By Alison Doyle Updated January 14, 2020
One of the most important things you can do when job searching is to show companies how well you’re qualified for the jobs you’re applying for. Doing so will make it easier for the hiring manager to consider you a candidate well-worth interviewing.
Employers will usually only spend a few seconds deciding whether you are a good enough fit for a job to warrant a more thorough review of your resume and cover letter.1 So, it’s essential to make sure it is immediately apparent that you have many of the skills, experiences, and qualities that they value most highly.2
Tips for Showing Employers That You’re a Match
It’s important to focus on your most relevant skills and strengths when writing resumes and cover letters, and when interviewing. The more closely you can demonstrate your match to the position and show the employer how you would add value to the organization, the better your chances of job search success.
Carefully Analyze the Job Listing
Job postings are typically broken into several sections. Expect to see:
- Information about the company
- Details on the desired qualifications of applicants
- A description of the responsibilities involved in the role
- Directions for how to apply
Some job postings are brief, while others include more details about the job and the company. Take the time to review the job posting carefully, 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.
Make a List of Your Qualifications
If the job is a good match, the next step is to make a connection between your skills and the employer’s requirements by creating 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 straight from the ad.
Extract any of the keywords describing skills, qualities, or experiences that 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.
Get More Information
Sometimes, ads for jobs are very short and don’t reveal much about the employer’s expectations. Try looking on the employer’s website, since there might be a longer description in the jobs section of their site than in the ad that you saw.
Another strategy is to search job sites like Indeed by the same job title, in order 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 credit analyst position, try searching by using the phrase “credit analyst job description.” Here’s how to use advanced search options to find job information.
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.
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 role. Reach out to college alumni through your college’s career office and alumni office, LinkedIn contacts, and family friends to generate a list of contacts for these informational consultations.
Match Your Qualifications to the Job
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.
Prioritize Your Qualifications in Your Cover Letter
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 that references 2 – 4 assets that make you an excellent fit for the job. Your goal is to sell your credentials to the hiring manager.3
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 examples of how and where you applied those skills.
Review and Tweak Your Resume
Review your existing resume and make sure that you have incorporated as many statements about the preferred qualifications for the target 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 that 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).
Take a few minutes to update the descriptions of the positions you’ve held. Jazzing up your resume job descriptions can make your resume much more impressive.2
Some candidates will have clusters of experiences that correspond to key qualifications. Take, for instance, the example where writing and event planning are highly qualifying for a particular job.
If a candidate has experience that fits those categories, then they might create 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.
How to Mention Your Qualifications During Job Interviews
Before interviewing, review the list of your most relevant strengths that you created when working on your job application. Look for opportunities during the interview to interject statements about your specific skills and assets.
When asked open-ended questions like “Why should we hire you for this job?,” relate 4 – 6 of your most valuable attributes that match the key qualifications for the opportunity at hand. The most compelling statements will include evidence of how you have successfully applied those strengths to add value in past situations.
Your interview is another opportunity to sell yourself to the hiring manager by showing how strong a match you are for the job.