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Hiring managers are enigmas of the job search process. The entirety of a hiring manager’s job is choosing the best candidate for the company’s job opening. It weighs upon their shoulder to sort out hundreds of resumes, schedule and conduct interviews, and notify the department heads of the job opening’s outcome.

The most successful job seekers get the best opportunities because they tend to think like the hiring manager. Here are the things you should know about a hiring manager:


A hiring manager chooses a resume that stands out

Yes its that simple. For every vacant position advertised, hundreds of resumes turn up in the hiring manager’s office. They don’t have the time to read each one, so they usually peruse through the resumes – (see 9 seconds). Then, they keep two piles: one for the rejected ones and the other for prospective interviewees.

If you want to make to the latter pile, then you should create a stand out resume that’s readable and presentable.


A hiring manager wants you to customize your resume

Customization is the keyword. Pay attention to your resume, and the hiring manager will surely pay attention to you.

Hiring managers are seasoned individuals who know when a resume is tailored to the specific job opening, or just a generic one ready for any kind of job opening. Remember, you want to give off the impression that you’re interested in – and able to do – the specific position.


A hiring manager looks for certain keywords that trigger a qualification

Since the hiring manager peruses your resume, use action words and keywords to convey your accomplishments and qualifications. And try not to repeat the same words.

Use a Thesaurus for different variations. Hiring managers also love it when they see key words mirroring ones they use. So take a look at the job description and read the company’s annual report, and try to use similar wording. Hiring managers usually don’t waste time looking for the keywords, so make sure they stand out.


A hiring manager appreciates proofreading your resume

Hiring managers are sensitive about grammar and spelling errors. If they see any typo, into the trash your resume goes – or they make keep it for amusement purposes.


A hiring manager is impressed when you come in your best suit for the interview

Coming in for an interview with your best suit will impress the hiring manager because they believe you have invested considerable time and effort to make yourself more presentable.

No torn jeans, t-shirts and shorts, but a Conservative business attire will speak at how professional you are.


A hiring manager appreciates preparedness from the interviewee

Since interviews are often scheduled days or weeks in advance, what really irks a hiring manager more than anything is unpreparedness – either showing up late, neglecting to bring documents or not knowing anything company.

On the flipside, they love it when you are prepared – when they see you looked into the company, why you want to work there and what you can bring to the table. It shows professionalism and passion. So, get to know the company and industry. There are a multitude of resources out there, such as Hoover’s.

Although your job application partially lies in the hiring manager’s hands, knowing what the hiring manager has in mind for a job opening will help you plan your course of action.


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As the world migrates to a digital business community, resume writing has begun to lag behind, sticking to the more staid resume conventions featuring lengthy objective statements and overly flowery language that perhaps lacks real substance. The ‘meat’ would be left for the interview.

In the last 12 months however, things have begun to evolve rapidly. More and more candidates are finding that dusting off a resume from 10, 5 or even 2 years ago and simply adding in their most recent job description does not pull in the career opportunities.

Employers in today’s market receive so many applicants that your worth must be instantly identifiable. In any job market, but especially in a depressed economy, it is crucial to spend time focusing on the true function of the resume – namely scoring that important interview.

So what does attract an employer?

It’s less about what you want and more about what they need. So, throw out the summary explaining what your objectives are – and replace it with a company-focused value proposition, with one or two well-written sentences about what you bring to the table for your potential employer.

Then, most importantly, you need to get down to the real business of selling yourself. Marketing your own self-worth is not within many people’s comfort zones – but that’s exactly what it takes to land an interview in today’s market.

Just as, if you’re a company doing business without a website to back up your proposition you will lack credibility, it just doesn’t pay to be a job seeker these days without the whole package. An attention-grabbing resume and well-written cover letter is no longer enough – an active online presence in the form of a social media profile is imperative.

Resume’s worth their salt right now – and going forward – include links to professional networking and self-marketing sites such as LinkedIn. But if you choose to include a link on your resume to your LinkedIn profile, you have to spend time getting it right.

A potential employer taking the trouble to visit your LinkedIn site isn’t going to want to see a bare profile, or an insignificant assortment of connections to your friends. They want to see solid and relevant associations, personal references, a great portfolio and in short – a professional reflection of you and how others perceive you.

A good rule of thumb would be 3 or 4 recommendations for every 100 contacts. Be relevant and be thorough. Cover every base; showcasing your public info where hiring authority’s can find you is more important than ever. Don’t forget to update your profiles regularly.

One further trend that we are beginning to see used occasionally in resume-writing is infographics. A dashboard view of your skills and experience at a glance, infographics can be an attention-grabbing demonstration of your capabilities.

Adding a QR code can help differentiate you as well. This interesting visual representation of you can be incredibly valuable but it must be used carefully.

Be cautious in ensuring your resume still has substance (you still need a value proposition). If your career has jumped around all over the place it’ll simply look like a gimmick, but if your infographic shows steady progression or demonstrates experience in a multitude of areas that the position you are applying for requires, then an infographic is a perfect way to stand out from the crowd.

