#1 Difference Between Resumes & Cover Letters

If you’ve looked for a job in the last five years, then you’ve likely spent time updating your resume and creating cover letters to go with it. And, unless you’re a professional resume writer, you probably didn’t enjoy it very much. You might have even chosen to outsource the task by having someone else make you look good on paper. Regardless of how you got it done, here’s the most important predictor of success with respect to the design of these vital job search tools…

Cover Letters Tell Stories, Resumes Showcase Facts

A resume is a fact-driven document. It should clearly and simply provide quantifiable proof of your skills and abilities. The biggest complaint recruiters have about resumes today (and trust me, given how blurry-eyed they get from reading hundreds of resumes, they have a lot of complaints), is that people fill the page with overly-descriptive, subjective text in an attempt to sound more qualified than they really are. Recruiters cringe when they see you’re an, “innovative self-starter, with a high attention to detail and excellent communication skills.” The recruiter’s reaction is, “Yah, says you.”

The cover letter is a storytelling document. It should get the reader at “hello” by sharing in a compelling fashion why you feel connected to the company’s business model and mission. The biggest complaint recruiters have with respect to cover letters is how boring and narcissistic they are. Again, in an attempt to appear uber-qualified for the job, people will write epic novels about why they’re the “perfect” person for the job. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to a recruiter. They’re the judge of whether you are “perfect” – and since there’s no such thing, your cover letter and resume get tossed in the ‘no’ pile.

How To Tell If Your Resume Is Good

Good resumes are well-formatted with plenty of white space. If your resume looks like you’re trying to cram three pages worth of text on one page, it will not get read. Your resume must be six-second worthy – because recruiters are skimmers and that’s all the time they give you to make a good first impression.

How To Tell If Your Cover Letter Is Good

Good cover letters are disruptive. They focus on the employer and how you’ve come to understand what they do is better, faster, cheaper, cutting-edge, etc. When you can share how you’ve come to learn that they are great at what they do, the employer knows you are one of their tribe.

How To Save Time, Money & Headaches In Job Search

Every job is temporary, Which means, you’ll look for work repeatedly in your lifetime. Today, job search is a skill we all need to develop. The more you know about conducting a smart job search, the easier it will be. That’s why I don’t suggest you outsource the writing of your resume and cover letter. It’s time to learn how to do them yourself. When you finally understand what recruiters want and how to give it to them, you’ll be able to take advantage of opportunities as they pop up.

This piece was originally published on LinkedIn.
Image credit: Bigstock
J.T. O'Donnell
About the author: 

J.T. O’Donnell is the Chief Executive Officer at CAREEREALISM, a top-3 career blog with 2,300,000+ monthly pageviews, 1,000,000+ visitors/month, 1,500,000+ social media followers, and 100,000+ daily email subscribers.  In addition to being an Influencer on LinkedIn with 1.1 million followers, J.T. writes a column for INC Magazine and has contributed several pieces to Executive Vine.  Here’s where you can follow her on Twitter.