The Perfect Resume and Cover Letter

Part 1
Redefining the Candidate Package

Resume skills are an acquired talent. In this job market, many open positions are drawing hundreds of resumes. With this much competition, you need a unique resume and cover letter that pops. Don’t fret – we’re here to help you create the perfect candidate package to get that coveted job interview and jumpstart your career.

I know, some of you would rather have bamboo splinters shoved up your fingernails than spend an afternoon writing a boring resume. Speaking of boring resumes, that’s exactly what most employers typically get in response to a job ad – hundreds of 3+ page resumes, each of which basically amount to an exhaustive index of someone’s work history. With a stack like this to plow through, I bet those bamboo shoots would be looking pretty good to the employer too.

On the plus side, most people don’t put that much energy into their resumes. With some smart preparation you can create a brilliant presentation that commands attention, putting you well ahead of the pack in getting interviews. A compelling package not only helps you pass the initial screening, but also presents you as an eloquent professional. Your resume and cover letter should be well organized with a clean design that emphasizes your best selling points as they relate to the needs of the employer. Written in a clear and articulate manner, your resume and cover letter will double as a sample of your exemplary communications skills.

Think of your job hunt as a marketing campaign. Your resume is an advertisement, not a diary of every move you’ve made in the past 10 years. That in mind, it’s critical that you are saying the right things to the right audience. The resume that gets interviews is attractive and informative, but above all, it conveys the essential advantages the employer will benefit from by hiring you.

In Part 2, we’ll help you get the ball rolling with some helpful hints and resources on researching and preparing for the perfect resume.

Part 2
On Your Marks, Get Ready, Get Set…

It is helpful to have a basic resume and cover letter to use as a foundation to work from for each new application. I recommend creating a specialized resume and cover letter tailored exclusively for the demands of each position and the unique benefits the employer will gain by hiring you. Each customized presentation will highlight the applicable benefits you are offering, while emphasizing talents and experience to support them. Before you can accomplish this however, take some prep time to discover exactly what the employer wants, and how and why you can deliver.

Do Your Homework
Knowledge is power. Before you begin your resume and cover letter, research the job description and the company itself:
-Mission
-Value proposition
-Products and services
-Current news and events

Demonstrating knowledge of the company and its needs is impressive and does wonders to get interviews. It is a critical first step in writing a laser pointed resume and cover letter and will give you an edge over the competition.

Here are some great tools to help in your research:

Company Profiles & Company Information
Vault.com (http://www.vault.com/)
Comprehensive reports on employers, including tips on how to get hired.

Monster Company Profiles (http://company.monster.com/)
Videos, contact info, company history, and job openings.

ZoomInfo (http://www.zoominfo.com/search#search/company/1.6.e30%3D)
Company profiles and contact information. You can also access unlimited contacts for HR and other department with their free Community Edition tool.

Job Description Information
CareerPlanning.com (http://www.careerplanner.com/JobDescSearchTool.cfm)

Now that you are up to speed, write down a profile of the ideal candidate for this position with the most vital attributes that person would have, from the perspective of the hiring manager. Put yourself in the manager’s shoes. What key traits, skills and experience would the perfect candidate have? Then prioritize them so it will be easier to reference when you begin to develop and customize your resume and cover letter.

Next, take out your perfect candidate profile and brainstorm all of your own qualities, skills and experience that align you with that profile. Be sure to consider your educational background and any applicable volunteer work. The result will be the foundation of your candidate package.

It’s all About Style
The best way to choose the ideal format is to pick up a resume book or search the Internet for samples. Here are basic descriptions of the three main resume formats:

Chronological
With a conventional format, this concentrates on work experience with fuller job descriptions. This format is not always recommended because it doesn’t clearly present your value proposition. If you do choose this style, always incorporate an Objective and Summary.

Functional
This resume format focuses on your achievements and proficiencies. I recommend this style because it is a great way to draw immediate attention to your unique value proposition for the employer. The job history is secondary, with brief job descriptions or none at all.

Combined
A combination of chronological and functional, this can be the best of both worlds because you can use their best features while minimizing the disadvantageous aspects of each. The only challenge is that it tends to be longer, while the basic rule of thumb is to keep your resume as short as possible.

In Part 3, we’ll explore the best strategies for each section of your resume.