Whether you’re new to the job market or a seasoned professional, chances are you’ve applied for a job before. You’re completely qualified. But if you didn’t get a call for an interview there may be a simple reason why. Or several.
Have you fallen victim to any of the following job application missteps?
Your cover letter is missing or is a cut and paste from your last one — from 1995.
Do not miss the fantastic self-promotion opportunity that is your cover letter. Always include a well-written and error-free cover letter with your résumé. It’s your chance to shine, to persuade the job poster why you are the perfect candidate for the role. Never underestimate the power of well-executed written communication.
And under no circumstances should you resurrect that cover letter you took the time to write…a decade ago. Treat every job application process as a unique opportunity to customize your experience and offerings.
Need help to construct a compelling cover letter? First, take a look at the job posting. Closely. Are there specifics that the poster is asking for in a candidate? This is your first clue. I’m not implying that you cut and paste your way to an interview, but you must take into account what the job poster is looking for — and respect the time and energy they put into the job posting.
For example, if the job posting states that the company wants “an entrepreneurial-minded, self-starter individual” then you need to position yourself with those qualities, demonstrating how you’ve shown initiative and produced results without supervision.
And speaking of positioning…
You’ve used the same résumé to apply for every job.
Sorry, you can’t simply reuse the same résumé for every job out there. It’s lazy and could end up cost you a sweet gig. Make it easy for the recruiting manager to select your résumé out of a stack by customizing it. Ensure that everything on your résumé aligns with and reinforces what your potential employer is looking for in a new hire, even if that means changing or eliminating items that aren’t relevant.
And while we’re on the topic of removing extraneous items, please lose the “Objective” portion of your résumé. Clearly, your objective is to get a new job; otherwise, you wouldn’t be sending your résumé along. Chances are your “Objective” is somewhat subjective and won’t be in line with the hiring company’s expectation. Instead, save the space on your résumé for showcasing your experience and results as they relate to the new role.
One more tip: save your resume (and cover letter too) as a PDF to ensure your formatting and font selection remain intact. Not sure how to do that? In Word, select “Print” and in the print dialog box click on the PDF menu (on the bottom left corner) to select “Save as PDF.”
You didn’t read — or follow — the “how to apply” instructions.
These days, applying for a job can involve third party websites, job boards, direct emails and a plethora of details. Do yourself a favor and take the time to read through and follow your potential employer’s “how to apply” instructions.
It never fails to amaze me that so many potential applicants overlook this simple, yet crucial, step.
Recently, I wrote a job posting for a client looking for a new leader. At the end of the posting, my client asked candidates to email their résumé and a cover letter “telling us why you are the best candidate for this role.”
This particular opportunity was posted in several industry-specific channels, as well as on various social media platforms. The job posting, however, was constant.
Imagine my surprise to find that several people had “applied” through an industry website, yet failed to email me directly nor include a cover letter. It may sound harsh, but those are immediate red flags, and those people will not get a call.
My clients feel the same way, as I’m certain many other potential employers do: why should we call you for an interview, let alone hire you if you can’t follow our simple instructions?
To take this to the extreme, I’ve even heard tales of companies hiding an “Easter Egg” request of sorts somewhere within the body of the job posting just to weed out those less-than-detailed oriented candidates. Yikes.
Rest assured that most employers only want — and expect — you to just follow directions. Remember that doing so, as well as customizing your résumé and crafting a killer cover letter, can significantly increase your chances of landing a coveted interview.
© Amy Blaschka, 2016
A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.
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Amy is the president of rbp consulting, a consultancy specializing in helping transform people and organizations in transition. When she’s not involved in some sort of makeover, you’ll find her…unhappy. She enjoys being a badass writer, playing co-ed volleyball, and pretending she has her own HGTV show.
She’s also a sucker for a well-written cover letter, and a stickler about typo- and grammatical error-free résumés.
Originally published at medium.com