Your resume is a compilation of credentials that lets potential employers know what you have achieved. Your cover letter tells them why your achievements are important and why you are a good fit for the position you are applying for. It acts as your spokesman and markets you to prospective employers.
A good cover letter should have three sections: a brief opening, middle and a closing. Each part contains crucial information and needs to be strongly worded.
The Opening Paragraph
It is here that you clearly identify the position you are applying for. Tell the reader how you learned about the job. If you are responding to an ad you saw or if a friend referred you, say so. More importantly, explain why you are interested in the job or in this company in particular. Make them believe you want to work at this company, in this position.
The Middle Paragraph
This is really where you sell yourself. Explain why you are the right candidate for the job. Using key words from the job description highlight your skills or education that makes you a good choice. Talk about one or two of your past achievements that have direct bearing on what they are seeking in an employee. If they are seeking analytical skills and you found a way to save your last company a large sum of money by revamping their processes, this is a good time to point it out.
Don’t be modest. If you don’t think enough of your achievements or skills to mention them, then how will they know or why would they care. Discuss your skills and the reasons they make you a good match. Focus on your positive characteristics and the impact they could have for the company.
The Closing Paragraph
This is not the place to get mushy or verbose. Keep your closing succinct and sincere. You want to thank them for reading your resume and considering you. Make sure to state that you are willing to provide any additional information they may require. This might include references, verification of school credentials and so on. Include information on how you can be contacted.
Your cover letter is like your agent. It is there to get their attention and make them want to meet you. Read it over carefully. Are you someone you would want to meet if you were the person doing the hiring? If not, do some editing and have some trusted friends and colleagues look it over before sending it in.
If you’ve never been to a job fair you don’t know what you are missing. Even if you have a job it’s worth checking out all the opportunities that are presented at job fairs. Imagine booth after booth of professional businesses that have job openings available and there for the taking. Of course there is also a lot of competition but chatting with a representative at a job fair will answer many of the questions you will have about the company but are afraid to ask in an interview. To take full advantage of the opportunity go to job fairs prepared to apply.
Create a resume and take several copies of it with you to the job fair, also consider calling cards/business cards. You want to have something to offer that will make you stick out in the representatives’ mind. Being prepared and interested is one sure way to get your foot in the door.
Carry your own portfolio complete with pen and paper so that you can easily pull out your resume or jot down information. Most of the time hiring isn’t done at the job fair but the information, resumes and applications collected are sorted right away and the people who were prepared will be at the top of the list for interviews.
Dress as if you are going to an interview. Job fairs are the place to present yourself as a professional. Skip the mommy jeans and baggy sweatshirt. If you need some advice about how to dress for an interview be sure to check out Dressing for the Interview by Theresa Leschmann.
A job fair is a great place to network and connect not only with potential employers but also other job seekers who may have information about an available job that would be perfect for you. Take the time to talk to people along the way. You’ll be surprised at how many contacts you will leave with if you simply get involved at the job fair.
Check your local unemployment office or bulletin board for the next job fair in your area. Get prepared and go there with the intention of making an impression on at least 3 separate people! If your single mom social skills are lacking a bit, 3 people can seem impossible. But if you’re used to being out away from the kids and interacting with adults you’ll probably deal with many more people at a job fair.
Imagine what it would be like to work in the human resources department of a large company. Your main job function as a personnel manager is to weed through the dozens or even hundreds of job applications and resumes you receive every day. It wouldn’t take very long until they all started to blend together. As a job applicant, your responsibility to yourself is to make your resume stand out from everyone else’s without irritating the person reading it.
Short and Sweet
Think back to that pile of resumes on the human resource manager’s desk. She doesn’t want to read a novel every time she opens an envelope. She doesn’t need your life history. All she needs are the essential facts that tell her whether or not you are right for this job. Education, work history and special skills or talents are the main ingredients. Keep it short and sweet, around one page if at all possible. That doesn’t mean using the smallest font possible so you can cram more information in there. If she has to squint to read, she’s going to pass on it.
Whatever style you choose to write your resume, be consistent throughout. If you start the sentences of the first sections with action verbs, a very good technique by the way, carry that through to the end of the resume. Don’t mix verb tenses. If your action verbs are present tense, don’t change to past tense half way through. Leave out unnecessary words and pronouns. Spruce it up with bold or underlined subheads. Use bullet points to illustrate lists of information. This makes an easier-to-read document and helps you keep the length to one page. Keep your choice of font conservative such as Times New Roman or Arial. Fancy fonts can be more difficult to read or scan.
The resume should contain the facts and information about your suitability for the job. It is not the place to inject humor and wit. If you want to let your personality shine through, save it for the cover letter. The resume should show your professionalism and highlight your attributes. You want to get the call for the interview. The resume should make them want to meet you on the basis of your abilities. Once you are there, you can win them over with your personality.
If you are looking for work, you are probably applying to more than one type of company. You want them to know you are a unique individual with the combination of skills, experience and education they are looking for. Your resume is the instrument by which you accomplish this. It shouldn’t be a clone of every other resume out there and it shouldn’t be your complete life history either.
Your resume is your introduction to a company. It should make their mouth water and make them want to meet with you as soon as possible. One way you do this is to tailor your resume to each company you apply to. A single resume does not work in all cases. This isn’t one size fits all.
We are all a sum of our total experiences. You may have had accounting experience at one company you worked for while your computer skills may have been more utilized at another. They are both excellent assets but if you are applying for a position as a bookkeeper, you don’t want focus on your typing speed and extensive knowledge of search engines. However if you are being considered for a position as a researcher for a newspaper, those skills could be quite valuable.
Nothing is a bigger turn off to a potential employer than a poorly done resume. It indicates laziness, lack of self-respect and an employee who will not take pride in their work. Check you punctuation and spelling. Make sure the name of company and the person you address your resume to are both spelled correctly.
Make It Appealing to the Eye
Keep the resume to one page if at all possible. Balance the amount of information presented with white spaces on the page. This makes the resume easier to read and to photocopy or scan. Use bold face type or bullet points to draw attention to significant data. Use meaningful headers such as International Experience or Specialized Skills but only if they apply.
Include examples of your past achievements if they are pertinent. A potential employer might want to know that you saved you last employer $100,000 with cost-cutting plans. Include your personal information such name, address and your contact information but avoid mentioning age, marital status, salary expectations.
In order to pack the biggest punch, leave out redundant information. There’s no need to mention your high school information if you are providing your college information. Do not provide references until the interview. This takes up valuable space in the resume and they probably won’t call them until after they’ve met you and decide they like you anyway.
When applying online, it seems easy to get lost in the pile of resumes that come in. But here, you can understand how to make yourself stand out so that employers will find your resume first among all your competitors.