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11 Tips for Writing a Knockout Resume and Cover Letter

Six seconds. That's how long an employer looks at a resume. But you can get your resume and cover letter noticed with these 11 simple tips.

Last week we gave you 20 tips for increasing your confidence to land the job of your dreams. Now we're going to give you 11 more tips for writing a quality resume and cover letter so you get noticed right away.

Imagine 50 resumes spread out on a hiring manager's desk. All those resumes but not a single cover letter to go with them. What gives?

Several resumes strewn on a desk.
Which one to choose? They all look the same!

These resumes aren't standing out in the crowd.⁠ But yours can.

First step is to add a spectacularly written cover letter that covers these first five tips.⁠

1. Refer to your stellar accomplishment⁠

Unlike a resume that's all bullet points and short descriptions, a cover letter is your opportunity to describe in full sentences two stellar accomplishments that will show the hiring manager exactly what you'll bring to the job.

Here's an example for a plant manager:

At X Company, I managed the daily operations of a $150 million subsidiary that provided manufacturing solutions for Y product in the US and Mexico. I improved profit margins on the overall product line by 10 percent.

Need more ideas? Check out this article that has a lot of great suggestions for writing the two accomplishments that may just impress the hiring manager's eye and have them calling you for an interview.

2. Detail your experience in an area that applies to the job you want⁠

Show that you've read the job description and aren't just coming up with a quick cover letter to send in. Explain in a few sentences how your experience lines up with the position you're applying for.

Use the keywords that the job description uses so the hiring manager can zone in on exactly how your experience matches with the job description.

3. Create interest in yourself by sharing your personality⁠

Cover letters don't have to be stale and boring. You can write in a professional tone by showing your personality. What personality traits or skills do you have that would be the perfect fit for the company you're applying for? List them!

Use action words that match your personality and skills. Are you a go-getter? Are you confident? Do you like to collaborate? Are you a good mentor? Do you communicate well? Let the hiring manager know by describing yourself in the context of what a good fit you'd be in the job you want.

Other action words to use are: solve, promote, strengthen, improve, oversee, adapt, lead, organize, persuade, assess, evaluate, project, initiate, train, and innovate.

4. Explain how your talents can contribute to the company⁠

Describe how you would be the perfect fit. Show them how you align with the company values. Explain how your skills would bring value to the team.

Use action words and phrases to describe yourself like: organized, flexible, critical-thinking, detail-oriented, persuasive, creative, entrepreneurial, and problem-solving,

Your job in your cover letter is to make the hiring manager think it would be a mistake to pass an asset like you by.

5. Avoid sloppy grammatical mistakes and typos⁠

This is true in any business communication. But it's especially true with a first impression. And that's what your cover letter is, your first impression with the company you want to work for.

Just as you want to be dressed for the part in your job interview, first, you want your cover letter to be dressed impeccably, too. That's where good grammar and perfect spelling comes in. Proofread your cover letter several times before you send it.

And make sure the name of the hiring manager is spelled correctly. People really notice that right off the bat.

Grammarly is an excellent tool to check for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. It will automatically correct your mistakes, check for tone in your emails, and detect plagiarism. And it's free. What could be better?

Now on to the resume. We've got six tips for how to improve your resume and get it noticed in that stack of resumes sitting on the hiring manager's desk waiting to be reviewed.

6. Focus on the right skills, accomplishments, and experiences⁠ using the right keywords

These days, a software program may see your resume before it ever lands in the inbox of a hiring manager. Human Resources departments of large organizations using software programs that scan resumes looking for keywords that match the job description.

If a resume has a certain number of right keywords, it gets passed to the hiring manager.

7. Quantify your experience⁠

We've talked about this before. People like numbers. And they like results.

They want to see how many projects you've managed, how much you saved a company, how much you money you brought into a company, and so on. So you want to share your results.

And here's how you can do just that. Keep it short and to the point.

For a project executive:

  • Supervised construction on a $1 billion high-end development, coming in $500k under budget and finishing 3 months before deadline

For a restaurant manager:

  • Reduced staff turnover in a sit-down restaurant by 25% compared to the previous six months

A social media manager:

  • Posted 20 tweets, 6 blog entries, and three videos a week

  • Gained 5000 followers a month on all social media platforms

Don't know the exact numbers? Give yourself a roundabout number of how much you've done and then multiply by weeks, months, or years you spent at that past or current job. There you go, you've got your quantity.

8. Design your resume so it's unique and eye-catching⁠

It used to be that resumes were simple black and white text in Times New Roman. Now they're colorful with a bright header and bold in a fresh font. They show your personality with color and are on-trend with a clean crisp layout.

Six seconds, remember that's all you've got to make a terrific first impression. So give your resume a look. Is it stale or fresh? If it's stale, it's time to update it.

Take a look at these examples to get an idea of what to avoid and what to do instead.

These resumes give you a feel for various layouts, colors, and text placement that make a resume stand out. Which resume design feels right for you?

If you're looking for an easy template to use, check out the Resume Foundry. They've got all types of templates to match the job you're applying for with your personality.

9. Cull down the verbiage so it's concise ⁠

People tend to write resumes that are three or more pages long because they've included every job they've ever had or written several paragraphs detailing each experience.

But a hiring manager isn't looking for a detailed timeline of a person's work history. They're looking for four to five bullet points of 10 or fewer words each that clearly show how your experience lines up with the job description.

A resume should be one to two pages. That's all.

10. Again, avoid sloppy grammatical mistakes and typos⁠

It takes repeating, people notice typing errors and grammatical mistakes. A hiring manager is looking for someone who can communicate well. And having a resume with a mistake doesn't show good written communication.

So proofread, proofread, proofread your resume before pressing send.

11. Get your resume and cover letter reviewed professionally

A professional resume writer can look at your resume and see how it needs polishing. A lot of people tend to either add too much or forget to add the keywords the company is looking for. A professional resume writer is an expert in keywords, presentation, and conciseness.

And a professional resume writer can update your resume so it's on-trend and get noticed right away. You want that call for an interview, right? Then professional help is the key.

And we can help you on the spot! Send us your resume or cover letter to and we'll review it in our next Business English workshop Tuesday, Aug. 4.

You'll get lots of great tips in this Aug. 4 resume writing workshop.

You’ll get instant feedback and tips for how to improve so you can land that job of your dreams.⁠ We’ll break down the dos and don’ts for creating a top-notch resume that will set you apart from all the other resumes.

Join us LIVE Tuesday, Aug. 4 from 10am to 12pm via our virtual Skype classroom. Can’t make it live? No worries! We’ll send you the video recording so you can watch it on your own time.

Don’t miss out on this super practical and helpful workshop!

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