Resume and Cover Letter Guide

RESUME ESSENTIALS | COVER LETTER GUIDE



RESUME ESSENTIALS

Purpose of a Resume

A resume that is well crafted:

  • Gets the employers’ attention
  • Emphasizes your relevant skills and qualifications
  • Prepares you to supply evidence of your fit within the job and type of organization
  • Provides interviewers with discussion points and question topics
  • Persuades employers to interview you

Elements of a Resume

The following serves as a checklist of categories to include on your resume. While most elements are required, some are optional. Will it help to sell you to an employer? If so, include. When in doubt, leave it out.

  1. Contact Information
    • Name, telephone number, email address, mailing address. (Do not abbreviate)
  2. Summary
    • State your professional identity and marketable skills, strengths and personal characteristics
  3. Education
    • Institution name, institution location, year of graduation, title of degree, major, minor
    • Optional additions:
      • GPA – 3.0 or higher
      • Related coursework
      • Honors (optional)
  4. Internship
    • Company/organization name, city, state, and date (Right justified)
  5. Experience
    • Name of organization/company, city, job title; dates of employment are right justified
    • Focus on activities, work, and experience that is most relevant to the employer first
    • List specific examples of accomplishments starting each bullet point with a strong action verb
  6. Skills
    • Software knowledge including Word, PowerPoint, Excel
    • Foreign languages
    • Certifications
  7. Activities/Interests (optional)
    • Club memberships, organizations, associations, sports, leadership positions
    • Hobbies, travel, and volunteer activities

Basic Guidelines of a Resume

  • One page is standard, but two may be acceptable
  • Use bold, italics, and underline sparingly 
  • Margins can be 1 inch, font can be 10-12 point 
  • Save as .pdf if sending electronically to an employer 
  • Focus on the skills and experiences most relevant to the employer 
  • Qualify and quantify specific descriptions of experience 
  • Stay away from templates 
  • Do not use first person pronouns (my, me, I) 
  • Avoid phrases like: “duties/responsibilities include,” “assisted/helped/aided with” – focus on active language
  • Omit the phrase “References Available Upon Request” and do not include references

CREATING A SUMMARY

Summary: Summarizes personal, transferrable and technical skills related to the field you are pursuing.

SAMPLE SUMMARY:

  • Patient and flexible Early Childhood Education major with skills in creating activities to teach and engage children. Possess experience as a Tutor and Nanny. Bilingual (Spanish) and Certified in CPR and First Aid.
  • Communications student with experience leading teams in writing, editing, and distributing an on-line magazine. Recognized for leadership, creativity and software skills.

A strong summary includes two parts:

1. Professional Identity

A strong summary includes two parts:

EXAMPLE:

a. Possible Identities: Biology Major; Psychology Student


2. Marketable Skills and Strengths

- Describe your strengths that match the professional identity

EXAMPLE: Inquisitive and resourceful; Recognized for strong presentation skills; Possess knowledge of current health science programs

 

DESCRIBING YOUR EXPERIENCE

The easiest way to approach writing about your experience is to break it down into smaller steps.

1. Brainstorm

  • Before you can write about your job tasks and accomplishments, spend time thinking about what you have done in each position. 
  • Think about what you are proud of accomplishing. 
  • Do not censor yourself or worry about the best way to say it. 
  • For each job, internship, or volunteer opportunity, write what you did from answering the telephone to one time special projects.
    - Review your list. Did you miss anything? For example, did you:
    - Develop new strategies or procedures?
    - Create or recommend ideas?
    - Manage/supervise/train others?
    - Receive promotions or increase your responsibilities?
    - Increase the profits or services of an organization?
    - Solve a problem?

SAMPLE BRAINSTORM LIST: Wait Staff Position

waited tables
handled cash
took orders
seated customers
set up/cleaned up
    made reservations
cooked food
answered questions
trained new people
stocked dining room

 

2. Write first draft
  • Begin to organize your ideas. Do not expect the draft to be perfect; you can smooth out rough spots later. 
  • Do not use personal pronouns (I, we, us), instead begin each phrase with an action verb that directly highlights your skill. 
  • Look at your brainstorm list for each job, internship, or volunteer opportunity. See which task go together; often several small tasks may be grouped together. 
  • When you begin to write your phrases, ask yourself: What did I do? For whom did I do this? Why did I do this? What were the results of my actions? 
  • Write in past tense, you have already performed the task.
FIRST DRAFT:
  • Helped customers with menu questions
  • Frequently used cash register
  • Seated customers
  • Took orders
  • Assisted new employees to learn restaurant layout and procedures


