Did you know? The average recruiter only spends six seconds looking at a job application. That’s right, six seconds!
This means that one of the most important parts of looking for jobs is making sure your resume is up-to-date and that your cover letter is relevant to the job you are applying for. After all, this is your first opportunity to make a good impression on a prospective employer.
A cover letter should accompany your resume to give your prospective employer a broad understanding about your skill set, goals and reasons for wanting to apply for the job. Your resume (otherwise known as a curriculum vitae, or CV) then details your relevant work experience, skills, character references and other details.
Together, these documents will help a prospective employer to determine whether you are a good fit for their company, and whether they would like to progress your application to the next stage of recruitment.
We’ve put together a list of things to remember when writing your cover letter and resume to help you stand out from the crowd!
One size does not fit all
A common mistake people make when applying for jobs is that they copy-and-paste the details of their cover letter and resume without tailoring the documents to the job they are applying for.
While there can be similar selection criteria and skill requirements between different jobs, take the time to make sure each application you make is relevant to the company you are applying for. Also be sure to answer the selection criteria.
After all, companies as are different as people are, and they want to be treated as more than ‘just another company’ on the list of applications.
Use their language
One way to make sure your application is tailored to the company you are applying for is to use their style of language. For example, if a company uses the word ‘customer’ instead of ‘client’, you should do the same.
When you do your company research, look out for keywords that make multiple appearances. A good place to start is the company’s mission statement. Using the same language not only tells the recruiter that you have done your homework, but also that your values align and that you would be a good fit at their company.
On a similar note, use active language rather than passive. For example: “I managed the group” will catch a recruiter’s attention more than “I was part of the group”.
Space is valuable
If the average recruiter spends only six seconds evaluating a job application, the length of your cover letter and resume is as important as the content. Only include information relevant to the job - leave out the part-time jobs you held five or more years ago that have no relevance to the position you are applying for.
Another handy hint: always check the application information to see whether there are limitations around the number of pages you can include.
Many people find it difficult to sell themselves and their achievements when applying for jobs. While this is completely normal, we do encourage you to self-promote when preparing your job application. One way to do this well is to talk about the results you achieved in a particular role, and how that helped the company you were working for at the time.
For example, if you signed up 50 new members to your organisation, talk about how these new members improved your organisation’s membership trends and business outcomes.
Formatting and design
While there is room for some creativity when making your cover letter and resume (particularly if you are applying for creative jobs such as a graphic designer), don’t go too overboard. Sticking to basic fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman at font size 10 or 12 is usually a common standard for job applications.
We would also recommend you carefully check whether there are formatting requirements for your application. This could include the documents being provided as a PDF file or preferred fonts.
A few last tricks
Here are some final things for you to remember when applying for jobs:
- Ask your references for their permission to be on your application.
- Honesty is key!
- Remember to include your contact details – your contact phone number and email address are usually sufficient.
- Unless is it specifically outlined in the selection criteria as important to the job you are applying for, you do not have to disclose information about yourself such as your age, religion, sexual orientation, or marital status. More information about protected attributes is available on the Fair Work Ombudsman
We'll have even more tips and tricks about writing your resume in the coming weeks! In the meantime, want to learn more about preparing your job application? Check out the career centres for recruitment websites such as Seek, Hays, and Michael Page.