Resumé and cover letter writing tips to land a job

Resumé and cover letter writing tips to land a job

Your resumé and cover letter are a big part of the job-hunting journey. Preparing these documents and templates ahead of time means you can have them ready to go when you need them, making the job application process quicker and less stressful. 

Key points 

  • Pay attention to keywords used in the job advertisement and the ‘essential’ requirements 

  • Keep information brief and related to the job you're applying for. Layouts and font should be simple and easy to read 

  • Having someone you trust look over your documents can help you spot any mistakes, make sure everything makes sense, and is up to date

Person with disability learning on the job.
It’s best to include the most relevant information first as it means that the person looking over your resumé will see it first. [Source: iStock]

In this article you’ll find some tips for putting together an impressive resumé and cover letter to help you stand out and get hired.

Understanding job requirements

Most job advertisements will include some requirements you need to respond to. These are often called ‘selection criteria’, ‘prerequisites’ or ‘general requirements’ in the job description. These requirements are the qualifications, knowledge, skills, abilities or experience you will need to be able to do the job.

For example, you may be asked if you have a particular qualification, experience using certain computer software or systems, or if you have a licence for a certain kind of vehicle. 

In many job listings, the selection criteria are provided in what’s called a 'position description' and are broken down into 'essential' and 'desirable' categories. You must have the essential qualities to be considered for the job. You have an even better chance if you also have any of the desirable qualities, but these are not critical to getting the job. 

Even if you think you don’t have some of the desirable qualities, you should still go ahead and apply.

What is a resumé?

A resumé (sometimes called a CV) is a document that lists your work experience, education, skills, personal strengths and achievements.

You’ll need a resume for almost any job application. It’s considered essential information to give to an employer so they can weigh up whether you’re suitable for a role, and plays a big part in helping you land an interview.

Read our top interview preparation tips.

What is a cover letter and why do I need one?

A cover letter is a document that acts as an introduction to your resumé. The main role of a cover letter is to introduce yourself to the employer, encourage them to read your resumé, and explain why you would be an ideal candidate.

A cover letter is typically 3-4 paragraphs long, and should include information such as why you are applying for the position, a short overview of your professional experience, and what makes you a good match for the job. 

Things to remember when writing a cover letter:

  • Instead of starting your letter with  ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear sir/madam’, address it to a specific person. The hiring manager’s name is often listed on the job ad, but if you don't know who to address it to, call the business and find out who handles their recruitment

  • Always tailor your cover letter to each employer. Sending out a generic letter to multiple employers can give the impression that you aren't serious about the job 

  • At the end of the letter, thank the employer for taking the time to review your application

  • Save your letter as you may want to use a similar template or adapt the information for a future job

  • Remember that it’s okay to phone the employer to ask for more information about what they are looking for in the selection criteria, length of response, formatting and so on

Tips for putting together your job application

Look for keywords

 A job posting will normally have keywords included in it. Look at the posting and identify what those keywords and skills are. By identifying these keywords and skills, you can address them in both your cover letter and your resumé.

For example, if a job posting is looking for someone who is “highly motivated” you can then, in your cover letter or resumé, include something like “I am a highly motivated individual who…”.

Sometimes organisations use certain software to help them sort through applications. By including keywords, the software will match your application to what the company is looking for to help you pass through the automated checking process.

Keep your layout simple 

Avoid using complicated layouts that may be cluttered or hard to read. It is better to keep your layout and font simple so that your resumé is easy to understand and read. 

This means that the person looking over your resumé can find the information they need quickly. 

If you’re not sure how to layout your resumé, there are plenty of templates available online - a simple Google search will bring up a lot of options. 

Keep information brief

You can include your duties and responsibilities or relevant education experience but keep it simple. 

A cover letter should generally be between one and two pages long.

You don’t normally need to include entire paragraphs for every position, but if you want to include your duties or anything important, keep it brief or use dot points. 

Using statistics and numbers to back up your experience and results is a great way to show recruiters and hiring managers the impact you made in a previous work place or role. 

For example, “I managed stationary orders for our local offices” could become “I managed up to 20 stationary orders for all seven of our local offices every month.”

Include only the most relevant information and experience

When putting together a resumé, it’s a good idea to make sure the information and experience that you put into your resumé, or cover letter, is related to the job you are applying for.

For example, if you are applying for a job in 2020, you may not need to include the job that you held ten years ago in high school unless it is important or relevant to the job that you are applying for now. 

It’s also best to include the most relevant information first as it means that the person looking over your resumé will see it first.

You should also draw attention to any important achievements. If you have received recognition or awards for your work, then make sure to include them.

Don’t forget to include relevant work experience, volunteer work or extracurricular activities. This is a great way to add personality to your application and showcase your transferable skills.  Even if your work or volunteer experience was through an Australian Disability Enterprise or a Disability Employment Service, it still counts and should be included. 

Include your contact information

Make sure your resumé includes your contact information so that they can contact you if they need more information or if they want to offer you an interview. Make sure any contact information included is professional, that means making sure your email address is appropriate. 

What not to include on your resumé

Your resume is meant to give a summary of your skills and experience – so there’s no need to include every detail of your professional and personal life. 

Some information isn’t necessary in a resume, such as:

  • Personal details like your home address, religion, age or marital status, or passport details

  • A photo of yourself

  • Salary expectations or previous salaries you’ve received 

Update your resumé regularly

Remember to update your resumé once you finish in a role or as you learn new skills in your current job. This will save you time in the long run and you are less likely to forget what responsibilities you had. 

Have someone you trust look over your documents

You should have someone you trust help you look over your resumé  and cover letter before you send your application. 

This could be a family member, friend, support worker, or employment consultant.

This way, they can help you spot any mistakes and make sure everything makes sense and is up to date. 

Do you have any other tips for putting together a resume and cover letter? Tell us in the comment section below.

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