How to prepare a cover letter and resume to beat the system

Posted by: on Sep 30, 2012 | | No Comments

Degrees2Dreams How to prepare a cover letter and beat the ATS

How to prepare a cover letter: Keywords are essential.

You must thoroughly dissect everything you can find about the company and the job you seek to include the keywords that will get your resume and cover letter past both the computer and the humans that scan your resume.

Break down the job listing, scour the company mission statement, go to their “Press” page and read their releases, Google their CEO and read any speeches he or she has given.

Find and read anything that gives you insight into the company’s culture, vision and mission as well as insights into the expectations the hiring manager has for the job you’re seeking to get.

You need to read it all, and then you need to read it all again. Internalize it.

As you read all the material, pay attention to the words, phrases, and ideas that the company seems to use the most. You are looking for the keys to their culture and their needs — the words and phrases that will resonate with the hiring manager when he or she is reading your cover letter (use the same keywords in the “Profile” section at the top of your resume and, where appropriate, in the descriptions of other jobs you’ve held).

In all of their material, your potential employer is telling you in carefully thought-out language everything you need to know about the company. These are the words and ideas you should employ in your cover letter (and your resume) as long as they truthfully apply to you!

The company’s About Page and the actual job description will describe the company culture, the characteristics of their employees, their work ethic. In the job description, the company will lay out in great detail the duties and responsibilities they consider essential to success for the person they ultimately hire.

So as you think about how to prepare a cover letter, take these words and phrases and apply them to yourself, and your talents and experiences. Employers love nothing more than to find applicants who share their values and have a track record of success in the areas of expertise they require for the job.

The employer is looking to hire someone who lives and breathes the organization’s culture. Your cover letter is a great way to reassure the employer you’re a good fit. You can only do that if you’ve studied the organization’s literature.

Then integrate those keywords and keyword phrases into your cover letter (and resume) wherever they truthfully apply. This will make you look like an excellent match for their skill needs and an excellent fit in their company culture.

Finally, by matching your experience with their needs, you will be respecting the time and effort it took for them to create those detailed job descriptions in the first place. They spent hours meticulously wording each part of the job description because those are their needs. So pay attention to specifically how you are the answer to their needs.

There is one very practical reason to include keywords in your resume. It’s call an ATS or Applicant Tracking System. This is a computer system that scans your resume before a human even lays eyes on it. If the computer doesn’t find the keywords the hiring manager has programmed into the algorithm, the computer will reject it and you and your candidacy are, as they say, “toast!” (Here’s a piece on how to beat an ATS!)

So, how to prepare a cover letter? Get those keywords into your cover letter and your resume, and you should start getting replies to the inquiries you send out instead of having your application disappear into a black hole!


By Sam Tormey

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