What is a Resume?
The most common answer to the question, “What is a resume?” is — a document that aptly summarizes your experience and qualifications for a particular job. True. But a resume is much more. Similar to a quick-hitting advertisement, a resume is a demonstration of your organization skills, your preparedness, and your ability to market yourself. It is an example of your value as an employee and
your ability to solve problems. All of that in about ten seconds — the average length of time each resume is looked at. And a dirty little secret that companies may not want you to know; the resume is a weed-out tool. How? Simple, ask yourself why you are submitting a resume. To help an employer get a sense of whether or not they want to interview you for a full-time position.
You know how boring it can be putting together your own resume. So imagine what it must be like to read hundreds of resumes from people you don't even know. Sifting through resumes is rarely the top choice of how a human resources manager would like to spend her day. The key ingredients in a resume that gets noticed are wording that is kept to a minimum and making sure each carefully chosen
fact produces a lasting impression on an employer. Your tacit goal should be to make the most out of the least.
If you were a professional baseball player, your resume would be your baseball card. Your employment history and accomplishments would be touted in your career statistics. As a relative new comer to the big leagues — or the job market — there would be a few sentences encapsulating your background in the farm system — or the university — and what you did there. There might be a few fun facts or
some hobbies to round you out as a person. The one difference is that a baseball card can't hide the ugly truth that while you may have been a great power hitter, your overall batting average was lousy. On a resume, you can control which successes you want to talk up. And you should. The resume is the place to boast about all those achievements. In other words, a C in 20th Century British Literature should not and will not
necessarily put you out of the running for a banking job.
What is a Cover Letter?
The cover letter is one of the most important documents you will ever write. Take a second to recall the college application process. The cover letter is the equivalent of the personal statement. It is the two-dimensional embodiment of who you are. It is the primary tool you will use to sell yourself. It is the place to highlight your strengths, proclaim your creativity, and show your
organizational skills. And it can be the key to improving or seriously impeding your job hunt. A cover letter serves three basic purposes:
1. Accompanies your resume.
2. Introduces you and your employment qualifications.
3. Generates interest in an employer to interview you.
When you write your cover letter, remember to write it from the perspective of your potential employer. She is, of course, the one who will be hiring you so put yourself in her head. What would she want to know about you? What do you have that is particularly appealing? Why do you fit the position you are applying for better than every other candidate? The answers to these questions are very
important as they save the employer the time and the hassle of trying to figure out if you have the necessary qualifications. The cover letter should provoke an employer to say, “Now here is someone we absolutely must find out more about.”
The cover letter is a reflection of you. If it is sloppy and disorganized, it will suggest that you are… sloppy and disorganized (shocking!). It may also suggest that you lack focus or that you don't care about the personal impression you leave on other people. On the flip side, a neat, well-written cover letter implies that you are thoughtful, focused, organized — all of the positive
attributes employers thirst for.
If you include good answers to her questions and coherently showcase relevant information about the company and the position you are applying for, there is a significant likelihood that you will reach the next rung in the job ladder: the interview.
Creating a Cover Letter
A good cover letter is like a good research paper: Despite what you may think, it is not written overnight. Remember the papers you researched and wrote the night before it was due? How ill conceived and poorly organized they were? One thought here, one thought there, lame sentences all over. Now remember the papers (fine, maybe it was just one) that were written over a few weeks, a few
drafts. Not only how much better they were but also how much better you felt after writing them. Creating a cover letter is a very similar process.
Your job is going to be a significant part of your life after graduation so it pays to look into where you want to be and what you want to be doing. This process starts with researching your cover letter. Recall from the "What is a Cover Letter?" section that a good letter is written with a potential employer in mind. And you, as a potential employee, have a responsibility to know all you can
about each employer from which you want a job. What are the strategic goals of each employer? Whom do they hire? Is there a new CEO at the helm? You certainly don't want to flub a job interview because you didn't know the big boss in charge. Be sure to also know something about the industry of each employer. Visit the library or your handy internet browser and find out how your potential employer and its competitors are
doing. Have there been industry-wide layoffs recently? Are companies looking to grow their infrastructure overseas?
