Exercise Weekend

A good cover letter and resume will make it easy to see how your skills and experience match an employer's job description. Many companies use automated tools to scan cover letters and resumes for keywords that match their job descriptions, then automatically reject applications that don't have those words.

But even when they don't use these tools, writing as if they do will help you concisely convey why you’re qualified when a real person is sitting in front of your application. That's why you should always strive to use the most important words and phrases from the job description—verbatim—in your cover letter and resume.

So before we even start writing our cover letter and resume, we'll do some prep work to identify these key words and phrases.

Focus on the Job Description

Each time you apply for a job, start by taking the job description and making a list of the key words and phrases.

For example, take this job description:

Acquia is the open source digital experience company. We provide the world's most ambitious brands with technology (built around Drupal) that allows them to embrace innovation and create customer moments that matter. At Acquia we believe in the power of community and collaboration - giving our customers the freedom to build tomorrow on their terms.

Acquia is looking for technical advisors to join our Support Engineering team to help us provide exceptional service to our growing customer base, from Fortune 500 clients to Government agencies. Acquia Support is a high-energy team that offers opportunities for growth and new challenges in a collaborative, supportive atmosphere – we’re dedicated and fun!

Requirements:

  • Experience with Linux - Command Line and Git is important
  • Conversational understanding of LAMP and/or IIS/SQL, network protocol layers, security layers and domain models
  • Site development and/or PHP development
  • Passion for the web, open-source development, particularly Drupal, and for helping us continue to build our community and Acquia as a whole
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills

Skills and Attributes:

  • 2+ years of experience in technical customer support or a client engagement position preferred A compulsion for creating order out of chaos, and a penchant for turning over all the rocks and resolving issues thoroughly (i.e., code for being proactive and detail-oriented)
  • Aptitude for building, configuring, and troubleshooting a variety of challenging technical issues for a diverse enterprise customer base
  • Strives to consistently achieve excellence in work delivered
  • Performs with (internal and external) customer satisfaction in mind, while not compromising the integrity of the work. Constantly questions: “How will this benefit the customer?”
  • Goes beyond their day-to-day work to assist customers in a positive manner. Takes initiative to improve outcomes, processes, or measurements.
  • Takes on additional responsibilities fills in gaps. Owns deliverables, accountable for results. Recognizing when it's appropriate to jump in and own it, and also when to provide support and collaboration.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science or related discipline is a plus, though relevant experience on the job is just fine

We can copy this description into a document, then turn it into a list of key words and phrases.

Here are the ones from the Requirements section:

  • Linux
  • Command Line
  • Git
  • LAMP
  • IIS/SQL
  • Network Protocol Layers
  • Security layers
  • Domain Models
  • Site development
  • PHP development
  • Passion for the web
  • Open-source development
  • Drupal
  • Community
  • Interpersonal and communication skills

And the ones from the Skills and Attributes section:

  • Technical customer support
  • Client engagement
  • Creating order out of chaos
  • Turning over all Rocks
  • Resolving issues thoroughly
  • Proactive
  • Detail-oriented
  • Building, configuring, and troubleshooting
  • Challenging technical issues
  • Diverse enterprise customer base
  • Excellence
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Integrity of the work
  • Benefit the customer
  • Takes initiative
  • Improve outcomes, processes, or measurements takes on additional responsibilities fills in gaps deliverables
  • Accountable for results
  • Provide support and collaboration.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science or relevant experience on the job

There are a couple terms you might not be familiar with, like domain models and IIS, that you'll want to look up so that you can address them. (IIS is Microsoft's web server, and domain models are the way that programmers group together code, such as by creating objects in object-oriented design.)

List Your Experiences

Next, we'll make a list of specific experiences we have that are relevant to the job. We'll divide up the list of words and phrases into the experiences we have, as well as an extra list for words that we don't have experience to back up.

Here's an example of how it could look:

  • Barista at Lil' Joe's Coffeehouse
    • Fun
    • Focused
    • Determined
    • Creating order out of chaos
    • Takes on additional responsibilities fills in gaps
  • Customer Support at Healthcare.gov
    • Technical customer support
    • Client engagement
    • Turning over all the rocks
    • Resolving issues thoroughly
    • Proactive
    • Detail-oriented
    • Building, configuring, and troubleshooting
    • Challenging technical issues
    • Diverse enterprise customer base
    • Excellence
    • Customer satisfaction
    • Integrity of the work
    • Benefit the customer
    • Takes initiative
    • Improve outcomes, processes, or measurements
    • Deliverables
    • Accountable for results
    • Provide support and collaboration.
  • Epicodus
    • Command line
    • Git
    • SQL
    • Domain models
    • Passion for the web
    • Open-source development
    • Community
    • Interpersonal and communication skills
    • Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science or relevant experience on the job
  • Internship at Digital Designs
    • Site development
    • PHP development
    • Relevant experience on the job
  • Missing
    • Linux
    • LAMP
    • Network protocol layers
    • Security layers
    • Drupal

Now, we're actually ready to start working on our cover letter and resume!