes a huge difference. The hiring committee won’t have to browse through a long list of irrelevant skills and experiences but will see exactly how you relate to the company and position. Tailoring also shows you’ve done research of the company, which is a huge positive and can make your documents stand out instantly.
II. Keep it Short and Sweet
Keeping your cover letter and CV as brief as possible is the best way to go. This doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be well-written, nor does it mean that you should leave out details. But a lot of people go overboard when describing certain things, and that may not benefit them as they think.
In reality, employers spend about 10 seconds looking at a CV, and no more than 1-2 minutes reading and going through a cover letter. Use this to your advantage by using visual cues to bring their attention to the important details, and keeping the text short, and to the point.
At the end of the day, a CV shouldn’t be more than 2 pages, and a cover letter should take up about half a page. A good rule of thumb is to use a three-paragraph rule in your cover letter, with each paragraph focusing on an aspect of your application.
- The first paragraph should be the attention-grabbing introduction. Here, you can express your admiration of the company and your enthusiasm for the position. If you have a referral, this is the place to mention them.
- The second paragraph is your pitch. Everyone has heard of an elevator pitch. Imagine you’re in an elevator, going to the eighth floor. Next to you is the CEO of a company you admire greatly. You have until the eighth floor to sell yourself and get the CEO to hire you. That’s your second paragraph.
- Finally, a conclusion where you recap all you said before and add some additional information of value that can help your case. And don’t forget to thank the employer for their time and consideration.
III. Don’t Leave Gaps
It’s totally natural for people to have gaps in their life where they didn’t do anything noteworthy. But gaps in a timeline of a CV are a no-no for employers. And while in a cover letter these aren’t conspicuous, a CV is a list of achievements, and on a chronological list, gaps catch the eye quickly.
Gaps leave the hiring committee suspicious, and with a sea of other CVs to go through, they won’t give you a benefit of the doubt. So how can you make sure they don’t see the gaps?
As stated before, it’s a natural thing to have gaps in your life, but to avoid the negative circumstances while applying, you can put a positive spin on these months or years. Did you do a course, volunteer work, or develop a soft skill like communication, teamwork, or project management? Mentioning any of these can strengthen your case while filling the gaps seamlessly.
Also, you can make sure to keep all this in mind for the future, now that you know that this can cost you jobs. It’s natural to be out of work once in a while, but try to stay as active as possible.
IV. Address the Hiring Manager Personally
This is mostly applicable when writing a cover letter, as you need to address someone at the beginning of your statement. If you can, address your future employer personally, as this again shows that you’ve done your research, and look up to the person you’re speaking to.
Sending out a letter addressed to Dear Employer is the same as receiving a letter addressed To Whom It May Concern. Surely, at least once in your life, you’ve experienced the feeling of receiving a hollow and impersonal letter like this, and surely you forgot about it the next day, labeling it irrelevant. And this is not the impression you want to make with your future employer.
If it’s not spelled out on their website, there are other ways to get this information. If you’re still a student, you probably have access to a career services office, where they might know the right name to address. But if you can’t find it anywhere, you can simply call the company and ask for the name and title of the hiring manager.
V. Use Keywords
A lot of employers today use resume-filtering software that scans for keywords and evaluates how closely your documents correspond with the position. They look for skills, experiences, and other keywords that match the company and the position.
When researching a company, you’ll find keywords about the company and the position itself that you can implement while writing your documents. This can help with both your CV and cover letter, and it’s recommended to try using keywords in both.
For example, if they’re looking for people with skills in cryptographic coding, line coding, and an understanding of Python, don’t say you have “programming skills”. Instead, specifically, mention all programming languages they list in their description.
Other tips include using concrete examples and numbers when describing your past projects and contributions, mentioning interests and hobbies you have that can highlight useful skills you’ve developed on your own, and writing a simple “references are available upon request” at the end of your statement.
With these few tips, you’re ready to craft your documents for any position, ensuring that your resume will stand out and catch the attention of the hiring committee.