Resume and Cover Letter Building 101

The Paper Chase.

One of the most important things I've learned in college was the proper way to build your resume and cover letter. An employer only spends about 4 - 7 seconds reviewing a resume. Now is your time to shine. 

Below are the Do's and Don'ts of resume and cover letter building.

 

Resumes

  • Do. PROOF READ.

I absolutely cannot stress this enough. Read it over 5 times. 20 times. I don't care, just read it over. On top of that, have someone else read it over. Other people catch errors you may have missed. Every detail counts! 

  • Do. Keep it Organized and Consistent.

 Make a career summary that coincides with the job opportunity. Choose an easy to read font and use bold, italics, and underline only when necessary. Look up action verbs.  List most recent work experience first. Emphasize all positive accomplishments. Focus on what you did in the job, not what your job was. Be specific and stay consistent. (If you use periods at the end of your points, always use periods. If you don't, don't use them at all.) 

  • Don't. Include references. 

Instead, write at the bottom, "References available upon request." Plot Twist: Have a reference page ready and bring it to the interview. Lastly, don't forget to ask people if they're okay with being a reference. Don't just put them on there without their knowledge. 

  • Don't. Use personal pronouns (I, my, me, she).

Don't write in third person. Don't write past jobs in present tense. Don't use outdated fonts (Times New Roman). Don't use fancy fonts. Don't include irrelevant stuff (age, hobbies, opinions, salary info, social media, anything personal). For the love of baby jesus. DO NOT include a picture or a stupid email address. 

 

Cover Letters

  • Do. Follow a format. 

Use the same style you did your resume. Aim to write 3 - 4 paragraphs, and keep it on one page. Start with an opening paragraph. Briefly introduce yourself, state the purpose of the letter, and include the position you are applying for. Use the next 2 - 3 paragraphs to state your accomplishments, skills, and relevance to the job opportunity. Only include the important stuff. Lastly, the closing paragraph. Convey your enthusiasm, tell them you look forward to hearing from them, AND mention a follow up...and actually follow up. It's important to show your interest, and remember to stay professional. 

  • Do. Highlight Your Strong Suits.

This letter gives you a chance to share your best qualities. List your experience, and tell them why you're qualified for the job. 

  • Don't. Make a Generic Letter. 

Employers and recruiters can tell if you've written a mass cover letter. Put in a little more effort and customize one every time. Learn more about the job your taking and the company. Research their mission statement and their values. Your cover letter is your elevator pitch. It tells employers why you're the best of the best. 

  • Don't. To Whom It May Concern:

Do. Not. Do It. It's not personal and off putting. Try your best to find the name of the hiring manager. Check their website. Call the company and ask. If you still haven't gotten anywhere, at least put "To the hiring manager of ____" as a last resort.

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I would post an example of my documents, but I once had a friend use an old resignation letter as a template... Let's just say he sent his employer MY resignation instead of his... You can all yell at him for that. If all else fails, Google is your best friend. 

A Professor once told me, "Your resume lands you the interview. Once you get that interview, you know you're qualified. The rest is up to you to prove you're the right fit". With that being said, your resume and cover letter pretty much defines your professional life. They say never judge a book by it's cover. In this case, employers are judging hard.  

Pro Tip 1: Go to Staples and print out your documents on resume paper. It's higher quality and heavier than normal paper. 

Pro Tip 2: If you are submitting documents electronically, print out your cover letter, sign it, scan it, upload it.

Congratulations. You've completed a free workshop on resume and cover letter building. You just saved a bunch of money by reading this instead of taking a college course. You're Welcome.