3. Smooth out rough spots

  • Did you use the strongest action verbs? Avoid using: helped, aided, responsibilities included, assisted, and duties included. These words do not state specific accomplishments. 
  • For each task, did you state the specific actions and results? 
  • Take credit for what you did, even if it wasn’t part of your job description. 
  • Did you include an indication of the volume you handled? 
  • Does it sound like a professional description? 
  • When you review your first draft, mark verbs that could be improved and ask yourself questions to note where it can be strengthened.


4. Write second draft

  • Select stronger action verbs to show accomplishment statements. 
  • Combine smaller tasks. 
  • Add more detail to give the employer a full sense of what you did and to answer the question “so what?” 
  • Rearrange your bullets to put the most important information at the top. 
  • Do not use slang or abbreviations.

REVISION:

  • Greeted and seated customers in a busy family restaurant, maximizing space and revenue
  • Promoted nightly specials, took orders, and prepared drinks, resulting in increased sales and tips
  • Answered customer questions and suggested menu options, receiving many compliments
  • Trained five new employees on restaurant procedures and layout to reduce errors
  • Processed bills and tallied shift receipts, in excess of $800 nightly


WRITING ACCOMPLISHMENT STATEMENTS FOR YOUR BULLET POINTS

There is a difference between a duty and an accomplishment. An accomplishment is specific and states the results of the duty. Think about the challenges you have had on a job and how you overcame them. For example, a cashier kept hearing complaints from angry customers:

CHALLENGE

- Customers were complaining about long checkout lines at lunch.

ACTION

- Recommended a new checkout line for “five” and “under five” item purchases.

RESULTS

- Fewer complaints by customers.

By explaining the results of your actions, you allow employers to understand what you have accomplished and how it can benefit them. List the results as your bullet points. Employers want to know how you can save them money, generate revenue and contribute to quality! Be specific and quantify when possible ($, #, %)

Sample Results:
Improved, enhanced, ensured, expanded, increased…… quality, performance, efficiency, sales
Reduced, eliminated, decreased……time, costs, waste

Not sure you have any accomplishments?

Let’s take the example of the Cashier in a grocery store. She recognized that during the hours of noon and 2:00 p.m. the checkout lines were exceptionally long and customers were complaining. (That’s the challenge). She recommended to her Manager that an “under five item” checkout line be instituted as many customers came in just to buy a sandwich and drink. (That’s the action). The results?
  • Modified a system of check-out lines that reduced customer wait time by 50% and increased customer satisfaction….OR….
  • Received an award for designing and implementing an improved system of check-out lines that reduced wait time and increased customer satisfaction….OR….
  • Increased customer satisfaction by recommending and implementing an enhanced lunch time check out procedure that reduced wait time from five minutes to one minute

Note: Each bullet starts with a strong action verb.

RESUME ACTION VERBS

accelerated
accomplished
accrued
accumulated
achieved
acquired
adapted
addressed
administered
advanced
advised
affected
alleviated
analyzed
answered
anticipated
applied
appointed
appraised
approved
arranged
assembled
assessed
assigned
audited
balanced
bargained
bolstered
briefed
budgeted
built
calculated
categorized
centralized
charted
clarified
classified
coached
coded
collaborated
collected
combined
communicated   


 

compared
compiled
completed
composed
computed
conducted
conserved
consolidated
constructed
contacted
contributed
controlled
converted
coordinated
counseled
crafted
created
decreased
defined
delegated
delivered
demonstrated
described
designated
designed
determined
devised
developed
diagnosed
directed
discovered
displayed
distributed
divided
documented   
earned
edited
elevated
eliminated
encouraged
enforced
enhanced
escalated


 

established
estimated
evaluated
executed
exhibited
expanded
facilitated
formulated
founded
gathered
generated
guided
handled
identified
illustrated
impacted
implemented   
improved
improvised
increased
influenced
initiated
inspected
instructed
insured
interacted
interpreted
invented
inventoried
investigated
launched
led
listened
located
made
maintained
managed
marketed
measured
mediated
moderated
modified
motivated


negotiated
obtained
offered
opened
operated
ordered
organized
outlined
oversaw
performed
persuaded
piloted
planned
prepared
presented
processed
produced
promoted
proposed
provided
purchased
recommended
recorded
recruited
rectified
redesigned
referred
reduced
regulated
reorganized
reported
represented   
researched
resolved
responded
restored
retrieved
reviewed
revised
scheduled
searched
secured
selected


separated
served
simplified
sold
solved
specified
staffed
standardized   
structured
succeeded
summarized
supervised
supplied
supported
surveyed
synthesized
systemized
taught
tested
tracked
trained
translated
tutored
utilized
verified
wrote


