Written communication is as important to many jobs as technical knowledge and leadership skills. Whatever your field is, you often have to demonstrate solid writing skills before you can persuade hiring managers that your full range of abilities will benefit their organizations.
Problematic writing in a cover letter or resume can sabotage your chances of being interviewed for a job, so we recently wrote an entire book with strategies just for these crucial job-application documents.
Many people find these documents stressful to write, and we thought we’d share some of our tips and tools with you here. It is possible to tailor resumes and cover letters both to an individual organization’s hiring needs and to your own unique professional history.
Several recruiters and career specialists told us that a resume often receives only 20 seconds of a hiring manager’s attention. Here are some tips for writing resumes that get readers’ attention in that very short time frame:
- Use active language and clear, specific, plain English
- Make sure you maintain parallel list structure as you list past experiences (e.g., by starting all a list’s items with verbs that end in -ed)
- Proofread carefully to avoid an impression of carelessness and project a reliable image instead
And here’s a process that helps a job applicant write more impressive descriptions of past experience:
- Read the job description carefully, and identify the kinds of routine problems you’ll solve if you’re hired at the organization.
- Think of a time you faced a similar problem at a previous job.
- Describe the problem, the action you took to solve it, and the beneficial result you achieved for your past employer.
- Tell that problem-action-result story as concisely as possible.
A typical resume item representing Step 4 is “[Performed task X] [in response to challenge Y], [achieving beneficial result Z].” A problem or challenge can be as simple as meeting a tight deadline or satisfying a client or manager.
Quantifiable results stand out in a resume — e.g., “Streamlined a customer support process to eliminate delays in response times, boosting the customer retention rate by 10%.”
Remember that your resume and cover letter are your most important marketing tools. Solid planning can help you showcase your analytical and communication skills.
With careful writing, your writing can become a powerful marketing tool. Write It Well’s techniques can help you turn your resumes and cover letters into a concise, effective pitch for your professional abilities.
Look for our forthcoming print book, e-book, iPad folio, and e-learning module on resumes and cover letters!