4 Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Resume and Cover Letter

By Marina Krivonossova on December 3, 2020

In a job market damaged by COVID-19, finding a job as a student or recent grad is more difficult than ever before. Most young adults will find themselves sending out hundreds of applications, only to get rejected over and over again. However, this is often the result of a foolish belief that if you send out more applications, you’re more likely to get noticed. The reality of the situation is this: you should be focusing on sending out fewer, high quality applications, as opposed to utilizing the “spray and pray” method in hopes of somebody finally noticing you.

Creating the perfect job application certainly isn’t easy, but here are four tips and tricks to maximizing the effectiveness of your resume and cover letter as part of the job application process.

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1. Create several resumes with different focuses. You might have experience working in retail, teaching kids, and doing tech support on the side. Not all of this experience will be relevant for every position for which you apply. That’s why you need to create a general list of your experiences, and extract information from it into several specific resumes that are geared towards certain positions. Applying to more tech support jobs? Leave out the bit about teaching kids, and focus on your tech skills and the customer service experience you gained working in retail. Applying for teaching gigs? Focus on your teaching experience, and mention the social skills you picked up while working in tech support and retail. It’s all about portraying your experiences from such an angle that is maximally relevant to the specific field in which you’re applying.

2. Create a unique cover letter for every job. While resumes can be more general and are easily reusable depending on the field you’re applying to, this isn’t the case with cover letters. Cover letters should be tailored to fit the specific job for which you’re applying. If you are applying for a teaching position at your local elementary school, as well as a teaching position at the neighboring city’s daycare, it is advisable to write separate cover letters. This is because even similar jobs will have different requirements based on the company, so you want to show the hiring manager that you did your research about their company and the specific position you are applying for.

3. Don’t use templates. If you’re struggling to come up with formatting ideas for your resume and cover letter, you might be tempted to just Google “cover letter template” and “resume template.” While it seems like an easy way to solve your problem, this might be just about the worst approach you can take. You certainly wouldn’t be the first nor the last to opt for this route, so can you imagine how many near-identical resumes and cover letters hiring managers will be going through? If your goal is to stand out and get noticed, taking this route will have the polar opposite effect.

(Image via pexels.com)

4. Reach out to your local career services center. If you’re a current college student or recent grad, you’ll likely be able to take advantage of your school’s career services center. The people working there can offer you tips and tricks for writing the perfect resume and cover letter, as well as share with you their own personal experiences about what does and doesn’t work in specific job fields. Employees of career services centers can even go through the resumes and cover letters you’ve created to offer you unique advice about improving your job applications. General advice (such as this article) is helpful as a foundation for your job application, but tailored advice from professionals who have seen your resume and cover letter can have an even more positive impact. College career service centers are one of the most underrated resources available to students and alumni when it comes to creating the perfect resume and cover letter.

And remember: even if you’ve gone through all these steps, worked hard to create the perfect resume and cover letter, but still face rejection regularly — don’t get discouraged. As I previously mentioned, it’s currently harder than ever for people — even those who are more experienced, but particularly those who are in school or just graduating — to secure a job. If you’re having a hard time coping with this rejection, check out this article to help you better understand and approach the rejection process (point #1 will not apply to you anymore after you’ve read through this). Best of luck with your job applications!

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