Cover Letters & Resume Tips

When applying for any job you will likely be one of many applicants. While that’s not meant to intimidate you, it is important to present yourself on paper in the best possible light to ensure you get a call to interview.

Your cover letter and resume must pass three major Elimination Rounds in your quest for a job offer:

Round 1: The First Glance Test
In the 10 seconds or so that you take to read this, a hiring manager will screen your cover letter and resume. 80% are eliminated.

Round 2: Gone in 60 Seconds
Of the remaining candidates, each resume is reviewed for about a minute. Only a handful are called to interview.

Final Elimination Round: The Interview
From the candidates interviewed, there can be only one job offer.

How can your resume and cover letter best survive the elimination rounds to earn an interview? First, it is important to understand the role of each component.

Your Cover Letter

Your cover letter might just secure your resume a second glance during the initial screening, the one in which 80% of resumes are eliminated from the running.

The cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself as a job candidate. Remember that saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”? The cover letter is your chance to make a great first impression. Craft it well and it will:

  • Make a savvy introduction as a candidate
  • Present your personality and how it might benefit the company culture
  • Convey your knowledge of the company and industry to which you’re applying
  • Stand out—not everyone writes a targeted cover letter or presents themselves clearly
  • Highlight especially relevant elements
  • Ensure that your resume makes it through the first glance elimination

Your Resume

Your resume’s role is to prove that you meet all the job requirements and that you are the right individual to meet the company’s needs. A hiring manager can determine all sorts of other characteristics from your resume, as well – your computer skills, decision-making, organization, whether you do your (home-) work, if you are detail-oriented, know how to prioritize, and on and on.

A great resume can:

  • Show how you meet the job requirements
  • Demonstrate your clear and organized thinking and presentation
  • Convey your understanding of the company’s needs and how you are the answer
  • Use formatting to highlight relevant details
  • Earn the interview!

Once upon a time, a resume was a laundry list of historical data. Today, it can be so much more. Your resume can act as your personal branding strategy.

If you aren’t getting interviews for positions for which you are qualified, you might want to hone your skills to craft an improved cover letter, resume, follow-up letter, even references. Check the other pages of this section or the site and also follow our “Work It” blog for helpful information on finding a great job!

Employers: REGISTER NOW for Western Montana’s Largest Career Fair

Skills and talent available! Employers - Register Now for Western Monta... more

Testing, testing…Is this job on?

By CHERY SABOL - Free tests allow employers to score job applicants. At... more

Missoula Job Service Hosts Mini Job Fairs

Missoula Job Service will host three mini job fairs in the office next ... more

Employers Can Reserve Space Now for Missoula Career Fair

ATTENTION EMPLOYERS: Employer registration is under way now for the Missoula Job Service Career Fair, April 21, at the Hilton Garden Inn. Sign-up Now!... more

DIRECTV’s Local Transformation Offers New Job Opportunities to Missoulians

This is a great time to work for DIRECTV. We have one of the best call center environments in the industry and we're expanding our Missoula call center.... more

Employers: Sign Up for Western Montana’s Largest Career Fair

Employers, Register NOW for Western Montana’s Largest Career Fair and save! April 24th at the Hilton Garden Inn. Early-bird registration fee is $85; after Monday, the cost goes up to $125.... more

Getting Fired – The Charlie Sheen Guide

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. So the first lesson we learn about career transition from Charlie Sheen is one you already knew. No matter how good you are at what you do or even how much money you earn for an organizati... more

The #1 Way to Get Fired—Don’t Make This Mistake!

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. If you’re looking for ways to get fired, any of those previously mentioned will surely work. But the sure-fire way to get fired or to eliminate your chances of getting hired......... more

Dear Graduates (and Undergrads, too):

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. At commencement last weekend, the esteemed Tom Brokaw gave excellent advice: "It's a lot tougher now to make a buck, but making a difference has its own rich reward."... more

Work Wisdom from Age Old Mom-isms

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. Remember those words of wisdom your mother always said? In honor of Mother’s Day, I’ve compiled some of the quotes I’ve heard over the years from Moms—not only are they great advic... more

After Your Job Interview–Now What?

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK - Congratulations! You survived your job interview. Can you do more to impress your target employer? What if you could guarantee a second interview?... more

Seth Godin’s Poke the Box: A Review

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. Seth Godin’s latest book is called Poke the Box. It is a quick and worthy read that will infuse innovation and energy to your job search.... more

The Resume Objective? I Object!

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. Opening argument: People of the court, I intend to demonstrate that the Resume Objective is outdated, irrelevant, and self-serving. Rather than waste prime resume real estate with an Objec... more

2,500 New Missoula Jobs!

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. To ensure the economic vitality of our best place, Mayor Engen launched the five-year Best Place Project in February 2010. The Project is a public-private partnership focused on “smart, ... more

Q & A: Tips for Teens’ First Resume

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. I was recently asked "Do have any helpful tips for teens with no previous work experience who are writing their first resume?" My #1 piece of advice is: Focus on the skills you bring to th... more

Queen of Anything — Teen Career Talk

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. What do you get when you mix 200 high school young ladies, 30 area business women, and magic wands galore in the UC ballroom for a day? The answer is: Queen of Anything!... more

3 Simple Steps to an Effective Introduction

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. Job seekers are often shy. Or scared. They might be skilled in many social situations, but when it comes to networking and their job search, many become verklempt.... more

4 Job Search Mistakes to Avoid

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. Every day, I see job seekers make mistakes in their job hunt. Many of them are basic proofreading resume bloopers. In order to help you avoid them, I’ve compiled a short list of four av... more

Q & A: Job Search – New to Missoula

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. So you’re ready to contribute to Missoula’s improving economy, but where is an industrious job seeker to start? In addition to online job lists, we’ve included links to help you sta... more

The Job Interview: It’s Not Coffee Talk

Video Blog By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. Allow me to share a secret about the job interview: It’s not coffee talk. Every question an interviewers asks is to determine two things: can you do the job and can you work w... more

Jen’s Video Blog – Job Tips

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. Work It Video Blog - Episode 1... more

Holiday Networking – All I Want for Christmas is a Job!

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. As the holiday season skates along, it might be tempting to steer your sleigh away from your job hunt, with good intentions of re-starting in the New Year. ... more

The Interview: Simple Steps to Success

"Work It" Blog by Jennifer Shryock. It’s the big day! I hope you were able to get a good night’s sleep, but if not, don’t fret.... more

How to be Happy at Work

By JENNIFER SHRYOCK. Studies on what makes people happy reveal that it doesn't have much to do with material goods or even high achievement; it seems to whittle down to your outlook on life and the quality of y... more

Before Your Job Interview—For Your Best Performance, Prepare

11/15 "Work It" blog by JENNIFER SHRYOCK. Congratulations, you've scheduled your job interview! Now get right to work preparing for it. The most successful job candidate shows up for the interview already worki... more

The Job Hunt: Resume Proofreading Tips to Survive Elimination

11/10/10 "Work It" Blog by Jennifer Shryock. What’s in your resume? Do you know? Are you sure? It would be wise to go over your resume with a very keen eye! Just read some of the quotes I've pulled from actua... more

The Magic of Networking: What I Learned from My Fairy Godmother

11/3 "Work It" Blog by Jennifer Shryock. One way I can serve this community is to share my experience with you. I invite you to send in your work-related questions and I will answer them or I will find the answ... more