Resume & Cover Letters
The Importance of a Resume
95% of your competition will be eliminated on paper. A Resume can get you past the first line of defense and into a face-to-face meeting with someone who has the power to hire you. Employers view hundreds of resumes a week and often make an interview/no-interview decision in less than 30 seconds.
Introductory Tips for Resume Writing
Always keep the reader in mind. The professional resume allows you to present your experience in a format that is easy to read and commands attention from the reader. Remember, this is not a job description but rather your personal marketing document. A reader should be able to put your experience into context. Make sure that after 30 seconds the reader has gotten to the bottom of the page and wants to learn more about you. Consistency is key! A resume should be free of grammatical and spelling errors.
RESUME WRITING OVERVIEW:
The resume is designed with one purpose in mind—to generate enough interest to get you an interview. Do not send it out unless you are completely satisfied with the message it conveys. Most resumes are discarded. Give the prospective employer reasons to separate yours from the crowd by giving indications of how your background and skills are transferable to his/her work environment.
There is no standardized format to follow, but what is critical is that it is graphically easy to follow, concise, and consistently formatted from one section to the next with appropriate headings and subheadings. Ensure that it is aesthetically pleasing to look at with careful use of “white space” and, above all, has no spelling or grammatical errors.
The key is to highlight your background concisely, focusing on the items you feel would be appealing to a prospective employer. Use action words that convey a message of proficiency, accomplishment, and drive. What is most important is that the employer projects your skills, experience, and training as transferable to his/her work setting. The one compelling question you should ask yourself regarding whether or not an item should be included on your resume is “Will this enhance my chances of getting an interview?”
The resume can be chronological, functional, or some variation of the two. The chronological approach (by dates) is generally used when there is a logical sequence of events to list and an historical perspective is most appropriate. The functional resume may be more appropriate when one wishes to highlight particular functions, skills, strengths, or areas of expertise.
Remember to tailor your resume to accentuate your individual strengths and significant features of your background that distinguish you from the competition. It needs to be a reflection of you and what you are capable of doing in the workplace. Sell yourself with confidence—with the primary focus being: experience, specialized training, and transferable skills.
Some items of “universal appeal” to consider when describing your experiences/skills include:
- Customer service/customer relations experience
- Supervisory or management responsibility
- Promotions or increased responsibilities
- Use of communication/interpersonal skills
- Basic computer/technical skills (e.g. Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel; Type XX wpm)
- Meeting deadlines or working in a high pressured environment
- Report writing or presentations
- Independent decision making/problem solving responsibilities
- Working as a member of a “team” toward a common goal
- Providing training
- The use of numbers to substantiate what you have done (e.g. increased sales by 20%; balanced a $200,000 budget)
- Be consistent with font size, margins, abbreviations, punctuation, bold, etc.
- Don’t use smaller than a 10 pt. font or larger than a 12 point font.
- Use an appropriate amount of white space.
- The resume should be a concise statement of your background and qualifications. One page is generally sufficient, however, a particularly capable and experienced candidate might need two pages. If a second page is required, make sure to include your name at the top and do not staple (use a paperclip)!
Honors, Awards, and Activities
Include items that are indications of you excelling and distinguishing yourself. Of particular interest to employers are group activities and leadership roles. Also, emphasize any activities that required voluntary involvement, whether school related, community related, or informal. Academic honors should be included, such as Dean’s list, honor roll, etc.
Additional Specialized Skills, Proficiency, Equipment, Procedures, etc.
Any additional skills, equipment worked with, familiarity of specific procedures, etc. that you feel you could bring to an employer in addition to what has already been mentioned. Include items that you feel would be transferable to the prospective position you’re targeting, even if you feel it is not necessarily a requirement of the position, but could be helpful (e.g. computer skills, speaking a second language, etc.).
