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Resumes & Cover Letters

General Cover Letter Information

  • The cover letter should motivate the reader to look at your resume and consider you for an interview. Don’t simply restate everything in your resume. Sell yourself!
    • Paragraph One: Tell the contact what you want or the position you are applying for and how you became aware of the organization. If someone referred you, mention that person’s name.
    • Paragraph Two: Provide an overview of your qualifications and work history showing how you would benefit the organization. Discuss how you developed an interest in the career field. Show passion and tailor this to the specific job.
    • Paragraph Three: State your confidence in your abilities and give information on how you can be contacted. Express your appreciation.
  • Focus on what you can do for the company, not what they can do for you. Be work/company-focused, not self-centered.
  • Address letters specifically to a person with the correct title and spelling of the name.
  • Be concise. Use normal, but professional languages. Don’t use inflated words or exaggerations.
  • Be positive and use action verbs. Create word pictures that will help the reader see you doing the job.
  • Tailor the letter to the specific position and reader. Don’t forget to sign the letter!
  • Use block format and keep the letter to one page.
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General Resume Information

  • The goal of a resume is to get an interview! You do not have to list everything that you have ever done. Be selective. Draw attention to what you have accomplished or contributed instead of just your responsibilities. Focus on where you are going with your career, not just where you have been.
  • Employers prefer a Chronological Resume (see attached samples) which lists your work experience (most recent first) and dates of employment.
  • Resumes generally include some of the following sections depending on what you seek to highlight:
    • Contact Information
    • Skills Summary
    • Qualifications
    • Education
    • Relevant Coursework
    • Professional Organizations
    • Awards
    • Volunteer Experience
    • Professional Activities
  • Contact information should include a professional email address and a phone number where a message can be left on a voice mail system.
  • It is best if all relevant information fits onto one page; however, there is not a strict rule about length. The guideline is how much experience you have in the field – more than 10 years = more than one page. Remember, employers only spend 15 to 20 seconds looking at your resume!
  • Do not include personal information such as hobbies, marital status, or a picture. Focus your resume on your professional qualifications.
  • A resume must be truthful. Falsification is grounds for termination, even years later.
  • Proofread your resume. Have several different people proofread it. A resume must be free of typos, errors, and gimmicks.
  • Good resumes are visually pleasing and easy to read quickly. Bulleted lists help with readability.
  • Great resumes focus on skills and results, use action verbs to get the reader’s attention.
  • If using quality resume paper, black ink on white or ivory paper is the best choice.
  • A resume should always be accompanied by a cover letter unless delivered in person.

Resume Writing

In modern resumes, information about skills and experience can be listed using three distinct formats:

  1. Reverse chronological
  2. Functional
  3. A combination of the two

1. Reverse chronological

Generally speaking, hiring managers prefer that employment data is provided with the most recent job listed first, followed by the next most recent, and so on. In that way, it’s easy to see career progression from an entry-level position to more senior status. It’s also easy to detect gaps in dates of employment. These gaps lead some candidates to use a functional format instead.

2. Functional

Functional formats stress what skills you have, rather than where and when you used them. These formats are best for students who have just graduated from college and have little “real-world” experience, those who have been out of the workforce for long periods because they were raising children, and job seekers who are transitioning from one career or industry to another. However, sometimes combining a functional format with a reverse chronological format makes the most sense. These are called combination resumes.

3. Combination

With this format, skills that are relevant to the current job search are placed in a special section by function, while the Professional History or Work Experience is presented in a standard, reverse-chronological format. This format offers the best of both worlds, and is highly popular with modern job seekers and hiring managers.

The two most effective resume formats for entry-level workers are functional and combination. Steer clear of strictly chronological resumes, which place emphasis on your work history.

Functional resumes emphasize your related skills while downplaying your work chronology. Rather than citing dates of employment, this format uses categories to highlight your aptitudes. For example, if you’re seeking a secretarial position but don’t have any related experience, you may create the following categories: “Computer Skills,” “Interpersonal Communications” and “Office Management Abilities.” The latter may refer to managing your own home office, for example.

combination resume is a chronological resume that leads with a Qualifications Summary, in which you emphasize the credentials that most qualify you for the job you’re trying to land. Strategically order the sections in your resume to best suit your qualifications, placing more relevant categories, such as Education, Key Skills, Volunteer Work, etc., before your work history.

Action Words

Make your resume more powerful!

Achieve

Act

Adapt

Administer

Advertise

Advise

Aid

Analyze

Apply

Approach

Approve

Arrange

Assemble

Assess

Assign

Assist

Attain

Budget

Calculate

Catalogue

Chair

Clarify

Collaborate

Communicate

Compare

Compile

Complete

Conceive

Conciliate

Conduct

Consult

Contract

Cooperate

Coordinate

Correct

Counsel

Create

Decide

Define

Utilize

Update

Demonstrate

Design

Detail

Determine

Develop

Devise

Direct

Distribute

Draft

Edit

Employ

Encourage

Enlarge

Enlist

Establish

Estimate

Evaluate

Examine

Execute

Exhibit

Expand

Expedite

Facilitate

Familiarize

Forecast

Formulate

Generate

Grill

Guide

Handle

Head

Hire

Identify

Implement

Improve

Increase

Index

Influence

Inform

Initiate

Inspect

Install

Institute

Instruct

Integrate

Interview

Introduce

Invent

Investigate

Lead

Maintain

Manage

Manipulate

Market

Mediate

Moderate

Modify

Motivate

Negotiate

Obtain

Operate

Order

Organize

Originate

Oversee

Perceive

Perform

Persuade

Plan

Prepare

Present

Preside

Process

Produce

Program

Promote

Propose

Provide

Publicize

Verify

Qualify

Raise

Recommend

Reconcile

Record

Recruit

Rectify

Redesign

Reduce

Regulate

Relate

Renew

Report

Represent

Reorganize

Research

Resolve

Review

Sauté

Schedule

Screen

Select

Sell

Serve

Settle

Solve

Speak

Staff

Standardize

Stimulate

Stimulate

Summarize

Supervise

Support

Survey

Synthesize

Teach

Train

Transmit

Write