Video resumes or personal video presentations are becoming more popular as well – but proceed with caution. Yes, a great idea for an aerobics instructor or a public speaker, but for a shipping manager? You’d better do it well or you’ll fall flat on your face. Rather than getting the interview, you’ll be standing out for the wrong reasons.

It’s worth keeping an element of control in mind with tools like Skype. It can be easy to sign up to all manner of communication tools, advertise your connectivity and then promptly forget about ever joining, never mind keeping up with yet another profile. If you join and add your Skype contact to LinkedIn, you must ensure you at least have a professional picture, keep Skype open and pick up your messages.

In summary, job seeking trends are following just one step behind the digital evolution. Exploit all the new tools you can, but make sure your online persona is substantial and well thought out, with strict attention to detail. Abide to the old adage – do it properly or not at all!

So will your profile eventually evolve into a sophisticated per-programmed hologram that can interview live anytime?

Is the standard resumé on its way out? What does the resume of the future look like?


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You’ve just graduated from university or college. You have the skills, the passion and the drive and you can’t wait to start a career in your field.

You send out your resume to a position that seems like the perfect fit for you. When there’s no response, you send out your resume again. And again. And again. Pretty soon you’ve fired your resume off to dozens of different companies and you haven’t heard a word back from anyone. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

Like many new grads, your resume is not doing a good enough job of selling you to a hiring manager. Your resume needs to tell your story in a clear, focused way that shows off the skills and experience you DO have, rather than highlighting what you don’t have.

1) Start Strong!

Our client’s original resume started off with a short objective statement, which is a huge mistake. Hiring managers only spend an average of 10-15 seconds looking at each resume, so you need to start strong.

We use an opening value statement to summarize your unique value to the hiring manager right away. We can work with you to outline the experience, strengths, and skills you possess that are relevant to the job—and don’t be afraid to name drop big name companies! Remember, hiring managers aren’t looking for what YOU want in a position—they are looking for the VALUE you can add to their company.

2) Sell Your Skills

After your value statement, we include a bullet-list of your specific skills and competencies. We also include any technical skills such as software proficiencies, as well as industry-specific tasks that you are capable of performing and soft skills that are important to the job in question.

The purpose of this list is to build on the idea that you already possess valuable skills the company is looking for. This is a crucial step towards convincing the hiring manager that you’re not just a blank slate who needs time and money to be trained, but that you already have what they need.

3) Devil’s in the Details

In the education section, our client had the right idea by listing school projects, as they’re a great way to showcase academic achievements and practical capabilities. However, it could have used more details and information.

Using the first project mentioned as an example, try to answer some of the questions that the hiring manager will be considering:

You want to give the hiring manager a good idea of your thought process, problem solving, practical use of skills, and the results you’re capable of achieving.

4) Experience Is Key

Normally, new grads place their education above their work experience on their resume. This is because most new grads don’t have enough relevant work experience worth mentioning and the best way for them to demonstrate their skills and experience is through school projects.

However in this example, our client had over a full year of very valuable and relevant co-op experience with a large oil company. As a result, we swapped the sections to show off their work experience front and center. We also had them include a general outline of each role’s main tasks and responsibilities.

5) Achievements Seal the Deal

It’s one thing to claim you have all of these skills and experience, but if you really want to sell your value you should back them up with achievements. For every job or internship entry, list a few of your most notable contributions that involved you excelling in a practical way using your skills.

Take it to the highest level, and make sure that what you showcase are the same skills the employer is looking for. You can tell this by looking at the job description, and picking out any skill that’s mentioned several times throughout the whole thing.

6) Stick to the Story!

To wrap it all up, keep the story you want to sell in mind and never deviate from it when writing your resume. Everything from the value statement, to the core competencies list, to the notable projects and achievements sections, and the content you include in your education and work experience sections should all further the notion that you are the person the company needs for the position.


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If you have even a passing interest in sports, you’re probably aware of the story of LeBron James. Actually, a lot of people who hate sports have probably heard about it—whether they wanted to or not.

Widely considered the best player in the NBA, he left Cleveland in 2010 to join a super-team in Miami. Cleveland fans burned LeBron jerseys in the streets, and Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert posted an infamous letter online that eviscerated ‘The King’ for his “cowardly betrayal” of the franchise and the city.

Oddly enough, none of that anger prevented LeBron James from returning to Cleveland this off season, nor did it prevent the previously furious fans and owner from welcoming him back with open arms. It’s a fact of life that if you have a talent that’s at a truly elite level, you’ll always be welcomed back no matter how ugly the situation might have been when you left.

If you want more proof, consider the famous case of Steve Jobs, who left Apple in 1985 disgrace after having been effectively pushed out by the board of directors. For all his genius as a visionary, at that point in his life Jobs was a poor businessman due to a narrow-minded, combative and stubborn attitude.

Oddly enough, none of that anger prevented Steve Jobs from returning to Apple a decade later, nor did it prevent the same company from welcoming him back with open arms. In those intervening years he had matured as a person, and improved upon his knowledge and abilities as a businessman and a leader while losing nothing of his greatness as a visionary.

There’s a pattern here, if it’s not too obvious by this point.

