yes, your resume and cover letter really are the problem

I don’t usually print thank-you letters (but I do save them in a file in my email because they are great to look at on a bad day — and you should do the same!), but I’m sharing this one because it’s further evidence that You Should Take Me Seriously When I Say You Need to Fix Your Resume and Cover Letter.

A reader writes:

I want to thank you for the recent write-up you did regarding updating cover letters and resumes if you were having trouble hearing back from potential employers. I had my husband read it (I made some posts in the comments section about how his old company said they would rehire him after he completed his degree but didn’t, and now he was having trouble finding a new job, etc.) and he immediately updated his resume and cover letter. He submitted it to a company three weeks ago on a Friday, was contacted for an interview the next day for the following Monday, and was offered a job two days later!

Thank you again for all of the awesome effort you put into your website. I recommend it to everyone because you’re one of the few down-to-earth, honest writers who are actually helping people by providing useful, logical information. Plus you have the funniest stories about people’s workplaces.

That is awesome. Congratulations to your husband, and thank you for taking the time to write this!

Now, everyone who read that post but didn’t act on it — or who hasn’t read it yet — go and act on it immediately. It’s here:

if you’re not getting interviews, read this

{ 32 comments… read them below }

  1. COT*

    I definitely have an email folder titled “Goodness” that I tuck those accolades in for a bad day, and I keep the nice handwritten cards on my bulletin board. You’re right–everyone should have them to turn to on the rough days. :)

      1. Jamie*

        Mine is just Jamie.

        I named my awesome folder after myself – I probably shouldn’t examine that too closely.

        1. Geoff*

          Mine is called (at a former boss’s suggestion): “Psychological Income” I agree this is very useful for the low times, but also for drafting my self-evaluation/being reviewed.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I need to rethink my email strategy. I don’t have an accolades folder, but I have a folder where I put things that made me mad.

      1. kristinyc*

        Heh, at my old job, I certainly had folders called “MyAwfulBoss’sName” and “ThatJerkwhoSendsmeRudeEmails” (only with their names). I was just WAITING for the right moment to forward them to HR…

        1. BW*

          I had this at my old job too. That’s why it’s my old job. :) I like the idea of an accolades folder. It would be great to have a pick-me-up on any particularly bad day.

    2. Rana*

      I should start one of those. I now actually have things to put in it! :) (Hooray for awesome clients!)

  2. Kelly O*

    I’m reading through everything you linked to; for whatever reason I’m not having luck and it’s time to re-evaluate my documents and my plan to see what’s not working properly.

    This is a quite timely post for me, and I appreciate it.

  3. Anonymous*

    It’s so true. I’m the kid of “show up and ask for a job then call everyday” parents. I was using cover letter templates. I finally stumbled across the website after a terrible day at my job that I hated beyond anything I have ever hated in life. I fixed up my cover letter (a masterpiece I show off all the time). I submitted 3 applications, got 2 interviews, and 1 offer. The executive director of student financial services (big big boss) at a very famous, exclusive private research institute sat down with me and said “we read your stellar cover letter… ” direct quote. I almost passed out.

    1. kristinyc*

      Aw, that’s something for Allison to put in her “Yay/Goodness/High Five/Head Pats” folder!!

      Congrats on that! What a great success story!

    2. Kou*

      Same here. And I was really opposed to making any more changes by the time I found AAM because I’d followed every single bit of conventional (and wrong) wisdom, and by the standards I’d been taught (which were bad) I had a good, straightforward cover letter. Not only that, but it had been read and revised by a dozen people (several of them being career counselors from my university) and about a thousand more times by me– I didn’t think the was anything else I could do to improve on it. Not because I thought it was so good, but because I didn’t think there was room to be anything other than bland and straightforward in a cover letter.

      1. Amanda*

        I know what you mean! I was under the impression that a good cover letter had to fill up all the white space of a MS Word document. I had a library of these one-page, 10-point font templates and I was reluctant to admit that all my hard work on them had been for nothing.

        After getting such a good response from my concise, interesting and fits-into-the-body-of-an-email cover letters, I dragged each and every one of my old cover letter templates to the trash bin. It was a good feeling.

  4. Malissa*

    I actually got complimented on my resume today by a recruiter. All thanks to tips I’ve picked up around here!

  5. KS*

    100% agreed! My luck with job searching was so-so until I took AAM’s advice and overhauled my resume and cover letter. I’ve noticed a huge difference in the volume of interviews and even received multiple job offers! My collegiate alumni counselor actually took my cover letter and used it as a guideline for other alumni to show how to tailor specifically to the job you are applying for.

    I also stumbled upon this site after a Google search to the effect of “manager who refuses to manage” or such and have been hooked ever since. AAM is awesome.

  6. Amanda*

    Before I revised my cover letter based on Allison’s advice, I had been job-searching for seven months, sent probably around 150-200 applications and had three interviews. THREE.

