Here are some quick tips for putting your best foot forward when applying for a higher ed communications job:
- Remember your audience. Read the job description carefully and adapt your cover letter accordingly. Don't make the hiring individuals work to find how your skills and experience fit this particular position. If the job requires specific software expertise, make sure you mention that software somewhere in your résumé or cover letter. If you're vastly overqualified or live outside the region, explain why you're interested in the specific position. Double-check that your boilerplate language makes sense; stating that you're goal is to work for a Fortune 500 company or manage staff when you're applying for an entry-level position at a non-profit organization will send your application straight to the circular file.
- Be confident, not cocky. It's one thing to say that your many years of experience may be a good match for an institution. It's another thing to openly state that you're so overqualified that the only reason you would apply for a low-level job would be for the tuition benefit. There are much more tasteful ways to explain your interest without the condescension. Also, if you have different versions of your résumé, make sure the file names on your attachments don't give away your omissions (e.g., "JaneDoe_withoutCEO.doc.").
- Details, details, details. Review your application package many times in many ways. Spell-check it. Grammar-check it. Get your spouse/parent/child/friend to proofread it. Read it out loud to yourself. Put it away, and then read it again an hour later. (And for crying out loud, please don't misspell "detail-oriented.")
- Distinguish yourself professionally. If you want a job communicating for an institution, make sure that your individual communications present a highly professional image. Send your attachments as PDFs so that fonts and formatting aren't lost. Keep your writing clear and concise, and use bullets and subheadings so your documents can be easily scanned. Adding light artistic touches to your application can be helpful for design-related positions, but don't let form get in the way of the function.