Building skills to move forward.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Resumes

What is a resume?

A resume is a brief overview of your qualifications, skills, education, and experience. In most cases, this will be your potential employer’s first impression of you, so there is a lot of pressure to create one that positively portrays you.

 

Getting Started

If you have never made a resume before, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed, so where do you even start? It is recommended to start with the basics. Most of the information on your resume will not change often, such as contact information, work history, certifications, and education history. These things should be your starting point for building a basic resume.

 

Information such as skills and qualifications are most impactful when tailored to fit what the employer is looking for in a candidate. For example, if you are applying for a position as a cashier in a clothing store, the employer will not particularly care about your woodworking skills, so you can definitely leave this off your resume. Always analyze any given information about the position for which you are applying. Employers will provide descriptions of duties typical of the positions and the qualities that would make a successful candidate. If they do not provide this, asking is always an option. The amazing thing about resumes is that they are not at all permanent. Every piece of information on your resume is completely editable. You can add or take away however often you wish to match your skills to those which a position may require, and as long as you are honest, there are no boundaries.

 

Updating Your Resume

Resumes should be updated as often as necessary to ensure that accurate information is given. Whenever you gain new skills or work experience, advance your education, or change your contact information, be sure to return to your resume and update accordingly. It is much easier to do this as these changes occur than to do it all later, when there is a chance you could be under pressure and potentially forget something relevant.

 

Technical Details

  • Be brief. Aim to keep your resume between one or two pages. The goal is to stimulate your employer’s interest in you, not to give them your entire life story.
  • Utilize bullet points to be concise and organized.
  • If you choose to use color to accent your resume, choose a professional color scheme. Avoid bright or neon colors.
  • Use a generic and easily legible font such as Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial. Avoid cursive fonts.
  • Ensure your font is large enough to be easily skimmed but not too large as to be unprofessional. For fonts such as Times New Roman or Calibri, 12 points is an ideal size.

 

For examples of resumes by career industry visit Monster.com.

 

Tips for a Successful Resume

  • Make your name stand out against the rest of your resume. Make your name appear in a larger font size than the content of your resume. This is what you want to stick with the employer even after they have finished reading your resume.
  • Be selective of what skills you include. Tailor your skills section based upon the employer’s provisions in the job listing or description.
  • Proofread. Nothing will make a worse impression of your sensibilities than making a simple error in spelling on such an important document. For  additional help proofreading, try online programs such as Grammarly. This service and many others can be used for free.
  • Have friends and family read your resume and make suggestions. They may be able to offer advice on wording or help catch and correct any errors.
  • Be honest. Lying on your resume will be your undoing when your employer realizes that are not able you to do something you claimed you were able to on your resume.

Cover Letters

 

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is an additional document sent with your resume. Your cover letter is your chance to explain how the skills and experience outlined on your resume make you the ideal candidate for the position you are applying for. From your cover letter, the employer should be able to glean exactly what qualities and experiences you hold that will make you excel in the position if given the chance. It should tell the employer why you are qualified for the position, why you are interested, and why you should be considered.

 

Do you need a cover letter?

Not all positions require a cover letter. Employers that require a cover letter will tell you in the job posting. If the employer does not explicitly state that they require or do not require a cover letter, it is a good idea to send one anyway.

 

Writing a Cover Letter

 Cover letters typically follow this structure:

 

Header

This is where you will include your information, the employer’s information, and the date.

 

In print, this section appears as follows:

 

Your name

Your Address

Your Contact Information

 

Employer Name

Employer Address

Employer Contact information

 

Date

 

If you are emailing your cover letter, it is suggested to place your own contact information at the end so that it may act in place of your handwritten signature. In an email, this section should look like this:

 

Employer Name

Employer Address

Employer Contact information

 

Date

 

 

 

Salutation

This is where you will formally address the employer.

 

If the job posting or company website provides the name of the company’s hiring manager, it is recommended to address them as follows:

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. Last Name

 

If your are unsure who the hiring manager is or of their gender, you may use either “Dear Hiring Manager” or  “To whom it may concern”. It is more recommended to use the former, as the latter may seem too impersonal.

 

Introduction

In this paragraph, you should mention the position you are applying for and explain how you learned of the position. Give a brief description of the skills and/or experiences that qualify you for the position. Key words are “brief” and “preview”. These skills are what you will elaborate on in the body of your letter, so you should not go into too much detail in this section.

 

Body

In this section, write 1-2 paragraphs that explain why you are interested in the position you are applying for and why you are the ideal candidate for the job, and that elaborate on the skills/experiences you mentioned in your introduction. As you explain your skills and experience, ensure to provide specific details of instances where these qualities were shown. For example, if an engineer were attempting to describe their teamwork skills developed during a previous position, rather than simply claiming to have a certain skill, they should state something similar to “For two years, I worked with a team of seven people to develop new green technology designed to reduce car emissions.” The specific example of how you developed these skills and how they helped you will demonstrate to your employer that you have actually applied these skills in the workforce.

 

Closing

In this section, you should begin to wrap up your cover letter. Briefly restate how your skills have helped you and why you would like to work for the company. Then, tell your employer that you would like the opportunity to interview or further discuss employment opportunities and explain how you plan to follow up and when. Finally, close your letter by thanking the employer for their time and leave off with a statement enticing the employer to contact you (i.e “I hope to hear from you soon” or “I look forward to meeting with you”)

 

Salutation

Close your letter with a positive and professional phrase such as “Yours truly”, “Respectfully”, “Best Regards”, “Thank you”, etc.

 

If you are printing your cover letter, insert your cursor at the end of the line containing your closing phrase and strike the enter key approximately four times. Then type your full name on the last line. After printing your letter, use a blue or black ink pen to sign above your typed name. For example:

 

Respectfully,

Your Signature Here

First and Last Name

 

 

If you are emailing your letter, follow the closing phrase by place your name on the next line and contact information on the succeeding lines, be sure to include your address and phone number. For example:

 

Respectfully,

First and Last Name

Street Address

City, State, ZIP

Phone

 

Formatting

  • Keep your cover letter length limited to a single page.
  • Use the same font on your cover letter that you used on your resume.
  • Avoid decreasing the font size below ten points. 12 is the ideal; however, it is flexible if you are struggling to fit it on a single page.
  • To begin with set your margins to 1” on top, bottom, left, and right. Like the font size, this is flexible to keep a single page; however, be sure to leave enough white space so that your letter can be easily read.
  • Insert a blank line between each section to maximize readability.
  • Print on 8.5" x 11" standard white copy paper in black ink.

 

Tips

  • Like on your resume, you should tailor your skills to match the qualifications for the job.
  • The purpose is to complement your resume, not copy it. Do not simply recite the information provided in your resume. Elaborate and exemplify.
  • This is not the point to ask the employer questions about the position, that will be during the interview.
  • Make it personable, but not personal. The employer does not need to hear your entire life story. Aim to give them all of the relevant information and nothing more. You want to get an interview, not fulfill one in your letter.
  • PROOFREAD. Let friends and family members proofread for you as well. As mentioned in the section on resumes, there are many free online programs such as Grammarly that can provide additional aid in this process.

© 2017 Wiley Jones

All images on this site were acquired via Pixabay and are released under Creative Commons CC0.

Building skills to move forward.
Building skills to move forward.
Building skills to move forward.
Building skills to move forward.
Building skills to move forward.
Building skills to move forward.