    Now I’m getting interviews for almost every job I’m applying for, including a position I was fairly underqualified for (I nearly got the offer to but a last-minute candidate with more experience swooped in). I’m really looking forward to the day I will finally be able to email Allison and say, “thank you for helping me land a job!”

  7. BEversberg*

    +1! I have to say, I do get compliments on my cover letter and resume a lot; much of that has to do with AAM. I had a phone interview this morning, as a matter of fact, and my interviewer stated my “fabulous” cover letter “did a great job highlighting my strengths.” I may not always comment, but I always read AAM entries! Thanks, Alison :).

  8. Anon21*

    I believe it, I just don’t think I can fix my resume. Either due to the nature of my recent jobs (all short-term, due to school–that’s expected in my industry) or due to my own underperformance, I genuinely don’t think I accomplished things at my recent, relevant experience. I wrote memos, other people looked at them, and I generally did not get feedback.

  9. BW*

    I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to convince a friend to read your advice about the resume and cover letter, because she is doing everything you say not to do, doesn’t get interviews, and then insists that it’s not anything she’s doing and she’s gotten lots of interviews (not that I can recall since knowing her). Obviously, people are just out to keep her down. Then, having failed, she’ll come up with more gimmicks to try to get noticed – videos, websites, long winded but pretty generic answers to each bullet point on a job description, deciding that in order to force people to look at her resume, she’d write “see attached resume” in the electronic application. *headdesk* I really hope she decides one day to actually read your advice and take it to heart. I really believe she’d have a totally different experience than the miserable frustrating ones she’s been having.

    1. OP*

      I wrote this letter and you definitely need to show this to your friend. My husband had applied and applied and applied, and had gotten precisely 1 interview to show for it. Granted it did get him a job, but it was only part-time temp work. The moment he followed Alison’s advice, he got a much better job that pays almost twice as much, has benefits, is in a better location, nicer work atmosphere, etc. People need to pay attention to Alison because she knows what she’s talking about.

  10. Liz in the City*

    Add me to the pile of success stories. I was SO desperate to get out of Old Job, a place where there was no mobility (vertically or laterally), every time I did something good, my reward was more work — and did I mention that I hadn’t gotten a raise in 4 years despite outstanding reviews and frequently hearing how much they couldn’t live without me?

    Anyway, I found this site, read it religiously, and even bought her eBook. I was hesitant to retool my resume yet again, but since I was getting no response, I figured I would try it and see what happened. A month after retooling my resume (and making similar changes to my LinkedIn and Indeed profiles), I started getting contacted by multiple recruiters weekly.

    My New Job — I didn’t even have to apply for (no cover letter!). The hiring manager found me on Indeed, liked what she saw on my accomplishment-focused resume, and called me in for an interview. The interview was a Wednesday. Hurricane Sandy was the following Monday. The Friday following (so 7 days later), I had a offer for my asking price, and the happiest day was when I gave my notice (note: that’s when Old Job decided that maybe more money, and not more work, was a motivating factor. Turned that down fast.).

    TL;DR Follow Alison’s advice. It works. No job is the end all, so try retooling your resume and cover letter. If you’re not seeing results in X time, then go back to what you were doing. But you WILL see results! And pay attention to your LinkedIn profile. I think it matters because recruiters are looking there.

  11. Jamie*

    TL;DR Follow Alison’s advice. It works. No job is the end all, so try retooling your resume and cover letter. If you’re not seeing results in X time, then go back to what you were doing. But you WILL see results! And pay attention to your LinkedIn profile. I think it matters because recruiters are looking there.

    Not too long – I read it. :)

    I absolutely love these success stories – and it’s amazing how something so simple as resumes and cover letters make all the difference.

    I think (and I’ve done this) it’s hard to remember sometimes that this is an initial introduction. We know all about our own awesomeness so it’s easy to skip over the basics when trying to get your foot in the door – forgetting that they don’t know us from Adam and we need to tell them why they should want to.

    It’s like if you ask me to tell you about my husband I might tell you how cool he is, how dorky he is when it comes to his Star Trek stuff, how he almost never complains about anything, and how silly I find his taste in music.

    But if he was picking you up from the airport none of that is helpful – you need to know that he’s the big blonde guy wearing the leather jacket and glasses.

    Without the basics the rest will never be relevant.

  12. Joey*

    Yes, it’s certainly amazing the people that treat them as if they’re some bureaucratic forms that needs to be filled out to get a job.

  13. Elizabeth West*

    Me too! :)

    Today was my first day at NewJob! Thanks to this blog, I had a really good cover letter for this job too. I wouldn’t even be there if it wasn’t for Alison’s book and everyone who comments (I read those as seriously as I read her stuff).

    I took you all’s advice and wore khakis today, but that is considered “dress-up” there and will be wearing my nice jeans tomorrow (with nice shirt, etc.). I’ll have to wear nicer clothes when I go to headquarters next week for training–there is an executive welcome, so I’ll pick out good outfits for that.


    1. Jennifer O*

      Congratulations Elizabeth!

      I’m so happy you’ve been successful in your job search. I hope you enjoy NewJob as much as you expect to. :)

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