By finding out more about a company and an industry you can focus your cover letter on areas that are of important interest to the person reading it. Plus, you'll highlight your specific knowledge. The key is to find an edge, something that shows off your intelligence and attention to detail, something that no one else will include in their cover letter. No matter how well organized and
grammatically perfect a letter is, unless it relates directly to what an employer is looking for, the odds of landing an interview are slim.
Is My Cover Letter Any Good?
Good cover letters are more than perfect grammar and unblemished spelling. They are essentially written sales pitches of no more than a single page. In order to increase the odds of banking a sale, you need to carefully craft your language so that it includes the following:
1. an introduction that establishes your interest
2. a paragraph or two that sums up your strengths
3. a paragraph that highlights your experience and education
4. a sentence or two that establishes follow-up action
Making a Connection
Good introductions grab the reader and ensure that the rest of your letter will be read. You don't have to automatically be cute either. In fact, a far more effective way of being noticed is to simply personalize the letter. Potential employers can spot a mass-mailed cover letter before reading the second sentence. Include a key fact about the company you are applying to. Better yet, if you
met the company's recruiter at your school's job fair be sure to note it. For example, the sentence, “Donald Watkins, your Supervisor of Information Technology, mentioned that you are looking for a web page designer. Perhaps my expertise and experience can be of help.”, shows an employer that you took some time and energy to find out about the firm and its open positions. Personal connections are one of the best ways to
generate an employers interest in you.
What Do You Do Well?
Once you have the employer's interest, the rest is gravy right? Sadly, no. But at least the rest is easier because it's about something you know — you. After proving that you are no stranger to who a company is, the next part of the cover letter is about explaining why hiring you will be a valuable asset for the company's future. What do you have that they want? You have a record of
accomplishments, but don't organize these paragraphs like a laundry list. Be selective in your choices. You have to prove how specific contributions you've made elsewhere in the past mean you can make similar contributions at this company in the future.
One fatal flaw of many student job seekers is to pick out the accomplishments they are most proud of. Bad move. You may love the pottery bowl that won first prize in the art department's end-of-year awards because you think it shows your improvisational talents. Unfortunately, a management consulting firm doesn't care. Be sure to keep in mind that you are trying to tailor your letter to the
exact needs of an employer, who may care more about a group project in your statistics class. Just as successful sales people focus on their customers needs, successful job hunters focus on what different companies want.
There is no need to overload this section with a laundry list of majors, minors, courses, and extracurriculars. Instead, briefly summarize the relevant portions of your background. You have plenty of space on your resume to list four years worth of courses.
I'll Be Back
The final paragraph of your cover letter should either urge the employer to contact you or indicate that she'll be hearing from you soon. Include your home phone number and say what hours of the day are best to reach you, or say you will call her office on a certain date to determine if there is any interest.
The Format of a Cover Letter
In order to leave a good impression with your cover letter, use your head. You are writing to a boss, not your best friend. Letters must be free of grammatical and spelling errors, well-spaced, well-organized and have a clean design that properly showcases your qualifications. The three most commonly used formats are:
Modified Block. We are including an example of one letter in all three formats.
The most formal letter is the full block; it is also the most commonly used. The casual style is the modified block; it is the least commonly used. As a general rule of thumb, the better you know the person you are writing, the more casual you can afford to be with the format of your letter. Unless you've actually met the person to whom you are writing, stick with either the full block or
Some other general rules to keep in mind when writing the perfect cover letter:
1. Each Word in the Address Line Begins With a Capital Letter.
2. The date is positioned on the very next line below the address and can be written in the following two ways: August 21, 1980 or 21 August 1980.
3. The name of the individual to whom you are addressing the cover letter should be preceded by a courtesy title (Dr., Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc.). Male attorney names should be superseded by Esq. and all medical doctors by M.D.
4. Use “Dear” in the opening of your letter.
5. The most common closing is “Sincerely” followed by “Sincerely Yours”.
6. Two lines below the signature block (see one of the sample letters) flush with the left margin include initials of your name, in lower case. If your name is David Maldov Carnegie, write “dmc.” Known as the typist identification, it is not required but including it is a signal to employers that you have mastered the art of cover letter formats.
