It’s just months before your graduation from university and you’ve been cruising Reed and Indeed to find that most elusive of prospects: jobs that you’re qualified for based on your course of study and that your at least mildly interested in.
Jobs where the pay is nice and the working conditions aren’t too bad. Jobs that hold the promise of advancement and jobs that could turn out to be your life’s work – instead of mind-numbing, soul-crushing, dead-end affairs.
You may have even set up job alerts so that, when a position opens up that falls within the parameters you’ve set, you will receive an email with a position description.
What will you do when you find that unicorn of the job market – the job that demands you apply for it?
Naturally, you would send in your curriculum vitae so that you can be considered for hire. Don’t forget to attach a cover letter, too!
Oh, wait: here’s another job that Indeed says fits your parameters. And another! Will you send them all the same cover letter and resume?
That is the question your Superprof tackles today.
Why You Need to Adapt Your Documents
Some job seekers believe that the more resumes they send out, the more likely they are to score an interview. Especially digital versions – it costs virtually no effort and very little time to send 100 copies of your resume once you’ve written it.
Often, new entrants to the job market, university graduates just like you believe that is the best way to go about managing job applications; surely, having a university degree is worth something, isn’t it?
That’s true, but only to a point.
University students trying to break into the job market are faced with the eternal conundrum: virtually every job advert demands experience but, soon to be out of school, where would you have had time to gain any?
Your confusion is understandable and, seen broadly, spot on.
Consider this: your university experience and life experiences in general represent so much more than the narrow degree path that you’ve been treading for the past few years.
You might have participated in student groups or belonged to a student union or two. Perhaps you played sports – activities that attest to your physical and mental endurance.
Perhaps you’ve volunteered time and/or skill with a charity or engaged in extracurricular activities. Even these facets of your life can come to bear on the contents of your CV and cover letter.
Now, let’s look at things from a different perspective; that of the hiring manager.
As they skim over your application documents, will they see a barely-repressed individual whose hunger for life’s experiences has led them to dabble in many different concerns?
Or is that document written by a person whose spirit is so contained that only academic subjects shine through?
You must be far more than the sum of your educational experience; nobody will ever know unless you find a way to communicate the whole of your intellect and passion on three A4 sheets of paper.
Do you need some tips for writing an outstanding resume?
Many job search websites offer resume and cover letter templates; downloading one so you can see how to format your documents is not a bad idea.
Have you ever noticed? Those templates are chock-full of experiences, the likes of which you cannot hope to have this early in your working life. So, in a sense, they are misleading; in fact, they may not work for you at all.
Templates tend to expect you to conform to their parameters.
In all of our searching, even on student CV template websites, we’ve yet to uncover a resume template that doesn’t include a generous space allocation for work experience – experience that you may or may not have.
While these templates can be useful to an extent, it would probably be far more helpful for you to visit your campus career adviser to get help with formatting your CV and cover letter.
Also, cash in on these tips to write your most effective cover letter.
A Word on Uploading Your CV
Many of the resume and job search websites we looked at function hand-in-hand: you may use their CV template (also called Resume Maker) for free, after which your document is uploaded to their system for prospective employers to call up and review at will.
In theory, it is a good idea. In practice, it should sound alarm bells – for one, because your data is floating around in cyberspace, including your contact information.
If you worry about protecting your data (and you should!), uploading your CV runs counter to protecting yourself online.
The more important reason you shouldn’t upload your documents is that they will remain static; meaning they will not adapt to every job you’re applying for unless you edit it manually.
That means that, if your profile is set to public (because you want employers to see that you are looking for work), your approach is no more evolved than the job seeker mentioned above who sent out 100 resumes in the hopes that one will stick.
As millions of job seekers have experienced, that strategy just doesn’t work.
One effective strategy for landing an interview is writing thank-you notes! Why not see how you too could benefit from implementing it…
Adapting Your CV
Right now, while you are presumably still in school, you should create a ‘skeleton’ CV: write your header and your educational background, list your extracurricular activities and any awards you might have won.
Don’t forget to list your interests, hobbies and any skills you might have the would be relevant in the workplace. That's part and parcel of writing a good CV, after all!
A typical CV is two A4 pages; don’t worry if you have a lot of space leftover after compiling the qualities you’ve amassed so far.
When it comes time for you to start applying for specific jobs, adapting your CV to suit the position advertised starts with reading the advert carefully.
Most adverts will list the job’s requirements and skills required to do the job well. Compare what the advert calls for against what you have to offer; are you a potential candidate?
Bear in mind that you won’t meet every listed qualification, especially not this early in your working life.
However, there is a good chance that you have more than a few of them and you can make them stand out by deleting your skeleton’s listed qualifications that aren’t mentioned in the advert.
If it so happens that you are missing quite a few of those skills, you might list similar experiences or any transferable skills you have that would apply.
And, as a way of expanding your CV while putting your best foot forward, do consider adding some of those qualities to your CV profile; it is the first thing a prospective employer will read.
Look here to find more tips on finding your first job…
Adapting Your Cover Letter
Resumes and cover letters go hand-in-hand so, if you adjust one, you must adjust the other.
A cover letter serves to introduce yourself; your potential employer wants a bit of elaboration of the data you’ve listed in your CV.
In the first paragraph, you should list the job title you’re applying for and where you found the advert – an online jobs board, your university’s recruitment events or in a newspaper.
Your second paragraph should get to the meat of the matter: why you are qualified for this position and how your skills relate to the job posting.
Ideally, you should raise these points in bulleted statements, sort of like preparing for a phone interview:
- As a member of our school’s debate team, I used critical thinking skills to successfully debate a wide range of issues, from sustainable farming to immigrant rights.
- As I progressed through school, I made myself available to underclassmen throughout their first year on campus.
- I was team captain for our Junior football club.
- In spite of my academic workload, I nevertheless made ample use of hand tools and power tools during my assays into community volunteering during summer break.
You might not think that your accomplishments amount to much but, as you can see, they can certainly be parlayed into relevant skills you could use on any job.
The above list is a fine example if you’re applying for a job that calls for leadership skills but what if you’re applying for one that doesn’t – maybe a sales job?
In that case, your debate team experience serves to highlight your communication skills and helping underclassmen shows what a great team player you are. Do you get the idea now?
With a bit of practice, adapting your CV and cover letter for each position you apply for is really not difficult and, once you get the hang of it, you too will wonder why anyone would send out the same resume, over and over.
Of course, don’t forget to proofread after every update!
Now discover how you can prepare for your phone interview…