Jobs himself gives credit to his embarrassing fall from grace as motivation to examine himself critically and generate the willpower to improve upon his weaknesses, like all great executives should do. In his second stint with Apple, he led it to unparalleled heights as a company, revolutionizing personal technology and how business is done along the way.

There’s no guarantee that LeBron James will be able to lead his team to a similar level of success, but both his and Steve Jobs’ stories should teach important lessons both to employers and the elite talents of the world.

First, the natural talent of the truly elite can never be denied, but sometimes that talent needs time or even a change of scenery to fully mature and reach its potential. Most of all, it’s worth letting that talent reach that potential even if it isn’t with you.

Second, if you’re an elite talent that feels unappreciated and stagnating in your current situation, don’t be afraid to use your talent as leverage to rectify the situation. Your elite status means you’ll always have options and tons of offers to field, and if LeBron and Steve Jobs’ situations are any indication you can always return once the situation changes for everyone.

In sum: if you’re good enough at what you do, you’ll always be welcomed back.


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So you’ve done your due diligence and thoroughly prepared for your upcoming job interview. You’ve picked out a proper outfit, looked at the questions you’re likely to be asked, and researched the company and the keywords so you can figure out how you’ll answer those questions. Now comes the matter of the interview itself. We have some tips for those who want to know how to have a good interview.

Make a Good First Impression

You likely know the expression that you only have one chance to make a good first impression, and when you’re trying to convince the hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job you don’t want to handicap yourself by making a bad one. Even if you nail the rest of the interview, if it started on the wrong foot your chances of being hired will suffer significantly.

First, your appearance will go a long way to making a good first impression. This means keeping your outfit clean and crisp, so make sure you don’t spill anything on it or get it wrinkled. Second, when you’re approached by the hiring manager to start the interview, put on a friendly and sincere smile. While you’re shaking their hands with a winning smile, maintain firm eye contact with them to convey your poise and confidence.

When you’re greeting them, address them by their name and thank them – sincerely and kindly – for the opportunity they’re giving you with the interview. Lastly, don’t just show interest in everything they have to say, be interested in everything they have to say. You want the job, you want to work for the company, and the hiring manager is the representative that matters most when it comes to getting what you want – everything they say should therefore be of the utmost interest to you.

How to Answer Job Interview Questions

Now that you’ve made a good first impression, you’re sitting down across a table from the hiring manager and they’re starting to ask their questions. Since you’ve prepared for this already you’re firing off answers with confidence, but then they throw a trick question at you that’s designed to trip you up and see how you respond. There are a few ways to respond to questions like that, but what we advise is that you give an honest answer that shows you practice what you preach.

If you want to get an idea on what type of answer to give, do a search for difficult interview questions and good answers to them. Do not, however, just memorize the answer or fill in the blanks with your name and experience. Use the examples to give you an idea of what tone to use and the way to approach your answer with both honesty and confidence. Practice a few different answers you might give, and then look carefully at what your statements might imply that you don’t want them to.

As an example, when a hiring manager asks you what misconceptions your co-workers had about you, saying “they thought I was a workaholic and didn’t have a life outside of work” might actually tell them that you don’t work as hard as you seem to. Try to avoid answers like that, which only sound defensive or like you’re avoiding the question.

Questions To Ask in a Job Interview

After the hiring manager is done asking their questions, they’re likely to allow you the chance to ask a few questions of them in return. The questions you ask can tell them as much, if not more, about you than your answers to theirs. Here are tips we give to our clients:

First of all, be sure that you do ask questions. It shows that you’ve put a lot of thought into the job and their company, and that you have genuine interest in them. However, there are certain questions to avoid:

All these questions convey to the hiring manager is that you only care about money, not the job or their company. Instead, you should ask more functional questions. This is why we advise that you ask open-ended questions that are designed to find out more about the job and the company:

These inquiries will help set up your follow up. If you asked about their plans for expansion, ask them how you would fit in with those plans; or if you asked about the structure of the company or its history, ask if there are others that share a similar position and where you would be in their hierarchy. Not only will these open-ended questions impress the hiring manager with your interest and willingness to know about your role and responsibilities, but they will also help you figure out if you even want the job in the first place.

Thank You Letter After Job Interview

Finally, after it’s over and done with you should follow up with your interviewer. We advise that you write a thank you note to the hiring manager for granting you the interview. However, there’s a certain way to go about writing and sending them.

First, if you’re going to send a thank you note make sure you do so almost immediately after the interview is over. If the interview was in the morning you should be sending it later that same day. If it was later in the day, send it so they have it in their hand or inbox the next morning.

Second, make sure that it reaffirms your interest in the position and the company and inquires about the next step in the hiring process. However, the note should be very short and concise, so while it’s called a “thank you note”, all it should really contain is a short paragraph that says, in essence: “Thank you for the interview, I’m still interested in the job. What’s next?”. Obviously it should be a bit more elaborate than that and have some personalization to the details.

Third, when it comes to the note itself you don’t have to hand-write it. It might be more personal, but unless you have very neat handwriting we suggest you type it up instead.

