Cover Letters, Resumes and More
Career Service for Alumni
Cover letters support your qualifications, and express those qualifications in ways to add value to the organization with which you're interested in working. Employers may gain their first impression by reading your cover letter and choose whether or not to continue on to reading your resume. Your letter should be interesting, easy to read, and concise. Here are a few “Do's” and “Don'ts” of writing your cover letter!
Do's and Don'ts of Cover Letters (source: Hansen, R. and Hansen, K.)
- Don’t ever send your resume without a cover letter.
- Don’t waste your first paragraph by writing a boring introduction. Use the first paragraph to grab the employer's attention. Give the employer the reasons you are qualified for the position.
- Don’t send a cover letter that contains any typos, misspellings, incorrect grammar or punctuation, smudges, or grease from yesterday’s lunch.
- Don't forget to personally sign the letter, preferably in blue ink.
- Don’t rehash your resume. Use your cover letter to highlight the aspects of your resume that are relevant to the position. If you simply repeat your resume, you’re wasting precious space -- and the potential employer’s time.
- Do speak to the requirements of the job, especially when responding to an ad.
- Do keep your cover letter brief. Never, Never more than one page and it’s best to keep it well under a full page. Each paragraph should have no more than two to three sentences.
- Do address your letter to a named individual. “Dear Personnel Director” or “To whom it may concern” are poorly received.
- Do tell the employer how you can meet his or her needs and contribute to the company.
A picture is worth a thousand words; make your thousand words paint a picture of a person the employer wants to hire! Give this format a try:
- Your contact information
- Employer’s contact information
- Paragraph 1 introduction and why you are writing
- Paragraph 2 what you can offer them
- Paragraph 3 what you will do next to follow up
- Your signature
- Type your name
Need to spice things up? Add in action words to make yourself stand out among your competition. Here’s a link to a good list of action words that you might find helpful.
In addition, here are a couple of example cover letters to help get you started.
The single most important step in the job search process is preparing your resume. It is this document that prospective employers will use to evaluate your skills, experience, qualifications and education. Not an autobiography, the resume is a summary of your experiences that highlights your skills and accomplishments. You should never send the same resume out to more than one employer. Instead tailor each resume to fit the job description, highlighting your experiences and skills that match. Have it looked over by a Career Counselor before you send it.
You should begin the resume writing process by reflecting on your skills, interests, personal qualities and accomplishments, especially as they relate to the employer’s needs and job requirements.
Remember, your resume needs to be unique to you! There are many opinions as to what makes a good resume. Have several people who know you and your career area review your resume. Ask questions and listen to their thoughts. Then decide for yourself what information and “look” best represents you in your absence.
Format Guidelines (credit: Syracuse University):
Having done the appropriate research, you are now ready to begin writing your resume. Listed below are some guidelines you should follow in preparing a resume.
- Format: Be simple, concise, and well-organized. Use clear English, avoid misspellings and check for poor grammar. See below for information on which kind of resume you should use.
- Length: Be brief without sacrificing accuracy or completeness. Short, concise phrases are more readable than long paragraphs or complete sentences. Use action verbs to describe work experiences and related activities. Generally, one page is sufficient for most college graduates with limited experience, although some fields are more length tolerant. Computer scanners are also less concerned with length.
- Visual appeal: Good spacing, margins, and headings contribute to appearance and readability. Avoid gimmicky font styles and anything that might make a reader struggle to get your message. Poor visual appeal may detract from the content. Arrange major categories in order of priority with the most desirable qualifications for your career field first. When sending electronically, PDF your resume to ensure your potential employer sees the same format you spent hours putting together.
- Paper quality: Your resume should be free of marks, distracting lines, and inappropriate shading. Use quality stock paper. Make it look professional. Use matching envelopes for mailings or send it in a larger envelope so your resume won't be folded.
Which kind of Resume?
There are a number of different kinds of resumes: Chronological, Functional, those for the Internet and those for less experienced folks. Typically, chronological resumes are used by individuals entering their career path or continuing in the same path. Functional resumes are more often used by experienced employees seeking mid-career advancement or career changes. Syracuse University provides a great explanation of each and shows you examples! Check it out here.
We understand that everyone is different and everyone wants to do their own thing. We just want to point you in the right direction. Below you will find some links that can also help you with that ever-important resume and cover letter.