Changing Jobs Resumes & Cover Letters

Top 10 Hacks That Will Super Charge Your Resume

Written by Miranda Pennington

GoGirl Finance’s Elana Konstant has some vital tips for your resume in the era of online applications. True, the first set of eyes on your resume will probably be a digital reader looking for industry buzzwords, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t crucial steps of preparing your resume. Pay close attention, and get ready to improve your hiring odds.  Here are some of the best resume tips in 2016 that’ll help land your next job interview.

1. Know your target

Get really friendly with “save as” while updating your resume. With every job you apply for, parse the job posting closely to find out what responsibilities and experiences they’re seeking in an ideal candidate. Highlight the most relevant features wherever you can, and craft a specifically tailored version of your resume to submit. Make sure you set up a naming system for your files so you don’t get them confused (I suggested [Your Last Name] _ [Company Name] _ [Date].doc).

2. Prioritize your achievements

When summarizing each job description, put the most relevant achievements first and list the rest in descending order of relevance. Consider having a brief summary section at the top of your resume to grab the reader right away. Once you’ve acquired a significant employment history, you can also move your education to the end of your resume instead of leading with it.

3. Deliver your value in your cover letter

Your cover letter should always seek to answer the questions “Why this company?” “Why you?” and “Why right now?”, overtly or subtly. In Konstant’s words, “be forceful in selling your experience, skills, and drive. Always put yourself in the perspective of the employer and be sure your resume responds to the listed job requirements.”

4. Use industry key terms

Using precise industry terms shows that you’re knowledgable about the position, the company, and the field as a whole. Harvest keywords from the job description, industry research and sites like LinkedIn or Glassdoor, ask prospective colleagues for informational interviews over coffee, and use the words as early in your materials as possible.

5. Be specific about what you achieved in your previous jobs

When describing your previous employment history, be as particular as you can about defining the scale and scope of your responsibilities. Did you secure impressive grant amounts? Publish an imposing number of papers? Can you point to individual successes that can be quantified and measured?

6. Gain more experience

You may be seeking jobs you aren’t yet experienced enough to earn–figure out what outside certifications or internship experiences you can pursue to boost your bona fides. Consulting can offer hands-on experience without even requiring you to leave your current job, if you have one. Don’t wait to be hired to become proficient in your field.

7. Name drop

A writer friend of mine precedes every pitch to a magazine or online journal by asking her Facebook network, “Who do I know at X?” Most of the time it yields her an editorial contact or a tip for how to frame her proposal, which makes bypassing gatekeepers that much easier. Whenever possible, find out the name of the hiring person (something as simple as calling the switchboard can get it done!) and direct your cover letter to them specifically. If you were referred by a colleague, mention them in your first sentence.

8. Maximize real estate

Find the sweet spot between an overloaded, cluttered page and a bare listing of your accomplishments. For each piece of experience, have a topic sentence with action verbs, and a list of specific responsibilities and accomplishments. Aim for a one page document unless they’ve asked for a CV.

9. Be consistent

This is a chance to show off your attention to detail–make sure you’re formatting places, dates, and company names the same way, every time. Even an errant space can make your layout look sloppy. Use a fresh, but non-novelty, font, bold your job titles, and fixate on commas and periods until you’ve achieved a uniform, polished look.

10. Proofread

Get an extra set of eyes on your materials. Inaccuracies are bad, but typos and careless errors can be even worse. Miscommunications can be explained but, not having taken the time to eradicate errors can be a fatal mistake.

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.