Lastly, make sure you proofread it! It might be a short and quick note, but you don’t want to ruin the good it can do by misspelling a few words or messing up the punctuation.

Final Reminders

By this point, you probably saw a few general bits of advice come up pretty often, and they bear repeating. No matter what you say or do, you should be trying to convince the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the job. To do this, you need to establish that you are confident, sincere, and interested in the job and the company.


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The issue of workplace bullying has risen in profile in recent years – either because of an increase in bullying itself, or because of the greater attention paid to it has led to people being willing to report it more often.

One survey conducted by Harvard Business Review reported that roughly half of workers polled in 2011 reported being treated rudely at work at least once a week, while another found that 35% of employees say they felt bullied at their jobs. More importantly, 16% of those who say they felt bullied reported health issues and 17% left their jobs as a direct result.

No one should ever have to suffer through being insulted, demeaned, or harassed as part of their job, but it’s a sad fact of life that even grown adults are capable of such maliciousness. If you are someone who feels bullied at work, you probably feel trapped and don’t know how to handle it. Do you confront them? Do you report it to HR? Do you try and find a new job to escape it? We here at Resume Target have some tips that will hopefully help you live in a bully-free work environment.

What is Workplace Bullying?

First, it’s important to know what constitutes ‘workplace bullying’. Practically speaking, those who answered CareerBuilder’s survey created a list of acts against them they felt qualified as bullying:

While these are the types of things you as the bullied party consider to be bullying, there are unfortunately two important sources to consider before you do anything to deal with your bullies.

Workplace bullying laws

There is some variation on what specific laws exist in certain areas when it comes to workplace bullying. It’s very important to know what legal rights you have and what you don’t have, and so you should definitely thoroughly research what laws exist for your city, state or province, and country.

Most laws that exist will require a company to have some sort of policy to deal with workplace bullying or harassment, but not many will have anything more concrete than that. Further, some laws will say what, if any, legal recourse or compensation rights a bullied employee has. Pay careful attention to the wording, and if you have any friends or family who has experience in legal matters it would be worthwhile to get their input.

Workplace bullying policy

Next, look into the company’s policy when it comes to dealing with bullying. They might have, in writing, what they define as bullying or harassment and what they don’t. They might also list the proper procedures that are to be taken when it comes to reporting cases of bullying both by the employee and by the company.

Make sure to get your own legitimate copy of the company’s policy in writing. Having an official document, or a copy of one, will be a great help to you.

Reporting Workplace Bullying

Having gained all of the important knowledge and understanding what rights you have in dealing with the bullying, there is some preparation you need to do before reporting your grievances to the company.

First and most importantly, be absolutely sure to document every case of you being bullied at work in as much detail as you can recall. If there are any co-workers of yours whom were witness to any such incidents and are willing to give you verification, be sure to get that documented as well.

When writing down incidents of bullying, record them in a factual manner. So rather than writing “my boss totally screamed at me for no good reason today!” write something more like “on October 12, 2013 during a staff meeting, I made a suggestion for our summer initiative and was told my idea was ‘stupid’”.

Now that you’re fully prepared, there are a couple of different ways to deal with the bullying.

Confront the bully yourself

One of the main reasons why the bully constantly harasses you is because they think they can get away with it, either because they think you’ll let them or because they think they won’t be punished even if you report them. In the case of the former situation, sometimes confronting the bully (or bullies) directly can solve the problem.

The CareerBuilder survey data shows that 49% of those who claimed to have been bullied tried to do so. Of that group of people, 50% said the bullying stopped, 38% said the bullying continued and 11% said that it got worse. If you do confront them yourself, it is important to do it in an appropriate manner.

First, be confident in your voice and in your body language: look them in the eye, stand tall before them, and speak in a firm tone of voice. Try not to yell, fidget, or make exaggerated movements. When it comes to what you say, use “I” messages and avoid making more accusatory statements about them. Instead, you should state, in a factual manner, what they have done to you that you don’t like and how it made you feel.

So rather than saying “you’re always mean to me” or “you always treat me unfairly”, recount some of the specific instances that you’ve already documented and say how it made you feel.

For example, say something like this: “Last Tuesday I was not invited to the meeting despite being involved in the same project, and this has happened more than once. I feel frustrated when this happens because it prevents me from being able to do my job properly.”

Report to the company

If you choose not to try and deal with the bullying yourself, or if you tried to do so and they continue to harass you, submit a report to the company. The company’s policy should tell you whether to make the report to your boss or human resources. It’s up to you whether you submit the report in writing, such as an email, or if you do so in person.

Regardless of what avenue you take, be sure to again document in writing what actions were taken: what they said to you about how they would handle it or if they said anything at all, what actions (if any) they took in response, or if they actually take actions against you.

If the response from the person you reported to was not satisfactory, you might have to report to someone higher up in the company with the same, and updated, documentation.

Be forewarned, however, that there’s a fairly high chance that the company will either do nothing to address your problems or might even act against you. If that happens, your thorough and factual documentation of everything will help you a great deal in the event of any legal actions that result.

