Customizing Résumés & Cover Letters
As I mentioned in the beginning, the layout of this book is a little non-traditional and I wanted to tell you about some of my experiences first. Now that we have that out of the way, hopefully you are very excited about moving forward with a career as an Executive Personal Assistant to a celebrity or high net worth family in your area.
It’s time to talk about résumés. This area is, perhaps, the single most important factor for actually getting an interview. It can be, and often is, a deal-breaker for aspiring candidates. Résumés are the first and only thing that recruiters and employers have to judge your competency for the job of an assistant. If your résumé is shoddy, disorganized or has grammar mistakes, you’re out of the running. I’ve consulted with candidates in the past that had wasted years of time sending inadequate résumés into the field with little or no results (and they thought their résumé was “perfect”).
The first thing a candidate needs to do is carefully follow instructions for applying. There are often hidden tests the employers have set up to see if you can cross the first and most remedial task of all, applying for the job. Sending your résumé to the wrong email or physical address, making double submissions, or calling when you’re not supposed to takes a person out of the game immediately.
Even assistants who have a clean résumé (with no mistakes) and follow the submission instructions carefully can still blow it with an inappropriate cover letter or outdated résumé style. When I do career counseling with both aspiring and veteran assistants alike, they often have a head-slapping epiphany when I show them all of the things they are doing wrong.
More often than not, personal assistants who have worked for a VIP or celebrity in their past usually got the job through a friend, so résumé mistakes weren’t a consideration. But when their gig ended, they were not able to parlay that experience and land another VIP job through traditional channels because they made several mistakes on their résumé, cover letter, and/or overall presentation. Sometimes it’s the very smallest things that can do us in.
Because I’ve had the privilege of coaching and working with the Top Guns of celebrity assistants, I can now happily pass helpful information to the new generation of business professionals.
It is critical that applicants customize each résumé and cover letter for the job in which they are applying. When recruiters post job openings, there are certain KEY WORDS you need to pay attention to. Most applicants just send the same generic résumé to everyone regardless of the job title; that’s a big mistake.
My advice is to make the necessary changes on your résumé and cover letter so that you can highlight your past job experience where it fits their needs. It will give you a much better chance of landing an interview.
Additionally, if your résumé lacks some high-caliber experience or you don’t have any higher education, here are some things you can do that will separate you from the other candidates:
1. Take a CPR class: This is fast, cheap, and easy but adds tremendous value to your résumé and ability.
2. Take a business course at a local university: Most of them have extended or online sessions open to the general public. Having a technical or business writing class, especially if you get an “A” grade, will set you apart from other applicants. You can probably even takes classes for free since the government Pell Grants are now up to about $5000. In many cases, you will have money left over and actually GET PAID to go to school.
3. Do some volunteer work: It shows you care about your community.
In an overly competitive job market, no detail is too small. Anything special about your résumé is a step in the right direction.