Easy Steps to Improve Your Resume and Cover Letter

Whether you’re a brand new graduate, or are experienced and ready for a major career move, job searching can be time-intensive and stressful. If you feel like you’ve been applying non-stop with no luck, try these easy cover letter and resume improvements that just might help you get one step closer to your dream job:

Save Everything as a PDF. You never know what size screen or type of device someone will be viewing your resume on, especially in today’s mobile world. Your perfectly formatted, exactly-one-page Word Document may turn into a jumbled mess when viewed in another program or on a different size screen. Saving your file as a PDF will eliminate nearly all of these resizing issues as the formatting essentially becomes locked-down. Also, make sure the file name contains your entire first and last name for easy reference.

Use Bullet Points. According to job search website TheLadders.com, recruiters spend an average of just 6.25 seconds reviewing each resume. That’s not much time to plead your case, so using bullet points will help attract the reviewer’s eye right to the highlights. If the job posting asks for specific criteria, including those three or four qualifications as blatant bullet points will help them avoid having to dive deeper into the rest of the filler text that’s in paragraph form.

Read it Backwards. While proofreading, sometimes you can get so caught up in the flow of a sentence that you may inadvertently skip right over a duplicated word or obvious typo. One solution is to read your cover letter backwards, sentence by sentence. It won’t make sense as a whole, but it will be easier to catch individual typos and poorly constructed sentences when you’re not speed-reading top to bottom.

Follow Directions. Cover letters are often used to weed out those who cannot follow directions. For example, if the job posting asks you to include the web address of your online portfolio, make sure to do so. Otherwise, your application could be immediately thrown in the “no” pile, without even getting a second look.

Get a Leg Up on Your Classmates. Still in college? Bring your cover letter and resume into one of your professors. Most will be so blown away by your initiative, they'll not only jump at the opportunity to help, but they’ll give you tons of brownie points in the classroom too. Furthermore, if you are an accounting major, it makes perfect sense to ask your professor who has 25 years of real-world accounting experience—not only will they know the right things to include on your resume, but they probably have tons of industry connections for you.

Forget Generic Job Boards. Often, online job boards can be terribly outdated and inaccurate. Depending on the field, many companies have a careers or job opportunities page directly on their website that can be much more helpful and up-to-date. This also gives you the opportunity to do a bit of research on each company first, rather than blindly applying for a job at a firm that may not be a good fit for you anyway.

Although nothing trumps a resume packed with relevant experience, these quick tactics might just give you a leg up on the competition.