This is “Résumés and Cover Letters”, section 12.7 from the book Success in College (v. 1.0).
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A résuméA document used to summarize the experience of a person. is basically a summary of your experience. Just as an advertiser will invest a lot of resources to condense the essence of his or her product into a thirty-second ad for the Super Bowl, condensing the essence of your experience onto one or two pages can be a challenging task. Fine-tuning, updating, and rewriting your résumé will become an ongoing process as you move through your career, and it is not too early to prepare one now. The purpose of a résumé is to get you invited for an interview. Unfortunately, too often a résumé is a reason to exclude a candidate. Poor grammar, misspelled words, lengthy listings of irrelevant experience, and messy formatting motivate hiring managers to move quickly to the next candidate.
There is no such thing as a perfect format for a résumé, though hiring managers and recruiters generally agree on the following principles:
Deciding what to include in your résumé is where most of the work comes in, because it is in the careful wording of the body of your résumé that you can really sell yourself for a position. Ideally, you should review your résumé for each position you are applying for, particularly to include any accomplishments that you would not include in your “general résumé” but that are relevant to that particular job. Your résumé should include these elements:
Résumé body. Starting with your current or most recent job, internship, or volunteer position, list your experience in reverse chronological order. Each entry should include the title, the name and location of the company, and the dates you held the position. This should be followed by your major achievements in that position. Use strong action verbs and a quantitative measure for achievements. Look for things that will show that you are a better candidate than others. Consider accomplishments such as the following:
Here are the kinds of verbs that help “sell” you to potential employers. Expand on this list to find good verbs specific to your accomplishments by doing an Internet search for “action verbs for résumés.”
Once you have written the body of your résumé, review and discuss it with people you respect. Ask them what stands out, what puts them to sleep, what turns them off, and whether anything is missing. Make sure your résumé is “short and sweet” and that it demonstrates your strengths. Be sure you can support every point you make on your résumé during an interview.
Great résumés are a combination of a business document, marketing piece, and personal preferences. Expect conflicting opinions from others and don’t get hung up on them; the final decision is yours.
Finally, here are some tips on format. Name your résumé file clearly. Don’t give the file the name “résumé” or “My Résumé.” Include your name, abbreviated job title, and company name in the file name. For example, if Victor Smith applies for a marketing project manager job at XYZ Company, his résumé file might be named VictorSmith-MktPM-XYZ.doc.
Choose your document formatting wisely. Use a readable font! You have approximately thirty seconds to make an impact on the person reading your résumé, and nothing turns off a reader faster than a résumé that is difficult to read.
The purpose of a cover letterA letter to potential employers to entice them to read a résumé. is to entice the recipient to read your résumé. There is no better way to entice someone to read further than to demonstrate that you fit his or her needs. A successful cover letter should emphasize how your knowledge, skills, or experiences make you an ideal candidate.
When writing a cover letter, look over the job posting carefully. What are the keywords in the posting? Underline or highlight them. Think about how your experience and skills are related to those keywords. What examples can you give in short sentences? Now you can begin to write.
Be sure to state what job you are applying for and why in your opening paragraph. If you don’t hook the reader here, you will not be considered for the job. This is where you begin to show that you are a unique and qualified candidate. This, in marketing terms, is your selling proposition. Write this paragraph two or three different ways and then choose the best. When you are happy with your opening paragraph, add one or two paragraphs that illustrate your proposition from the opening paragraph.
Remember that your cover letter also demonstrates your communication skills. Be clear, be concise, and be careful. You won’t have another opportunity to make a first impression. Be sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Did you double-check the spelling of the company name? Read the document; look for mistakes your spellchecker won’t catch (like the word “you” instead of “your”). Put it down for a while and then reread it again.
Keep your formatting simple. Often you will have to copy and paste your letter and résumé into a predetermined form on a company’s Web site. You are likely to lose formatting conventions such as tabbing, tables, and bulleted lists.
Explain some of the ways a résumé could block consideration of a candidate. What are some strategies for ensuring this doesn’t happen?
List your top three accomplishments to date. What were the key transferable skills you used in achieving them? Do both the accomplishments and the skills play a prominent role in your résumé?