Employers will usually only spend a few seconds deciding if you are a good enough fit for a job to warrant a more thorough review of your resume and cover letter, so you need to make sure that it is immediately obvious that you have many of the skills, experiences and qualities that they value most highly.
Tips for Matching Your Qualifications to a Job
It's also important to focus on your most relevant skills and strengths when interviewing. The closer your match to the position, the better your chances of job search success.
1. Analyze the Job Listing
Job postings are typically broken out into several sections. Expect to see information about the company, details on the desired qualifications of applicants and a description of the responsibilities involved in the role. Some are brief, others include more details about the job and the company.
Take the time to review the job posting, so you are familiar with what the employer wants. Here's how to decode a job advertisement, so you can decide whether to apply and start work on your resume and cover letter.
2. Make a List
If the job is a good match, the next step is to make a connection between your skills and the employer's requirements, is to create a list of the preferred qualifications for the ideal candidate for your target job. If a job advertisement is well written and detailed, you might be able to assemble much of your list right from the ad.
Extract any of the keywords describing skills, qualities or experiences which the employer has listed as required or preferred. Also review the job duties and make some assumptions about the qualifications needed to carry out those duties.
For example, if the ad mentions that you would organize fundraising events for potential donors, you can assume that event planning skills would be highly valued and should be added to your list.
3. Get More Information
Sometimes ads for jobs are very short and don't reveal much about the employer's expectations. Try looking on the company's website, since there might be a longer description in the human resources section of their site than in the ad you saw.
Another strategy is to search job sites by the same job title to get a sense of what other employers are looking for in candidates. Also search Google to see descriptions of similar jobs. For example, if you are applying for a German translation position, try searching by the phrase "German translation job description."
4. Need Skills to Include?
When you're not sure about what skills or qualities to include, check this list of skills for resumes, cover letters and interviews. It includes lists of general skills most wanted by employers, plus skills for a variety of occupations. Include the most relevant skills in your resume and cover letter.
5. Ask for Advice
If you are really motivated to land a particular job, interview professionals in the field and ask them what it takes to excel in their job. Reach out to college alumni through your college's career and/or alumni office, LinkedIn contacts, and family friends to generate a list of contacts for these consultations.
6. Make a Match
Once you have assembled a detailed list of the qualifications for your target job, review each item on the list and try to think of how you might prove that you possess that asset. Write a sentence about as many of the qualifications as possible detailing how you used that skill or exhibited that quality in a work, volunteer, academic or co-curricular role.
Whenever possible, point to any positive results or recognition you received while applying the skill. For example, if a job requires strong writing skills, you might say "While working as a campaign intern, I wrote press releases about the candidate's platform which resulted in two articles in the local media".
7. Prioritize Your Qualifications
Prioritize the sentences about your qualifications and incorporate the hardest hitting statements into your cover letter. Compose a thesis statement for the beginning of your cover letter which references 2 - 4 assets which make you an excellent fit for the job.
For example, for a bank teller job, you might say "my strong mathematics skills, customer service orientation, attentiveness to detail and ability to work with precision make this job an excellent fit for me". In subsequent paragraphs, you should provide proof of how and where you applied those skills.
8. Review Your Resume
Review your existing resume and make sure that you have incorporated as many statements about the preferred qualifications for the job as possible. List the highest priority phrases at the beginning of your descriptions to get the most attention.
If you have a couple of jobs which are more qualifying than others, you might develop a lead category towards the top of your resume like "Related Experience" (if they are not your most recent jobs).
9. Include Headlines
Some candidates will have clusters of experiences which correspond to key qualifications. Take the example where writing and event planning are highly qualifying for a particular job.
If a candidate has experiences which fit those categories, then they might have headings like "Writing Experience" and "Event Planning Experience" and place the related experiences in those sections of the resume. Relevant headings will draw the employer's attention to key qualifications at a glance.
10. During the Interview
Prior to interviewing, review the list of qualifications you created when working on your job application. Be prepared to discuss the specific skills and assets you have during job interviews. You can also reiterate what qualifies you to be selected in your job interview.