7. The chances are that your cover letter will include a resume. In the line directly below the typist identification write the word “Enclosure.” If you are enclosing more than one document put the number you are including in parentheses immediately after the “Enclosure.” So for four documents, you would write “Enclosure (4)”.
Uh Oh, my Cover Letter Has Problems
You've finished your cover letter and everything seems perfect. Not so fast. Even Ernest Hemingway never got it right on a first draft. The most basic problems with a cover letter are poor organization, bad spelling, and grammatical errors. Frequently students try to pack their cover letter with as much information as the can. Often they shrink the margins or delete spaces in between
paragraphs. Unless you proofread your draft, you're likely to miss little typographical and spelling errors. These may seem like minor points but they are the quickest way of ending your job hopes. The impression they give is one of carelessness, sloppiness, and lack of education. Most employers won't even bother reading to the end of a letter with these mistakes.
There are other blunders to watch for as you go over your cover letter. Are you rambling? Maybe you've just rehashed your entire four years at school without explaining why you want to work at this particular company. Make sure to keep your letter focused on a few key points.
Are you focusing the letter on yourself too much? As we noted in previous advice columns, the key to landing a job is satisfying the needs of your employer not yourself.
Does your letter come across as too aggressive, or even worse, as if you are bragging? Do you look like a self-absorbed grumbler who is likely to irritate her co-workers? Employers are turned off quickly by a candidate who over-inflates her skills and unnecessarily embellishes her past experience. There is a fine line between being assertive and being an obnoxious show-off.
Is your writing style boring and tedious? Cover letters are more than a place to summarize your credentials. They should be a window into your creativity and resourcefulness. They should give someone a taste of the work - and the spirit - you plan to bring to a new firm.
Example: Contact Information
Unless the situation dictates, you should never volunteer personal information such as age, ethnicity, religion, marital status and physical attributes on your resume. All contact information to include current phone and/or fax number (s), your postal address, and your email address at the top of your resume, and leave it at that. For example:
100 Scott's Kando Drive,
Freeport, Illinois 61032
Tel: (815) 555‑1212
Cellular: (815) 555‑1223
Any additional page(s) should at minimally contain name and address
Example: Objective [this is optional]
An objective statement should be direct and show employers that you know what you want and you know how to get it. An objective should be targeted, professional, and free of personal pronouns words such as ( "I,","my", and "me"). Avoiding other colorful word or flowery details.
"Objective: Industrial sales position capitalizing on 15 years' experience in retail management and commercial administration."
Of course, your objective can be longer or shorter than this example. Ultimately this depends on your situation, your level of experience, and your desired position.
Example: Summary of Skills
Use the summary statement to emphasize the most important qualities, achievements and abilities you have to offer an employer. Include professional characteristics that could help you later during the interview; for example, "team‑oriented," "skilled at problem‑solving," "committed to excellence." Then, during the interview, be prepared with anecdotes
so you can elaborate on each of these statements. Here's an example:
"Sales professional with proven background in retail management and hospital administration. Design, coordinate and enhance sales and marketing activities and relationships to identify business customers. Effective communicator, able to develop comprehensive networks for continuing organization visibility and sales revenues. Desire career
growth based on performance and accomplishments."
Go back 10‑15 years, and list every position you've held in reverse chronological order. Even though age discrimination is illegal, many candidates with substantial experience worry about falling victim to it. So, if you've been in the field for more than 15 years, you can add a section titled "Prior Relevant Experience" and just refer to your
additional important jobs without mentioning specific dates.
If you've held multiple positions within the same company, list every position—you'll want to show that you've progressed.
Finally, concentrate on the description of each position—the meat and potatoes of this section—to show that you've gotten results and solved problems within the organization. For example:
"2/93 ‑ Present: East Coast Business Systems, New York, New York.
Hospital Marketing Representative Represent
major expanding medical diagnostic reference laboratories testing program to hospitals and health systems in the sales of services and information systems.
Create marketing and strategic selling plans. Establish network within hospital marketplace for upstart division. Comprehensive knowledge of managed care and physician group, and clinical trials market."
