The Difference Between Cover Letters, Resumes, and Portfolios
An idyllic rooftop view, Instagrams of your coffee and laptop on a Koh Samui beach--what’s not to love about working remotely? Building a decent client base and ensuring steady cash flow is often the biggest challenge faced by adventure-loving impresarios. Snagging remote jobs can be tough, with the average number of applicants for any given job as high as 250, according to Glassdoor.com. So if you’re looking to supercharge your cover letter, CV and portfolio, read on for some top tips.
Put simply, cover letters are the window to your CV. If the CV explains about you, the cover letter connects the dots between you and the employer. If you can say how your experience has shaped your desire to work with the employer, they will feel more confident in your capability to do the job well.
Try not to use opinion statements such as ‘I think I'd be a good fit’. Rather turn it into fact, ‘My communication skills would make me a strong marketing manager on this project.’ Also, avoid a yawnfest by changing every ‘good’ word to something more varied such as ‘seasoned’ or skilled’. Replace ‘best candidate’ with ‘excellent’ or ‘unique’ candidate. And make sure to include why you respect and admire their business.
Top tip: Hiring managers are often time-poor so excellent spelling, grammar, paragraphs and page formatting is a must. Aim for something concise that is easy to scan through. Try to use a regular font such as Calibri or Arial and above all, spell-check! Then get that friend with an English degree who owes you a favour to proofread for grammar errors.
Try to avoid: Bragging too much about your talents. You might be superhuman at design, but leave that up to your portfolio to demonstrate. Similarly, waxing lyrical about your untapped potential may only inspire rolled eyes from your cover-letter-weary reader.
A CV is where you outline your experience, education, and skills for a job. It’s like the ingredients list on the back of a ready meal, but for, well... humans. TheLadders.com released research showing that recruiters only spend an average of 6.25 seconds looking at a CV before deciding whether you’re suitable for the job. So how can you maximise that 6 seconds?
First, limit your CV to two pages. Give a five-line personal summary at the top and put your most relevant education, awards, and experience in first. Then split it into categories such as Personal Summary, Work Experience, Education, and Skills.
For education, put your most recent and relevant qualification in first. For skills keep it succinct and relevant, ideally in bullet-points such as: ‘Typing speed 70 wpm’, ‘Advanced level Photoshop editing’ etc. Remember, your hard work might be for nothing if it doesn’t translate clearly. You can find CV templates to help you here.
Top tip: Make it pleasing to the eye. Nowadays you can get very professional CV templates online for free--embrace this freebie, you don’t need to create a CV alone.
Avoid: As far as words go, the ones we chose are important. Don’t include sweeping terms of self-praise, like ‘team player,’ ‘go-getter’ or ‘self-motivated;’ rather describe your accomplishments specifically with words like ‘improved’, ‘achieved’, ‘mentored’ and ‘volunteered’.
Think of your portfolio or website as your shop window. You’ve piqued an employer’s attention and now they’re assessing whether you’re a match. For this reason, your portfolio needs to represent your personal brand. This is perhaps your best chance to showcase your talents, so prioritise quality over quantity. You should only include the very best of your recent work in your portfolio. If you aren't 100 percent happy with the outcome, then don't feature it. The best portfolios are lean, focused, and represent your specialty. For a website, make sure the link works and that it is easy to navigate.
Top tip: Have a website. You don't have to know any code to build a website these days. For example, take advantage of the wealth of beautifully designed WordPress or Wix themes. For writers specifically, there is always clippings.me.
Avoid: Documents that don’t open. Links that have expired. And, unless they have specifically asked for them, avoid attachments.
Above all though, keep a cool head and remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keep applying and good luck!