Resume & Cover Letter

How To Sell Yourself On Your Resume

In a job market that is increasingly more competitive, it’s more important than ever before to learn the basics of how to sell yourself on your resume. As the global economy rebounds from a pandemic-driven drop in productivity, more and more organisations are looking to expand their teams and turn around their losses; but how can you tweak and change your resume to make yourself a more attractive prospect?

That’s what we’re going to be talking about today: how to sell yourself on your resume to put your application atop the pile, and inspire those reading it to call you back for a follow-up interview. Before we get into the process of selling yourself on your resume, it’s important to first gain some context. According to stats from the Undercover Recruiter, recruiters and HR managers spend just 3-minutes reading a resume, and have reported that they’ll often make a decision on that candidate in the first minute of reading their resume. Authors of that report say that one-in-five recruiters will reject a candidate before they’re even finished reading a resume, which points to the fact that much more attention can be given to selling yourself on your resume. 


Statistics show that HR managers and recruiters (around 40%, according to this source) will spend less than a minute reading each resume, particularly if that position has been flooded with applications. With this in mind, keep your cover letter and resume punchy and concise. You don’t want to drown out the important parts of your resume with words that don’t add value, so keep it short and snappy to appease any HR managers or recruiters picking up your resume. This also means that any one-size-fits-all approach to sending out resumes and cover letters simply won’t work if it sounds as though it’s been copied from a previous job application. A good tip here is to look at the job offer that has been posted, and take note of the position description and what’s required for the role. 


This is where a tailor-made cover letter steps in. If you look at the words, requirements and prerequisites for the role on offer, you can kick-start your chances for a call-back by writing a cover letter that directly addresses the role and why you’re the perfect candidate. By simply using the terminology that the organisation has used, you’ll appear to be a more suitable candidate than others that have copied a previous cover letter that might be a vague and general overview. If you can use some important buzzwords that the organisation has mentioned in their position description, you’re significantly more likely to catch the eye of the HR manager or recruiter, meaning that your tailor-made cover letter could potentially get you over the first hurdle. 


Now that you’ve caught the eye of the HR manager or recruiter, it’s time to sell yourself that little bit more. This is where Simon Sinek’s idea of finding your why is imperative when it comes to showing an organisation you can add value far beyond the immediate role on offer. If you can communicate not only what you do, but why you’re passionate about doing it, you’re significantly more likely to attract the attention of organisations that are looking to employ like-minded and passionate people. The phrase “hire for the will and train for the skill” is thrown around a lot these days, but it’s for good reason. If you mention specifically why you’re passionate about what you do, your resume will likely trump a number of competitors and you can separate yourself from the pack. 


Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to time with previous employers. HR managers and prospective employers want to know where you worked and how long for, but they’re also interested in finding out exactly how you helped that organisation. If your previous employer kept a dashboard of statistics relating to your department that showed signs of improvement over time, leverage this in your resume. Show them exactly how you impacted your previous employer, and how your efforts helped the organisation succeed. Being proactive in this sense will surely show to potential employers that you’re keen on the position, and willing to go above and beyond to prove how and why you’re the best candidate on their list. 


If you’re holding onto email addresses from when you were younger, or particularly passionate about a certain topic, band, movie or animals, there’s no need to show this to your potential employer- in this context, at least. HR managers have said in the past that the absence of a professional email address or domain can prove a silver bullet for certain applications. You need to match the seriousness of the application with the email address that you’re submitting it with.


While this might seem like a no-brainer, it doesn’t stop a fairly large number of applicants lying on their job applications. Numbers from The Motley Fool state that as many as 75% of HR managers have caught candidates lying on their resume, either embellishing on their previous work experience or flat-out lying in terms of their qualifications. These days, it’s easier than ever before for human resource managers to do their research online and call up previous employers, and if you’re caught being dishonest in the application process, there’s little chance you’ll receive a call back. It’s a much better approach to be honest about a lack of qualifications than to lie to an organisation about having them; some organisations will be happy to train you up in certain areas, and they’ll be thankful that you were honest with them about your vulnerabilities. 


One thing that often separates the ordinary candidates applying for a role and the extraordinary ones is the willingness or ability of that candidate to learn new skills. While you might be undoubtedly talented in your speciality, this doesn’t mean you can’t learn something to consolidate your skills or communication. Employers often ask their new candidates to learn ‘their way’ of operating, which can be problematic for those that aren’t prepared to invest time in their development. Make it clear on your resume that you’re not only interested in learning new things, you’re actively searching them out to further your own development. If you’re making it clear to a HR manager in your resume and cover letter that you’re keen to learn, they’re likely to push your name to the top of the shortlist and will reward your proactive approach. 

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