Don’t Blame Yourself

This is the most important bit of advice to anyone who is bullied at work. It is not your fault that someone at your job harasses you. If you find that someone is bullying you at work, be sure to act quickly. Trying to just suffer through it will not work, and you owe it to yourself to deal with the problem or extricate yourself from the situation if it can’t be resolved.

And remember that your job is just one part of your life. The last thing you should do is internalize it and let it affect how you live the rest of your life. You will have friends and family who can hear you talk about your problems and give you advice, and help you still have fun and be happy.


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After putting in the time and effort to writing a great resume and cover letter, you’ve found yourself among one of the few applicants to get a job interview.

But getting that new job is a full-time job in itself, so there’s still plenty of time and effort required. If you really want to nail your interview, then most of the work you’ll need to do, will be for preparation.

Here are some of the main ways you can prepare to ace a job interview.

What to wear to a job interview

You can’t make a second first-impression, and unfortunately the first thing that the interviewers will notice about you is not likely to be your skills, knowledge, or even your demeanor – the first thing they’ll see is what you’re wearing.

Therefore, it’s important that you dress properly: no jeans or shorts; no sandals or running shoes; and no loose fitting casual outfits. Instead, dress yourself in shirts, pants and dresses or skirts that are sized properly and do not show your underwear; and socks that match the rest of your outfit.

We advise that you avoid dressing for current trends, unless you can afford to replace your wardrobe in the future. A more cost-effective and safe strategy is to dress more traditionally with a classic suit or dress. Whatever you wind up picking, make sure it’s comfortable as you don’t want to be constantly fidgeting and grimacing during your interview.

Make sure that your outfit is washed and laid out the night before, and make sure there are no wrinkles or tears. The same can be said for your person – make sure you’re freshly washed and shaved.

The better you look, the more confident you’ll feel and the more confidence you’ll project.

Research the Company

If you followed our advice for writing your resume and cover letter, you’ll already have done a fair bit of research into the company already. However, there’s a good chance you’ve also researched other companies for other applications, so it’s time to give yourself a quick refresher.  There are a few things you should focus on in particular that will help you during your interview:

Annual Report

Pick out the keywords they use most often, as the company obviously thinks they’re important. When you’re preparing for answering standard interview questions, practice using some of the keywords in a natural way. Doing so will help convince the interviewers that you’re a fit for their culture.

Leadership Team & Interviewers

LinkedIn is your friend here. Knowing the background, style and interests of those who will be interviewing you will really help when it comes to breaking the ice. Not only will it help develop a bit of a bond with them, but it will also further convince them that you can fit in with the rest of the company.

Recent Press Releases

This will help you learn of any new expansions and initiatives to their business (or reductions). Pick out bits that you genuinely find the most interesting, and form a few questions to ask them when you get your chance.

This will show off your knowledge and interest in them and their big projects, and if you can seem sincere when doing so rather than just going through the motions, you’ll stand out over your competition.

Common job interview questions

The purpose for knowing the kinds of questions the interviewers will ask you is not to have a pre-set answer memorized, but so you’re ready to answer it comfortably and honestly. You want to sound sincere, not like an audio recorder.

This isn’t just because you’ll sound boring and unimpressive, but a good interviewer might start asking you things in a way to trip you up. Or you might start reading the interviewer to the point where you realize, on the spot, that you have a better way of answering. Either way, you want to be flexible with how you can answer their questions.

So when you’re reading through a list of common interview questions, start thinking about how to combine the research you’ve done with the top skills and qualities about yourself that you want to project to them. You might want to spend more time on some of the more difficult questions you’re likely to be asked.

Dealing with Interview Anxiety

In recent years we’ve all become more aware that anxiety and depression is something a lot of people have to deal with, and I’m willing to admit that I’m one of them.

I know first-hand that stressful situations will always exacerbate it, and it’s a safe assumption that there will be people who will feel some level of anxiety about their upcoming job interview. The rest of the preparation we advise you to do above will help it feel more manageable, but there are a few other tips I can give that I know have helped me keep calm.

The biggest help for me is mindfulness meditation. It’s not the kind of spiritual meditation you might think when you first hear of it, but it is incredibly helpful in dealing with stress of any type in any situation. With practice, you can be ‘meditating’ while walking down the street.

Another way to help keep your stress under wraps leading up to your interview is to cut out food and drink that make it worse. Coffee might help you feel awake, but it will also make you feel more jittery and nervous than you would otherwise. If you think you need a pick-me-up, try Gatorade or something else that doesn’t have caffeine. Sugar and alcohol are also things to avoid before your interview.

Lastly, sleep. Hopefully these tips will help prevent stress from keeping you awake, but do everything you can to be rested and alert the day of your interview. A good night’s sleep will not only keep you alert, but will also help you feel more relaxed and calm.

Have no regrets

The last thing you want to do is leave an interview feeling like you could have done better.

The more you prepare, the better you’ll be able to deal with whatever the interviewers can throw at you. Even if you wind up not getting that job, if you impress them enough you’ll surely be on their radar for the future. Maybe the person they hire doesn’t work out, or maybe there’s another job opening they have that they think you’ll fit.

