Now that you have graduated, or at least you are getting close, it is time to start putting together a resume and cover letter. After all, how are you going to find employment if you don’t start sending out resumes to those companies you are most interested in working for. You are also going to want to do targeted resume submittal, which will be covered in this article, to increase your chances of getting an interview. Your cover letter is just as important as your resume, so follow along with the simple steps in this article to learn more about writing effectively for both.
Cover Letter Concerns
While you will likely write the cover letter for your resume after writing your resume, there are some thing to consider now, and it is so important to your chances, so this article will speak in depth about it first. The goal of your cover letter is to send a personalized, targeted and effective essay about who you are and why you would be best for the company. Remember, you aren’t the only one sending out a resume, so make sure that you are sending out something unique and impactful. A few tips to help ensure you hit all the important points:
- Clear contact information. Make sure your contact information, including phone numbers, email address, home address and your name are all clear and easy to read. The best idea is generally to put it in a similar, but different font, in bold, and slightly larger at the top of the cover letter.
- Proper greetings are hard. Finding the right way to say hello can be difficult. Something along the lines of “Dear Hiring Manager” is find in most cases, unless you know the name of the person you are contacting. If you do know their name, “Dear Mr. Smith” is perfect and will open the letter with a proper greeting.
- Closing the letter is just as hard. Most of the time, saying farewell to a perfect stranger is difficult, except in a cover letter. In general, regards, or sincerely, will do perfectly for a business approach.
- Honesty is the best policy. Your cover letter needs to be targeted at the company you are contacting. This means you need to do a little research. Once you know more about the company, specifically mention things that make you qualified for the job, but make sure they are honest. Don’t shoe horn in facts about yourself in the hopes that it sounds good enough. Only use information that is appropriate and use the cover letter as a way to highlight the strongest points from your resume.
- Proofread. This will be mentioned again the in resume section because of how important it is. You need to proofread your cover letter multiple times. Then you need someone else to proofread it, then you need to do it again. If you send a letter with any mistakes, you can kiss a chance at an interview good bye in most cases.
Writing a Strong Resume
Writing a strong resume requires a little preparation. First, create an outline and get a design down that you are comfortable with. You can get a few ideas for templates all over the web, similar to those found here. In general, you should create the outline and fill in the detail in a generalized way. This will make it easier to edit the resume as you target specific companies. You want to edit your resume to highlight your strengths as they rank in importance to a company. This generalized outline and template ensures that you are able to do that with speed and accuracy. Once that part is done, simply ensure you followed these steps and keep it as up to date as you can.
- Top and center contact information. Similar to what you did with your cover letter, ensure you have all relevant contact information, and even the best times to contact you at those numbers, at the top of your resume, centered, and larger than the rest. It doesn’t need to take up half the page, just tick up the font size one point or so.
- Keep it together. Lump specific aspects of who you are together throughout the resume. For example, relevant skills should all be places in their own area, where it will be easy to find for the viewer. Consider using bullet points or some other way to draw extra attention to that section. The same is true for your work history and all other information you decide to include.
- Be humble, but confident. You may have a long list of accomplishments that you can list, but make sure you are only adding those that will actually matter. Try to keep the amount of accomplishments listed to a number that is impressive but not showy. Also list these accomplishments in the same way that you listed the rest of your information; as facts about you, not as something you are bragging about.
- Accuracy is key. Make sure that the dates listed, and any other information that can be checked by viewers, is as accurate as possible. If you aren’t sure what dates you worked for a company, just put the years and try to get as close as possible to the month that you started. If it is too far in the past, just list the years that you worked for the company. If you can’t remember the years, it probably isn’t relevant on the resume anyways as it is too far in the past.
- Add references at the end. This doesn’t need to be a focus of the resume, but should be easy enough to find for the reader. Give those you list as references the courtesy of knowing that they may get phone calls about you. Also make sure that you are listing professional references as opposed to friends or family. If you have worked with people that are now friends, ask them if you can use them as a reference and tell them to stay professional in the discussion.
- Proofread. You knew this was coming, but you need to proofread this document even more than your cover letter. Take the time to really go over the entirety of the resume and play with the layout as you do so. A great tip for proofreading your own work is to read it backwards. That is, start at the last sentence and move to the first slowly. This will take all of what you wrote out of context and make you examine each word. Many writers will put away their work for a period of time, then revisit it. Do the same with this. If you can wait a week or two before submitting your resume, put it to the side, then come back to it again later. Finally, have others read it as well and find any faults they can.
Once your resume is done, updated for the target company, and the same is done to the cover letter, all you need to do is send it off and wait for replies. It is also in your best interest to follow up with the companies you submitted to a few days later. Give them time to contact you first, but after a few days (3 or 4) calling them simply shows initiative. If they give you an answer that is not definitive one way or the next, try again a week later. You don’t want to be overbearing, but you want to show the potential employer that you do want the job and you are willing to go the extra mile. Persistence pays off and you have nothing to lose as long as you practice patience in a business appropriate manner.