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A Strong Cover Letter: The Solution to a Weak Resume

Most articles that attempt to give resume writing tips proceed on the assumption that the candidate is qualified and at the top of his or her game. But what if you don’t belong to that category? What if you were only average or even below average? How should you proceed? It is somewhat ironic that most resume tips are geared towards “strong” candidates as they are the ones who least need advice.

For the purposes of this article, let’s proceed on the assumption that you are a “weak” candidate. What should you do to land a job? We will not look into what you did wrong in your prior employment. It is up to you to look into what you did wrong and recognize your failures. You can blame your prior employer all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that you must share part of the blame.

The first thing to do is to take a step back and see what went wrong. List the 5 things that made your last job such a failure. Once you’ve done that, list the 5 things that you enjoyed the most in your prior job. Then answer this question: What could you have done in your prior job to make it work? Notice that the emphasis was on “you”. You are responsible for your career and no one else.

Going through the process discussed above will help you put things in perspective and acknowledge where you went wrong. It is only when you have a clear image of your past that you can forge a clear path for yourself. The objective here is not to deny how bad you were because if you do, you might just repeat the same mistakes and never advance in your career. Further, you want your application to be authentic and reflect who you are. How can your application reflect who you are if you don’t know who you are yourself? It is sometimes hard to look ourselves in the mirror and acknowledge our failures.

As you go through your work history, try to bring the positive out of every job you had and target your resume to the job you are applying to. Don’t discuss the negatives. That can be left for the interview if raised by your interlocutor. Keep in mind that the main objective of a resume and cover letter is to spark the interest of the recruiter in order to land you a job interview. Once at the job interview, you will have the chance to justify yourself, if need be.

A candidate is only as good as his or her application. Work harder than the others to make up for where you’re lacking. The resume is a relatively static document that may not necessarily leave too much room for you to make your case. Where you have a weak candidacy, the best way to stand out is to impress the recruiter through your cover letter. Capture the reader’s attention by focusing on what you can bring to the new job and put a spin on things. Most people will address the job opening from the typical viewpoint of matching their qualifications and work experience to the requirements of the job they are applying to. Since you will not be able to supersede other candidates this way, try spinning things a bit by injecting some wit or taking another angle to the application process. This might just give you an edge and the recruiter might just give you a wild card.

Once the cover letter written, figure out if you can see the recruiter face to face, even before the job interview. This can be done by dropping your application yourself, etc. Again, this will give you an edge as most candidates will only get to meet the recruiter once they are called in.

In light of your situation, you have to think outside the box and compensate your poor credentials with originality. The above was just a highlight of the steps you can take to put the odds on your side. It’s up to you to work harder to make up for lost ground. And when you land the job, seize the opportunity to prove yourself this time.

John Stronack is a writer for WorkBloom ( and, two leading career resources site and blog. See our career blog, resume samples and cover letter samples.

Image taken on 2009-02-19 13:09:02. Image Source. (Used with permission)

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