Be as ready as you can be, and make them want you.


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Open new career opportunities with our professional resume writing services.

We all know that making a good first impression is important, especially when it comes to applying for a job.

That’s why you should spend a lot of time and effort making your resume as good as possible, because that’s the first impression a hiring manager will have of you, right? Well, actually, it’s your cover letters that makes the introduction.

It’s important to remember that you’re not advertising yourself to the world. Instead, you’re trying to impress the specific hiring manager for each job application. With that in mind, there are two core principles to adhere to: make it easy to read, but make it attention grabbing.

It sounds contradictory, but it essentially boils down to knowing where in your cover letter you can customize it and where you should keep it simple. This article will help walk you through how you can write effective cover letters by focusing on format, design, and content.

Cover Letter Format and Content

The format of your cover letter establishes its structure.

When it comes to impressing the hiring manager, having a neatly organized cover letter can help you stand out in their eyes as much as what you actually write in it. It speaks to your attention to detail and your professionalism. It also helps make it easy to read, which makes their job easier – and showing them that you can make their job easier goes a long way to impressing them.

Readability is more important when it comes to the format of your cover letter than standing out, which is why we advise that you keep your cover letter short, simple and concise.

First, the header on your cover letter should match what you use on your resume so that both are formatted with the same structure. The same holds true for whatever font and paper style you use. As far as content, however, avoid repeating any of the same information from your resume verbatim.

Second, you should make sure your cover letter is as concise and easy to read as possible. In total, the word count should be in the 250 to 350 word range, and each paragraph should be no longer than four sentences.

This can be difficult at times, as you’ll really need to keep your points short while still hitting all the important information. One tip to help keep it concise is to use a bulleted list – when you list previous achievements or relevant skills, for example, put them into a list with 3 to 5 bullet points.

Here are the various sections you will need to fill in your cover letter:

The header

Ensure the header of your cover letter matches the one from your resume. Follow the header with the date you are submitting your cover letter, and also include the job posting reference number or title. Avoid starting your cover letter with a signature block with the company’s address; this is an outdated practice because we no longer physically mail cover letters to hiring managers.

Addressing the reader

The best method to use is to address it to the hiring manager by name, as you’ll already be showing your dedication and resourcefulness. However, finding out for certain who that is for the job opening in question can be difficult. Here are some tips and tricks you can use to get that name:

Now, assuming you found out what name to use, there are a couple of different ways to address them in your cover letter. Most of the time it’s best to be respectful and address them as Mr. or Ms. However, if the name you found doesn’t have a clear gender and you don’t know for sure (e.g., Alex or Terry), you’ll be better served using their full name.

Unfortunately there will be times when, for whatever reason, you can’t find or use the hiring manager’s name. There are a number of options to use when addressing your cover letter to someone you don’t know. The general consensus is that most hiring managers prefer “Dear Hiring Manager”, followed by “To whom it may concern” and “Dear Sir or Madam”.

Introductory paragraph

The most important part of this section is the opening line, which is where you need to make the best impression to grab the interest of the hiring manager. We recommend that you open up with an anecdote about a highlight in your career that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you can, try and use an anecdote that illustrates the value you can bring to the job and the company.

Examples: 

During my first job as an IT manager I spearheaded the development of [Software ABC] that increased the efficiency of our online production by X% within 8 months. I am very interested in bringing the same knowledge and expertise to the integration of your company’s new [Software Information system] that your job listing says will be the focus for your job opening.

After the opening line, your introductory paragraph should mention the specific job you’re applying for and how you heard about the opening. Did you hear about it from a friend, family member, or someone in your network, or did you find it on a job board or an advertisement?

If you heard about it from someone in your network that also works for the same company, that’s definitely something you should play up. Finish off the paragraph by stating why you’re interested in the job and the company, unless you managed to already do so in your opening anecdote.

Example:

I’ve been an avid user of your software since I tried to teach myself how to program as a teenager, so I was ecstatic to see on Indeed.com that you have an opening as a software developer.

I am acquainted with Jane Smith, a financial analyst on your staff, and she has urged me to contact you. She has told me of the exciting new project you are developing, and I would love the opportunity to help you reach and outperform your goals.

Second paragraph

Doing some research on the job opening and the company will serve you well for this section, so take advantage of anyone in your network – or even with the company itself – to give you vital inside information.

Here you can give a more direct list of your skills and accomplishments, preferably in bullet form to maintain readability. What you include in this list should be what you think is most likely to make you appealing to the hiring manager. You can draw from your resume a bit here, but again be sure you only borrow and introduce, not outright copy.

Closing paragraph

In the final paragraph you should reinforce a couple of key points, and then establish your initiative. To start this paragraph, state the skills you have that most qualify you for the job, and establish your ‘call to action’. The latter is where you establish your confidence and initiative, and how you do so depends on your level of confidence.

The safe option is to let them know the methods they can use to contact you that you prefer, such as through LinkedIn, email, or a phone call.

If you’re feeling more self-assured, you can say that you will make a follow-up phone call or email to set up a job interview by a certain point in time – as long as the job ad does not explicitly tell you not to contact them directly in such a manner. If you do decide to be more assertive, be absolutely sure you do call them within the time frame you gave.