YOUR NAME
Street Address - City, State Zip Code - Telephone – Email Address (Non-PMC)

SUMMARY: Organized and detail oriented Management student with a minor in accounting. Recognized for strong Excel and project management skills. Bilingual (Spanish).

EDUCATION:

Pine Manor College, Chestnut Hill, MA    Expected May 2014 

Bachelor of Arts in Management and Organizational Change, Minor in Accounting
Honors: Dean’s List, GPA 3.5

INTERNSHIP:

ABC Securities, Boston, MA     2013 - Present
Intern to Financial Advisor
  • Conducted research, using Bloomberg and Morningstar to provide Financial Advisor with up-to-date information on clients’ investments
  • Prepared reports that were used in client presentations
  • Marketed services of Financial Advisor to potential clients and arrange informational seminars that increased the client base
  • Answered inquiries from clients regarding status of their investments

EXPERIENCE:

Royal Bank, Lynn, MA   Summer 2012
Bank Teller
  • Opened and closed accounts for customers, and managed transactions including cashing checks, issuing travelers’ checks, and processing deposits
  • Received “Customer Service Excellence” award
Liberty Insurance, Boston, MA   2011
Clerk, Claims Department
  • Input and processed insurance claims, using company database
  • Researched discrepancies and resolved customers’ concerns
City Realty, Winchester, MA   2010
Office Clerk
  • Conducted research on competitors’ marketing strategies
  • Compiled report of findings and presented to manager and brokers

COMPUTER SKILLS:
MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access

VOLUNTEER:
Tutor elementary school students in math

ACTIVITIES:
Captain, Pine Manor College Basketball Team

 





COVER LETTER GUIDE

Purpose and Process:

The purpose of a cover letter is to:

  • Express your interest and enthusiasm for a specific job
  • Make the connection for employers to identify how your skills match their needs
  • Explain why you want the job, why you are qualified for it, and why you should be hired
  • Show you are knowledgeable about the organization and the field for which you are applying
  • Show the unique personal qualities that you would bring to the position

How is a cover letter different from a resume?

It is different from your resume because it allows you to specifically explain to the employer why you are writing. You are able to express who you are and why you are a good fit for their company by giving specific examples that match the job description. Avoid telling them “I think I am a perfect fit”. It is not what you think - it is what the employer thinks that is important.

When do I use a cover letter?

A cover letter should accompany your resume when it is being emailed, faxed, or mailed.

Can I use the same letter for everyone? To whom do I address the letter?

No. Each letter should be individualized and addressed to a specific person. The most successful approach is to conduct research to identify the head of the department to which you are applying and address the letter to that individual. One way to determine what areas you want to emphasize to a specific company is to carefully read the job advertisement. What skills are they looking for? Not all ads will focus on the same aspects of a job. Taking time to tailor your examples to what the company wants can make the difference in getting an interview.

Writing:

First Paragraph:
Identify your purpose for writing, the job you are seeking, how you heard about the opening, and why you are interested in that specific job. Be enthusiastic!

Example Sentences for 1st Paragraph:

  • Your advertisement for the __________ position in Internships.com caught my attention. 
  • I am writing to inquire about the possibility of obtaining an internship in your department. 
  • Professor __________ at Pine Manor College suggested that I contact you to… 
  • I am currently a junior at Pine Manor College majoring in Management and Organizational Change. 
  • I am excited to learn about this opening because …

Second and Third Paragraphs:

This is the most important part of the letter. This is your “sales pitch.” Explain to the employer how your skills and experience will meet their needs. One great way to do this is to identify the keywords/buzzwords used in the job advertisement and then use them in your response. Use examples to substantiate your claims. Indicate why you are interested in this organization. Companies want to know that you are interested in their job, not just any job. For examples, draw from a variety of work, internship, volunteer, and academic experiences.

