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Resumes and Cover Letters: 7 Tips for Building Strong Resumes and Cover Letters

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By: ginasilvertree

December 31, 2018

Writing strong resumes and cover letters may not be as hard as you think. With a plethora of free templates and tools out in the world, there’s no need to start from ground zero. Choose simple templates (see more on keeping things simple below) from a trusted site and start working on your resume and cover letters today. And follow these seven tips to add strength and finesse to your documents.Let’s get started!

#7 – Make Your Contact Information Easy to Find

When companies decide whom they’ll interview, and your resume and cover letter are picked from the pile of candidates, your contact information should be obvious. Your phone number should be prominently displayed, as should your email address and any other contact info you choose to include (Note: Be careful not to include too much contact information. Use only one phone number and email address. Leave off your street address to protect your safety and privacy; it’s okay to include your city/town, state/county, and postal code.). Make it easy for prospective employers to find your contact data, so they are not tempted to move on to another candidate.

#6 – Include Unpaid Work

Even if you didn’t receive payment for work in your past – including volunteer positions or internships – they still have a place on your resume/cover letter. If those experiences helped contribute to your qualifications for positions, you should absolutely include them on your resume/cover letters. Remember, the goal is simple: to paint a complete, relevant picture of your qualifications and encourage the hiring manager to contact you (using your easy-to-find contact information 😊).

#5 – Avoid Clichés and Hackneyed Phrases

Whenever possible, avoid clichés and hackneyed phrase that have been worn out through overuse. Terms such as “team player,” “excellent communicator” (show your reader that you’re an excellent communicator through your strong writing used in your resumes and cover letters), and “people person” don’t add to the quality of your resume or cover letters. They may even elicit a few eye rolls from hiring managers who are in charge of selecting candidates who are invited for interviews.Here's a list of 13 overused resume and cover letter phrases (used in the US) to avoid:13: “Resolved customer difficulties quickly and tactfully”12: “Managed cross-functional teams."11: “Expert presenter, negotiator, and businessperson."10: “Spoke with existing customers on a daily basis."9: “Partner with others."8: “Served as company spokesperson."7: “Team player."6: “Go-to person."5: “Exceeded all productivity goals for the department."4: “Possess leadership, communication, motivational and inspirational skills."3: “Track record of success."2: “Introduced new products."1: “Strong communication, customer service, and organizational skills."

#4 – Reframe the Negatives

If you’ve had a negative experience or a gap in employment, find constructive ways to reframe them on your resume and cover letters. Present a clear explanation for the issue, and work to minimize them in your documents. If recruiters or hiring managers ask to address the issues, request to do so in an interview or meeting where you’ll have a chance to explain your side of the story face to face.

#3 – Focus on Accomplishments/Outcomes

Approach your resume and cover letters from the perspective of the hiring manager: if you were hiring someone for this position, what would you be looking for? Most likely, you'd be interested in understanding what the applicants had accomplished in their work. If you’ve earned any awards on the job or during your education, or you met certain sales or performance goals, highlight them in your resume and cover letters. To stand out from the crowd, hone in on the outcomes you helped bring about, rather than simply listing job titles and tasks.

#2 – Work with a Career Mentor

There is an art to writing an effective resume. If you aren’t confident in your own abilities to handle the task, work with a career mentor. Someone who works with job seekers for a living is can assist you in presenting your qualifications in a professional, organized fashion. They can also help you eliminate typos or grammatical errors that sometimes sneak into your resume and cover letters.If you’re part of the Cybrary Insider Pro program, you have access to the Cybrary Career Mentor (that’s me) at no extra charge (such a deal!). If you're not part of the program, what are you waiting for?

#1 – Keep It Simple

It may be tempting to pick out one of the fancy formats that Microsoft Word in offers to create eye-catching resumes and cover letters. However, this is often a mistake. Rather than trying to “wow” the hiring manager with fancy design, let your qualifications, education, and experience do the talking. Choose a design that is clean and minimal, which allows you to highlight all that you bring to an organization.We won’t lie: writing strong resumes and cover letters can be a bit daunting (and a little boring), but they are a means to an end. They help communicate who you are; a little extra time spent on creating a good resume and stand-out cover letters could make the difference in getting asked in for an interview or not.As always, use your time and talent in every endeavor – including resume and cover letter writing - to create peace in the world.
Additional Resources on Cybrary:How to Showcase your Skills in an Online PortfolioHow to Showcase Certifications on Your Resume and 3 Reasons Why You ShouldHere’s How to Get Hired: 7 Resume Must Do’s for the IT ProfessionalSources:7 Tips for Building a Better Resume13 most overused resume phrases
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