Examples:

My experience and expertise in computer and information systems, specifically with business intelligence and data warehouse systems, aligns well with this job opportunity. I look forward to you contacting me directly to set up an interview through a phone call or email – whichever is most convenient for you.

My skills as a medical technologist with specialized diagnostic procedures and specimen analysis should be very suitable for your company’s [name of position mentioned in job ad] role. I will make a follow-up phone call with you in the next two weeks to set up an interview.

Finally we come to the closing line, where you should seek to end as strongly as you began.

While the general purpose of your closing statement should be to reaffirm your interest in the job and the company, it should be as open, personable and sincere as you can make it. Here, along with your opening statement, is where you can really add a personal touch that can help you stand out in the eyes of the hiring manager.

Examples:

I love working as a Pharmacy Technician, and after researching your company and the job opening, I have become very excited by the opportunity to work for you.

I have heard nothing but great things about your company and its culture, and I would be honored to join your firm as a chemical engineer.

Cover Letter Design

Your cover letter layout and design involves things like font, spacing, and paper. The absolute principle involved with good cover letter designs is readability, so every decision you make should be with that in mind.

You don’t want the hiring manager viewing your cover letter to be annoyed because the font is too small or the paper is too glossy. If anything makes the cover letter even slightly difficult to read, you’ve likely lost their interest. Here are the different areas of design you’ll have to consider:

Font

Font types can be broken up into two categories: serif, and sans serif. Serif fonts like Times New Roman are easier to read on a printed page, whereas sans serif fonts like Arial are easier to read on screens.

However, bear in mind that a hiring manager might print yours off before reading it, so the safe option in general is a serif font. For size, stay within the 10 to 12 point range. Don’t even try and play around with colours – stick with black. Whatever style you choose for your cover letter, make sure to use the same on your resume for consistency.

As for font styling, be wary of adding any bold, underlining or italics for added weight. You might be able to get away with using them once or twice, and on no more than three words in a row, to draw notice to something you want to emphasize. Anything more than that looks messy and unprofessional.

Spacing

For spacing, each section should be single-spaced with a double-space between separate sections. Depending on how much actual text you have on your cover letter you might be able to get away with more than double-spacing between sections. Again, it’s all about balancing the white space on the page with the text so it’s easier to read.

Paper

Just like with selecting your font, you might be tempted to use a more decorative and stylish paper to stand out.

However, remember the issue of readability – some paper might not hold the ink as well as simpler kinds, especially very glossy or coarse textured paper. For paper colour stick with white or off-white, because you’ll just be playing with fire if you use anything else.

Finishing Touches

All that’s left to do is to proofread, proofread, proofread.

Try focusing on one element each time you read through the whole thing: first, check the spelling; second, check the punctuation; third, check the layout and white space; last, check the grammar and syntax by reading everything out loud to yourself.

If you find yourself stumbling over any part of it, chances are you need to edit it until it reads smoothly.

This might all seem like a lot of work, but it will do wonders to your chances of getting to the interview phase of the application process. The more you write cover letters, the more you’ll be able to fine tune the process to suit your style and really stand out to hiring managers. Good luck and happy job hunting!


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Having a good resume is more important now than ever before. Companies often receive hundreds of applications for one job opening, so they use special software to screen each resume to reduce the pile to a more manageable level.

This has two very important implications for job seekers: first, you have to write your resume in a way that will pass through their software successfully.

second, hiring managers will still have to read through a lot of resumes, so you need to write it in a way that stands out. Overall, this means you have to make a resume that delicately balances appealing to computer software and also to the human hiring manager.

Sounds like a difficult task, no? Well, we didn’t start a professional resume writing service because it’s easy. Here’s our general guideline on how to write a good resume that has proven to be effective.

Resume Format

There are two main types of resume formats: chronological and functional.

The former focuses on your work experience, and is most useful if you’re already established in a given industry. The latter on your relevant professional skills, and is thought to be more useful for those who are inexperienced or changing careers.

However, experience has shown us that writing a functional resume is a mistake. If you’re inexperienced, we recommend focusing on your education and training in a chronological format rather than listing your skills.

Regardless of whether you’ll be focusing your resume on your work experience or your education and training, there is a simple structure for resumes that you can follow. Here are the various sections that are usually included in a resume.

Resume header

This section includes basic contact information: your name, address, phone number, and email address.

If you have a personal website or LinkedIn profile, you can include their URLs. However, don’t use the ‘header’ function on Microsoft Word or other word processors, because the screening programs that companies use often fail to recognize them.

So despite the fact that the header function might give it a nice looking design, you risk having the software put your resume in the discard pile.

Resume summary statement

Most resumes have some kind of introductory block of text that comes below the header. In the past, this was commonly in the form of an objective statement, which would involve what your objective is as a job seeker – more simply, what kind of job you’re looking for and what you want out of it.

However, we advise that you shelve objective statements and use a value statement instead.