 Example sentences for 2nd paragraph:
  • My experience includes…
  • In my position at Boston Management, I _____, ______, and _____.
  • Through my work at ____, I gained valuable experience including ____ and ____.
  • In my ____ class, I learned _____, _____ and _____.
  • I am interested in working for ____ because…

Closing paragraph:
Keep this short. Do not be repetitive. Thank them and explain what action you will take next.

Example sentences for closing paragraph:

  • I will contact you the week of ___________ to follow up on the status of my resume. Thank you.
  • I look forward to speaking with you soon to learn more about ____________ and to further describe my qualifications.

Helpful Tips:

Mistakes to Avoid
The biggest cover letter mistake is writing in vague terms. This does not help the employer distinguish you from other candidates. Give examples of your accomplishments that are relevant to the specific job. Convince them that you are the best candidate. Remember to have someone proofread your cover letter or email to avoid typographical errors.

How do I decide what to include?
Put yourself in the company’s place. What qualities and experiences would you want in a candidate? Some questions to consider are:

  • What is the organization really looking for?
  • What qualifications do I have that make me valuable to an employer?
  • What aspects of my personality match the job?
  • Why do I want to work for this company?
  • What separates me from others in this field?

How should I format a cover letter? (This is the format for email as well as “hard copy” cover letters)
Use a standard business format. Align all text to the left margin and do not indent. Put your address at the top, followed by the date, and then the name and address of the person to whom you are sending the letter. Skip one line between each paragraph. Do not indent the first word. Sign off with “Sincerely”.

Before clicking “Send” for an email or prior to mailing a letter:
How is the writing quality? Is the letter “I” used too often? Have someone proofread your letter! Is it free from typographical errors, spelling and grammatical errors? This will be seen as a sample of your writing skills. It needs to be perfect. Did you sign it if it is a “hard copy” letter? Keep a copy as you may need to refer back to it when talking with the employer. It is helpful to have as a model for future cover letters.

Sample Cover Letter:

JOB ADVERTISEMENT:
The DSS is seeking a Communications Department Intern to support a staff of ten. The principal duties of this position are:

  • Respond to customer inquiries: follow procedures to refer callers to programs at locations across the Commonwealth, process adoption event registrations and organize handouts.
  • Committee meeting support: plan and distribute agendas, prepare meeting folders, verify attendance and distribute minutes.
  • Legislative/Budget: track budgetary and legislative matters.
  • Bilingual (Spanish) applicants encouraged to apply.
  • Knowledge of Excel a plus.

Notice how keywords from the ad are in the letter

400 Heath Street
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
pmanor@gmail.com
617-731-0000

January 1, 2014

Demetria Jones
Massachusetts Department of Social Services
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 333
Boston, MA 02114

Dear Ms. Jones:

Your opening for a Communications Department Intern captured my attention. I am a Social and Political Systems major at Pine Manor College and I welcome the opportunity to contribute to your important mission. My background as it relates to your needs includes the following:

  • Extensive customer service experience as a waitress at a local restaurant where I was recognized for my friendly attitude both over the telephone and in person
  • An active member of the Pine Manor College Student Government Association for three years where I have planned meetings, organized materials, kept attendance, and distributed minutes
  • Appointed Treasurer of the Psychology Club where I utilize Excel to track budgetary expenses
  • Fluent in Spanish

I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss how my background meets the needs of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. I will contact you the week of January 7, 2014 to follow up on the status of my resume. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Patricia Manor


Cover Letter Template

 

Always try to get the name of a specific person to whom you can address the letter so that you can follow up with that person

Your Name: _______________________
Current Address: ___________________
Email Address (Non-PMC): _____________
Telephone Number: ___________________ 

Date: _____________________ 

Name of Person to whom you are addressing the letter: _____________________________
Contact Title: ___________________________________________
Company Name: _________________________________________
Company Street Address: __________________________________
City, STATE, Zip Code: ___________________________________ 

Dear Ms. / Mr. ____________: 

Opening (Showing enthusiasm) _______________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________

My background includes the following:

  • __________________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________________

 

  • Keep your letter focused on what the employer needs, and how your skills and experience can meet those needs, rather than on what you hope to gain
  • Take the time to research the company to demonstrate your interest and knowledge of the company

 

Closing (Explain next step): __________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________

Sincerely;

Name: _______________________

 

Remember that your letter is evidence of your ability to communicate in writing and your attention to detail, so always check spelling, proofread for grammar and punctuation, and vary your sentence structure so that not all of your sentences begin with “I”