Fall is a great time for fresh starts; use these tips to refresh your resume and cover letter!
- Update. Add any new jobs, skills, education, certifications, and software. Delete skills, bullets points, or certifications that are out of date or no longer relevant.
- Keywords. Most resumes are now scanned for specific criteria. Include keywords from the job posting to tailor your resume to the job.
- Add a Profile or Professional Summary to the top of your resume. Address the position’s key responsibility areas and summarize your relevant skills using keywords.
- Highlight your accomplishments. Use your experience bullets to show how you’ve made a positive impact in your current and previous roles. Choose accomplishments that relate to the job requirements and use relevant keywords.
- Show versus tell. Demonstrate excellent writing ability or attention to detail by having a compelling and error-free resume. Show strong leadership ability by describing a project you led successfully. Opt for quantifiable examples of accomplishments over self-assessing your own skills.
- Be concise. Everything you include should be there for a strategic reason; focus on relevant content. Use shorter chunks of text to facilitate skimming. Aim for a maximum of 4 bullets per job. Most resumes should be 1-2 pages; academic CVs can be longer (this may vary by profession).
- Format consistently and avoid errors. Make sure font, font size, margins, bullet size and position, punctuation and other formatting are consistent throughout your resume. Proofread carefully to ensure your resume is error-free.
- Purpose. The cover letter should summarize your relevant expertise, entice the employer to want to read your resume for more details, explain something if needed (a gap in employment, moving to a new state, etc.) and convey some personality.
- Header. Use the same header format that you use on your resume to give documents a consistent, branded look.
- Length. Most cover letters should be one page with short paragraphs for easier skimming. Focus on the highlights and keep the detail in your resume.
- Tone. The tone should be professional yet conversational, genuine and engaging. Avoid overly stilted language.
- Show versus tell again. Instead of rating your own skills as excellent or claiming to be a great fit for the role, demonstrate this instead so the employer will naturally draw that conclusion.
Research resume and cover letter best practices by profession and location too, as they may vary.