So rather than saying what you want out of the job, you should make a quick, overall account of your main strengths as an employee: what profession in the industry you’re focused on, how much experience you have in that field, a basic rundown of your education, and one or two significant achievements to catch the hiring manager’s attention.

Resume skills

This section can also be called “Major Strengths” or “Areas of Expertise”.

This is a list of the skills you have that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you want to know what skills you should really emphasize, take a close look at the job listing to see if they mention any specifically. Structure the list with bullets so it’s easier to read for the hiring manager.

Resume work experience

This is where your ‘career history’ or ‘professional experience’ should be listed in chronological order, starting with the most recent example. For each entry, give your job title, the start and end date, a quick summary of what your tasks were, and a quick list of your most significant achievements.

Resume education section

We advise that if you have experience within your industry, you should confine your education section to listing professional development courses and general formal education information at the bottom of your resume.

There is no need to give a detailed account of your activities while at a university or college, as the professional experience you have will be far more impressive to the hiring manager. All you need to do is mention from what school you graduated and what degree, diploma or certificate you obtained.

However, if you find yourself in the position where you have little to no experience to speak of, we suggest that you flip it around so your education is ahead of your experience.

In this scenario, you should also give a much more detailed account of your coursework, major projects, internships, extra-curricular activities, and so on. However, it’s important to limit what you include to what is relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Resume references

Like objective statements, this is a section that in times past was very common to include on resumes. Now, however, the vast majority won’t include “references available upon request” on their resume.

This is because references are no longer considered to be an optional afterthought by employers – it is expected of you to bring a separate page with a list of your references and their contact information. It would therefore be both redundant and a waste of space to include them on your resume.

In short, you should not have a references section on your resume – at all.

Resume Keywords

Having your resume properly structured is one good way to successfully pass through the screening software. The other method is to filter important keywords throughout your resume.

In fact, even after your resume is passed through the screening software, there’s a good chance the hiring manager will also only be scanning through for certain keywords.

When coming up with a list of keywords to include on your resume, the first place to look is the job listing. You should be able to see a few skills, terms and phrases that are given some kind of emphasis – you might even see a couple mentioned more than once.

Next, you can look up the company online. Try finding the LinkedIn profiles of people with similar jobs to yours that the company already employs, or check the company’s main website.

Once you have a list of keywords drafted up, it’s important to integrate the keywords into your resume properly.  The easiest place to do this is under your skills/areas of expertise section.

However, if you mention the keyword in that section you should also try to bring it up under your career history somewhere. Outside of the skills section, you should use the keyword in a cause-effect manner: describe how you made use of a given skill in a practical setting with [keyword], followed by the tangible results that benefited your employer.

Resume Verbs

You want to impress the hiring manager with your confidence, and you also want to keep your resume concise. As a result you want to keep your sentences shorter by avoiding weak verbs, and instead make sure that your main verbs are strong ones.

A ‘weak’ sentence or phrases uses passive verbs where a ‘strong’ one uses active verbs.

So when you write out your sentences, keep the following in mind: find the main verb, put it as close to the start of the sentence as possible, and make sure it’s in the active voice. An additional, more general note, is to never use any first person pronouns in your resume, such as “I” or “we” – your resume is a formal document, and should list facts of your suitability for the job rather than recount a story of your life.

Resume Design

When picking a design for your resume, the core principle to keep in mind is readability – you want the hiring manager to be able to find, read, and digest the information on your resume as easily as possible. Here’s a list of certain design elements to keep in mind:

Resume font

For your font, keep the size between 10 and 12 point. For the font type, use a simple and easy to read serif font for printed resumes and sans serif font for online submissions. Also be sure to keep the font size in your resume consistent.

All content in the resume should be the same font size, with all titles a slightly larger font size. Using more than two font sizes in your resume can look disorganized and sloppy.

Resume color

We’ve written a pretty extensive guide on using color in your resume – whether to use it at all, in what situations to use them, how to use it if you decide to do so.

Most hiring managers and recruiters won’t automatically discard a resume if it uses color in some way, though a good portion of those say that it depends on the industry.

For more creative industries, like graphic design for instance, showing off your overall design abilities and use of color might actually be expected.

However, even then you should avoid using too much color, or colors that are too bright. If you make the information on the resume too difficult to read, you’ve gone too far.

Instead, make use of light, soft colors and use them sparingly – they should highlight some sections or bits of information to break them up and make them easier to read.

For example, a soft yellow-brown color can be used used in the heading boxes. The tone is light enough that it doesn’t make it at all difficult to read the text within, but is strong enough that the eye easily spots them when scanning through the whole resume to break up each section.

Conclusion

However you wind up writing your resume, it’s important to keep in mind that you essentially have to make it appeal to two very different types of figures: the company’s automated scanner, and the hiring manager.

To the former, you have to make sure your resume has a proper structure and an appropriate amount of keywords filtered throughout. To the latter, you have to convince them that you have the skill and attitude that will suit the position they’re looking to fill and the culture of the company at large.

This is why things like formatting, structure, vocabulary, and design are crucial to writing an effective resume.

We hope our advice here has given you the help and inspiration you need to get that job. Good luck!


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