I’ve been on both ends of the hiring process and let me tell you, I’ve learned A LOT from being on the hiring manager’s side. There are certain mistakes you’re making on your resume and cover letter when it comes to your application.
Working in admin, it’s part of my job to screen resumes and try to identify suitable candidates for the role we are hiring for. Needless to say, majority of applications are just not up to par, and it slowly becomes a waste of the hiring manager’s time who eventually gets frustrated.
So, I’m ready to share with you guys 11 mistakes you’re making on your resume and cover letter application. The last thing you want to do is waste the hiring manager’s time and you know what? You don’t want to waste YOUR time putting in a half-asked application that is only going to get put in the ‘Not Suitable’ pile.
I apologise in advance for the hard truths…
11 Mistakes You’re Making On Your Resume & Cover Letter
#1 PDF/DOC. Your Application
If you’re applying via a career website such as SEEK, you have the option to write a cover letter within the platform. Don’t! I like to download the cover letter and resume – incase I need to print it off and give it to my manager. But when you write it on the platform, it comes up in Notepad. It’s incredibly annoying to read in this format so always opt to upload your cover letter.
This is why PDF is usually the safe bet. I don’t know any workplace that can’t access a PDF document. It’s a universal format and there won’t be any issues with compatibility. Word however, there are different versions, on different operating softwares that can cause issues. Unless the job specifically says to submit in Word, I’d always go for PDF.
#2 Sell Yourself To Me!
Seriously, the amount of unoriginal written cover letters is ridiculous and it gets super boring to read. You really want to stand out? Inject your personality SOMEHOW into your pitch. Tell me how awesome you are (but don’t sound too up yourself). If you can make me laugh, even better!
Yes, time management, organization, communication skills are all things I want to know you have, but don’t make your cover letter all about those skills. I want to know you’ve brought results to your previous employers, I want to know how passionate you are about what you do. And I want to know you MATCH the selection criteria outlined in the job description. Yea, it might take a little longer to write something like this, but if you can impress me JUST with how your write your cover letter, I already like you.
My advice? Don’t focus on the soft skills you have like time management, communication, or how hard working you are. Sure, mention those, but sum it up in a small paragraph. I care more about the specific industry experience I’m looking for and what value YOU can bring to the company. Sell yourself to me!!
#3 Actually LOOK Like You’ve Put Effort In
I get it, you’re desperate for a job and you JUST want to get that application in, but you really can’t be bothered to go the extra mile…guess you really don’t want the job huh! This is one of the big mistakes you’re making on your resume and cover letter.
I won’t lie, I’ve been guilty of that but I soon learned I was wasting my time applying for jobs I truly didn’t want, so I started being VERY picky with the ones I would apply to.
When I look at applications though, I can tell how much effort you’ve put into your application, and FROM THAT I can tell whether or not you REALLY want the job!
How can I tell? You haven’t read the instructions on the job description as to HOW to apply. If I ask you to send me PDF only, it’s for a reason. If I ask you to address each selection criteria, it’s for a reason.
I can also tell by the way you format and structure your resume and cover letter. Keep it clean, don’t babble on, and try keep it as short and sweet as possible. Is your resume 5 pages? That’s WAY too long and surely you can reword a lot of what you have to say so you can shorten that to 2 pages. If you’re responsibilities for ONE role go for nearly 1 page, narrow your margins and reword.
#4 Visa Requirements
Pretty please state this somewhere on your application. Either in your cover letter or at the beginning of your resume. Some companies do not sponsor internationals and it’s a waste of time for both parties if you don’t state this. We don’t want to bring you in for an interview and THEN find out you have visa restrictions.
#5 Apply for Any Old Job
If you really don’t feel like you fit the criteria we’re looking for, please don’t apply. Now, having said that, a little self-doubt can creep in when applying for jobs. When someone says they want a minimum of 2 years experience, if you have 1 year, that’s ok! Still apply.
No, what I’m talking about is industry related. Say the company you are applying for is looking for a marketing manager within the fitness industry. Oh, you work in the fitness industry but you coach? Please don’t apply. We don’t care if you work within the same industry, that doesn’t automatically mean you qualify for a marketing role.
Really assess the ROLE that is on offer and whether or not you actually feel competent to DO the role..then apply.
Also, ensure that your resume is tailored to that specific role you’re applying for. Don’t just send a one size fits all resume. If you’re applying to jobs within the same industry, it’s highly likely they will be looking for the same skills, but usually there will be one or two differences that you will need to address. Again, this will help you stand out!
It’s kind of an obvious one isn’t it? Yet I STILL see spelling mistakes on resumes. And hey, I’ve been guilty of this too (and it was a BAD spelling mistake I made which I’m way too embarrassed to share).
Spelling and grammar mistakes do not go unnoticed and it just shows you have a lack of attention to detail – which if you’re highlighting as a skill on your resume you’re completely contradicting yourself.
So, get someone to proofread your resume or take a break from it and look back over your own work a day later with fresh eyes.
#7 Not Including A Cover Letter
Ok, so a lot of hiring managers won’t read your cover letter (I’m not one of those people though), as what you say in your cover letter can convince me to call you back.
Regardless, including a cover letter will help you stand out amongst the crowd and it gives you a chance to back yourself up and say how awesome you are for the role.
#8 Your Application Is Too Long
When we receive application after application, it takes time to read through them. We’ve mentioned this before in our article ‘How To Write A Killer Resume & Cover Letter’, you’ve got about 10 seconds to grab our attention and entice us to read more.
By keeping this in mind it will help you stay CONCISE and to the point when writing out your experience. If you feel like your resume or cover letter is too long…it probably is. So make sure you put that extra bit of effort in and work out how you can cut it down even more.
Especially with your cover letter, you DEFINITELY want to keep this one to a page or less.
#9 It’s Not What We Can Do For You, It’s What You Can Do For Us
I get you want to learn more, and that’s awesome! But please don’t make that a focus or introduce yourself saying you’re eager to learn. Learning will definitely be involved, but I want to know what value YOU can give, not the other way around.
Just be confident with the knowledge you have already and say you’re excited to apply your extensive knowledge in whatever area, to the role and grow with the company you’re applying to.
#10 Not Highlighting Your Accomplishments
Don’t just outline the responsibilities you’ve held in your previous roles. Tell me what you’ve actually accomplished for the company.
For example, if one of your tasks is filing, you could say something like this: “Improved filing procedure by streamlining accessibility to important documents for all departments.” It’s all in the way you word it and the second statement will be much more interesting to a hiring manager than just saying you file important documents.
#11 Ensure Your Contact Details Are Correct
Again, this comes down to attention to detail and sometimes we can make tiny slip-ups. PLEASE ensure your email is spelled correctly and that your phone number is actually YOURS, so you can get those callbacks you’ve been missing so badly.
I hope this has helped and given you a little bit of insight as to how hiring managers assess applications. If these are mistakes you’re making on your resume and cover letter, spend a little time to revise and re-craft your application.
Don’t forget we have resumer and cover letter templates available in our resource library, ready for you to download completely for free!
We’ll also be announcing when we’ll release our Resume & Cover Letter Bootcamp again very soon, so make sure you’re signed up to the A&J Tribe to be the first the know! To join the tribe, just click here!