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10 Minutes of Tips for Application Success

By Michelle Metzger, Staffing Assistant

If you are truly serious about your job search and the positions you are applying for, you will be willing to put in an extra 5-10 minutes per resume submission to tailor your application materials to each specific posting.  There are effective ways you can gear your resume toward each posting.  This includes using similar language as the posting, formatting your resume to highlight met requirements, emphasizing in bullet points your skills that are most applicable, following directions, and preparing a customized cover letter.

Similar Language

Use the same wording that is in the job description in your resume. If you have a skills section, be sure to include the required skills listed (but only if you really do have them).


  • Format your resume according to what is important for the job.
  • Is an education/license requirement prominent to the position? List those sections high on your resume.
  • Is it your experience that really makes you a good fit? List it first.


  • Refine your bullet points.
  • It’s probably easy to come up with a list of 15 bullet points for each position listed on your resume to give a complete picture of your duties; however, a recruiter/hiring manager does not want to spend all the time it would take to read all 15 bullets for each position.
  • Leave off the very obvious bullet points and inconsequential ones that have no relation for what you’re applying to.
  • Focus on, and move to the top of the list, the points that are directly related to the position and its duties.

Proofread and Edit

  • Nothing says sloppy and careless like a resume and cover letter accented with typos and errors.  It is worth the extra time to refine your documents.

Follow Instructions

  • You may have the nicest resume around, but if you can’t follow a job advertisement’s explicit application instructions, you will raise serious questions in the employer’s mind.
  • Specific directions could be to submit your resume in a Word document (Adobe is not acceptable in this case).
  • The posting may be on CareerLink, but if the recruiter requests that you send your resume directly to a specified email address, it is in your best interest to do so.
  • Other instructions could be to include a salary requirement range, to include a cover letter, or to provide your references at the time of application.  To do otherwise could create marks against you or cause your resume to be instantly thrown out for consideration.

Prepare a Cover Letter

  • A well prepared cover letter can be an excellent marketing tool for you.  Use your cover letter to address things that may not seem apparent on your resume. Are you worried the reader might overlook something specifically related to the job because it lacks prominence on your resume? Mention it again along with other critical points that are not thoroughly covered (i.e. the position requires QuickBooks experience and you have actually used it in all of your recent positions).
  • Do not recap your resume. Do not use your cover letter to list your previous job titles and dates. This just creates a throw away letter and is a waste of the recruiter/hiring manager’s time.
  • Use your cover letter as an opportunity to address any perceived deficiencies a recruiter/ hiring manager may believe you have as a candidate or to address questions that the recruiter/hiring manager might have.   In addition to demonstrating self-awareness, using the cover letter this way gives you an opportunity to tell the recruiter/hiring manager why they should not initially rule you out as a candidate.
      • Perhaps you don’t have experience with a particular computer program, but you have a track record of picking up new programs with ease, or you have experience using a very similar program.
      •  You only have 3 of the 5 years of clerical experience requested; enhance their perception of you with praise given to you by your supervisors about your outstanding performance and proficiency with administrative tasks – or even include related, non-paid experience.
      • Up until this point you have been a middle school teacher but now you want to be a legal assistant. Explain why and be sure to emphasize your transferrable skills.
  • Make the letter company-centric. Do not focus on how the position will make you happy, instead discuss what you bring to the table and what you can contribute to the company.
      • For example, instead of saying: “This position would lead me to feel extremely fulfilled with my professional life because I enjoy working with animals. It warms my heart when animals find new homes. I am fine with adhering to any rules and regulations of your shelter.”
      • Try saying something like: “My passion and drive for improving the lives of homeless animals along with my refined administrative skills will directly impact your animal shelter by helping it become more organized and efficient. I will further be an asset when it comes to interacting with your clients as they will recognize my commitment to the animals they are looking to adopt. My track record of following legal compliances will help ensure that I will keep your shelter in line with industry regulations as well.”

In Conclusion

These tips may sound time consuming, but with some forethought and a copy of the job posting on hand, this should only add about 5-10 minutes per application.  Additionally, the more practice you have, the easier it becomes to tailor the cover letter and resume.  As with most things in life, you often get out what you put in. When considering these tips, you will understand why submitting a one-size-fits-all resume and cover letter may not get you where you want to go.  Taking these extra steps could very well land you an interview.


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