Last week I had the dubious task of helping my supervisor pick candidates to interview for my position. What I have seen makes me scared for the future of humanity. Here are some tips that might just help you get more than a cursory glance from prospective employers:
Complete all areas of the application, and provide a résumé and cover letter even if it’s not required. One of my bosses has a favorite saying: I would rather have information I don’t need than need information I don’t have. If you are young and just starting your professional life, reference the skills you have gained in school, volunteering, and through other activities or organizations. This will give your potential employer a sense of who you are, and it will show them that you are resourceful and able to think outside the proverbial box.
Proof read, spell check, and grammar check until you are blue in the face. There will be no forgiveness if you have an ill used apostrophe or are missing a word if you claim to be “detail oriented.” Even when completing an online application, you should use a web-based spell check and grammar check tool. If you aren’t that savvy you can also copy and paste the text into a word processing document and triple check that everything is perfect. My current supervisor scrutinized each application before even reading the supplemental documentation. Don’t knock yourself out of the running just because of a careless error.
When attaching a résumé or cover letter online, always convert documents to a PDF file or include them in the body of the application. With so many versions of word processing programs, the room for formatting errors is huge. I can’t tell you how many of the résumés and cover letters came out askew after we downloaded the files and opened them with our own programs.
Figure out the addressee of the cover letter. Call the company or department and ask who will be reviewing and making the hiring decisions. I did this for my current job, and I found out later from one of my references that it made a huge difference in my boss’ decision to hire me. I have also discovered that there is often a search committee and not just one person behind the recruitment process. For my new job I opted to address my cover letter Dear Selection Committee. It’s a bit less personal, but it’s a good idea to do this if you know that a variety of people will be reviewing your application. In most circumstances it is never a good idea to address your cover letter To Whom it May Concern or Dear HR.
I think that’s plenty to chew on for now! Happy job hunting!