Resume Do's and Dont's:
- Limit your resume to one page
- Use a one-inch margin on all sides
- Avoid abbreviations
- Quantify accomplishments wherever possible
- Place all dates on the right side of the resume
- Maintain consistent font style, spacing, indentation, capitalization and bullet style
- Use a font size that is easy to read – 11 or 12 pt. is recommended
- List experience in reverse chronological order
- Use phrases that start with Action Verbs
- Maintain consistency with verb tense with phrases in the experience section
- Use meaningless words or phrases such as “seeking a challenging position”
- Start phrases in the experience section with “responsible for” or “my responsibilities included”
- Begin phrases with “I” or use complete sentences
- Exaggerate your experience or your GPA
- Use a font smaller than 10 pt.
- Include any demographic information (age, race, gender) or photographs on your resume
A curriculum vitae (CV) may be used when applying for academic, scientific or research positions. A CV includes awards, scholarships, research experience, publications, and professional associations in addition to work experience and activities.
Cover Letter Writing
The difference between your resume and cover letter is that your resume should provide the reader with a better understanding of who you are. Your cover letter should connect the dots for the reader and show how your previous experiences apply to the job for which you are applying.
Developing the Body of the Cover Letter
Research – Read the job description.
Select – From the job description, select 2-3 key responsibilities or qualifications that you possess.
Substantiate – For each of the 2-3 responsibilities or qualities that you have picked, develop a specific example that represents how you have previously performed similar tasks or displayed similar qualities/skills. (This evidence can come from your previous work or academic experiences.)
Writing a Cover Letter
Sample Cover Letter Outline:
Your resume heading with contact information
Name of contact person, Title
City, State, Zip Code
Dear (contact person):
Identify the person with the power to hire (department heads, etc.), and avoid personnel or “Dear Sir/Madam”. Use the internet to do your research.
Indicate the position for which you are applying or the general field to which your background applies. Mention how you became aware of the position (e.g. through advertisement, referral, etc). Next, in general, state the 2-3 job responsibilities or qualities you chose from the job description that distinguish your candidacy and meet the needs of the prospective employer. Here, you are providing the employer with a “thesis statement” indicating what you can bring to the company/organization in a general sense. (This will generate interest, if on target.) Also, you may want to indicate your availability, if it is not immediate.
For example: I am a senior at Temple University majoring in Communications. I am interested in ________ position and became aware of this position through _______ Corporation’s positing on the OwlNetwork. I believe that my organization, communication, and presentation skills make me an ideal candidate for the ______ position.
Body of the Letter
Provide evidence that supports the 2-3 job responsibilities or qualities you found in the job description and mentioned in the “thesis statement” of your first paragraph. In other words, you will be explaining how your experiences and training relate to the responsibilities or qualities that you have chosen to highlight from the job description. The purpose of the body of your cover letter is to briefly connect your experiences to the key responsibilities and qualifications of the job for which you are applying. The goal of your cover letter is to generate interest in the resume itself. Be sure you use the language (jargon) of your field. Also, use words that imply action.
For example: As a Marketing Assistant for Planners Inc., I demonstrated my organization skills by planning an event for 100 people. I was responsible for everything from the accommodations and the registration process to the programming and workshop schedule. The event was successful and registration numbers increased for the following year. Furthermore, I was asked to continue planning the conference annually.
Refer to the documents you have enclosed, such as your resume and other requested materials and ask for a meeting (interview) at the employer’s convenience. In this paragraph, you should also provide your contact information again so that this information is accessible. You also want to avoid confusion if your resume and cover letter were to become separated. If the position was not advertised, you may want to assert yourself by indicating that you will call the employer within one to two weeks to determine if he/she has any further interest.
For example: Enclosed please find my resume and writing sample. I am available for an interview immediately and can be reached by phone at (215) XXX-XXXX or via e-mail at XXX@temple.edu. I will follow-up in two weeks to confirm your receipt of my resume and to determine if you have further interest in my candidacy. I look forward to hearing from you.
4 SPACES FOR YOUR SIGNATURE
Your name typed