Hiring managers welcome a creative cover letter, detailed resume, compelling reference letters and professional follow-up, but is there too much of a good thing? Does too much paperwork or an overload of your application materials send the wrong message? We’ve asked HR and job experts about how to make you a stand-out in a good way.
Resist using stock cover letters that are too lengthy
Hiring managers appreciate when applicants send targeted letters rather than stock letters that seem generic. Not only does this reflect your creativity, it can demonstrate your talent. “I’ve seen too many cover letters where people actually left [insert company here] or [insert position here] markers instead of filling in the company, or even worse, listed the wrong organization in their cover letter,” says Kris Hughes, senior content marketing manager with ProjectManager.com, which provides project management software. Often, these same cover letters were overly wordy and failed to get to the point quickly and succinctly.” Recruiters have very limited time to review materials — especially if they are a one-man HR department or work for a large organization where hundreds of resumes are coming in for each opening – so getting to the point as quickly as possible should be the rule of thumb, Hughes says.
Keep your resume concise and on point
According to Mollie Moric, a career advisor and hiring manager at Resume Genius, an online resume-building platform, the purpose of a resume is for candidates to provide the hiring manager with an accurate description of their qualifications. “Although this can be done succinctly, many candidates are under the impression that lengthy descriptions might strengthen their applications,” Moric says. “However, in my experience, overly extensive applications are often an attempt by candidates to compensate for a lack of experience or necessary skills.” She says a resume shouldn’t exceed two pages unless you’re a candidate with 25+ years of relevant experience. “If you’re a candidate with less than 10 years of experience, try and limit your resume to one page,” adds Moric.
Limit references and recommendations to three
Moric says when she’s hiring for a popular role, she’ll often have upwards of one hundred applications to review and therefore, appreciates when candidates keep their applications concise. “Including more than three references on an entry to mid-level resume is a waste of valuable resume space and may make me skeptical as to why a candidate thought it was necessary,” she says. If you’re attaching letters of recommendation to your job application, limit it to a maximum of three–unless the job posting requests additional letters. “In general, I advise candidates to lean on the side of caution and only include high-quality recommendations from credible sources,” she adds. “f letters of recommendation aren’t requested in the job application, it may hurt a candidate’s credibility to include low-quality letters, even if alongside a carefully crafted resume.”
Limit the urge to keep following up
Although follow-up communication is an important part of a job application process, sending too many emails or making too many phone calls can hurt a candidate’s application, says Moric. “The first instance in which it’s appropriate for a candidate to send a follow up is an email checking to see if their application has been received one week after the application period has closed,” shares Moric. The second is an email in the 24-hour period after their interview, thanking their interviewer and for their time and expressing enthusiasm for the position. “The last instance in which it’s appropriate for a candidate to send a follow-up communication is if they haven’t received any communication two weeks following their interview,” continues Moric. “This email should be a brief check-in that reiterates their interest in the position and politely prompts the hiring manager for a reply. I would highly suggest that candidates are conservative when it comes to sending any follow up communication other than these or it may hinder their chances of getting the job.”