The candidate who gets an interview says: “My resume & cover letter shows explicitly why & how I’m the perfect fit for the position.”
You have to explicitly state in your job search documents why and how you are a perfect fit. For example, “…the skills and experiences I just described show [name specific things from the job ad you know they are looking for]. I would apply that experience at ABC Co. in the following way [something specific].” Or “ABC Co. needs a [job title] who can do [stuff from ad]; I did this when I…[connect to your specific experience].”
Here is what I wrote to a client recently:
It helps to read your own cover letter after a few hours away from it while thinking “I’m the person at ABC Co. who has to go through all 500 of these letters. What about this one would make me place it in the top 3?” It’s not the person who just tells you all about him or herself. It’s the person who makes the connections explicit between a) his or her skills & experience and b) your company generally and the job opening specifically.
Honestly, a lot of people cannot do this–they simply can’t connect the dots between themselves and whatever it is they’re applying to so they just decide to “tell all about me” and hope someone else can connect the dots for them.
But the person looking at 500 cover letters for each position is not going to put effort into connecting the dots for 497 individuals who can’t be bothered to do it themselves.
If you, the candidate, can read between the lines and connect the dots for the employer, it is what will make you stand out from the other 497 candidates. It’s a pain, but if you don’t do it, then you’re in the big pile of 497 and not the short-list of three!
Note to faculty: You can train students to “connect the dots” for employers by asking them to connect the dots for your letters of recommendation. Ask students to put in writing the connections between a) assignments & projects they did in your course and b) whatever it is they’re applying to. Same thing applies here: if they can’t do it, why should you be able to? And why in the world would anyone on the receiving end of that letter of recommendation be able to?
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org