Bennett offers these examples: Instead of... "Experience working in fast-paced environment"
Try... "Registered 120+ third-shift emergency patients per night" Instead of... "Excellent written communication skills" Try... "Wrote jargon-free User Guide for 11,000 users" Instead of... "Team player with cross-functional awareness" Try... "Collaborated with clients,
A/R and Sales to increase speed of receivables and prevent interruption of service to clients." Instead of... "Demonstrated success in analyzing client needs" Try... "Created and implemented comprehensive needs assessment mechanism to help forecast demand for services and staffing." It's good to be hard-working and ambitious, right? The hiring manager won't be convinced if you can't provide solid examples to back up your claims.
Bennett suggests being extra-careful before putting these nice-sounding but empty words in your resume.
Include the institution's name and location, along with your degree and the year you obtained it.
Beyond that, you can include
Educational honors, seminars and certifications, and list achievements such as projects, awards, and grade‑point averages. (A GPA of 3.0 or above is worth mentioning.)
After you've finished the professional experience and education areas of your resume, you can add additional sections for additional pertinent information, such as professional honors, awards and affiliations.
While you might need to provide your recruiter with professional references, it's not necessary to include these on your resume—after all, if you're in the middle of a career search, it's pretty clear that you've developed some professional relationships along the way. However, if you do add a references section, make sure it says more than
"References available upon request." Also, check with your references beforehand to make sure you can include them on your resume. You don't want anyone to be surprised when the recruiter calls.
You may also wish to include professional skills, such as languages spoken and proficiencies with computer software or hardware, in this section. Other possibilities include professional training, appointments and licenses. However, you should never include hobbies (e.g., "I like to read") or list personal interests (e.g., "music, books, art")
anywhere on your resume.
Tips from Recruiters
Recruiters have highlighted 12 of the career accomplishments that most interest employers. It's possible that you've accomplished some of these in your current job—think of how you might include them on your resume. Approach each one from the viewpoint of a recruiter: How can this past accomplishment benefit a potential employer?
Improved workplace safety
New products/new lines
Improved record‑keeping process
Successful advertising campaign
What Job Seekers Need to Know
In an information age, technology drives most interactions, resumes sent via E-mail and traditional paper are likely to be scanned for key information by a machine, not a human being. Human are limited by time to view a resume and you must at all times put your best foot forward within 7 - 14 seconds.
Your resume maybe scanned by a machine using
A text-searching - artificial intelligence software. The software searches for skills that match a job description. Such systems are important because they significantly lessen the time it takes to search for qualified applicants to fill a job. They also help employers create a resume pool
Every word in a resume is important in the selection process, because computers are programmed to search for keywords. This software can also reads important information to include your name, address, work history, experience and skills. A clear and clean resume allows the scanner to obtain a good image to maximize the matches.
To Prepare a for Scanning
Use a standard typeface such as Courier, Helvetica, Futura, Optima, Universe or Times with a point size of 10-14.
Use black ink on white 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper. (Not Colored Paper)
Use only capital letters or boldface to emphasize important information.
Do not use italics, underlining, boxes, graphics, or horizontal or vertical lines.
Avoid a two-column format or resumes that look like newspapers or newsletters.
Use only a laser-quality printer.
Do not fold or staple pages.
If faxing, use fine resolution and follow up with a mailed original.
Avoid "formatting peculiarities." If you use E-mail, save your file as "text only" or "ASCII" to avoid the possibility that your word processor and your prospective employer's word processor are incompatible. E-mail a copy of your resume to yourself to make sure it looks the way you meant it to look.
Use "key-words" phrases, terms, jargon, and titles to describe your abilities. Describe your experience with concrete words rather than vague terms. Be sure to use state-of-the-art terminology to describe yourself.
Always look to the company and mimic their words in the help-wanted ads.
Be concise and truthful. & Use more than one page if necessary to get the attention of robotic and human readers.
A resume only gets you to the interview you do the rest.
Use keywords: if you are uncertain about keywords look to the advertisement and other advertisements of the same job titles.
BS in XXXX - Management - Team work - Leadership - Internships experience - AutoCAD
Job search you may choose to have two versions of your resume:
One to send for the computer to read
One for people to read during an interview
Other Resume tips and Examples