Resume and Cover Letter Guide
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.
- Contact Information
- Name, telephone number, email address, mailing address. (Do not abbreviate)
- State your professional identity and marketable skills, strengths and personal characteristics
- 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
- Institution name, institution location, year of graduation, title of degree, major, minor
- Optional additions:
- GPA – 3.0 or higher
- Company/organization name, city, state; and date is right justified
- Software knowledge including Word, PowerPoint, Excel
- Foreign languages
- Memberships, organizations, associations
Basic Guidelines of a Resume
- Two pages is standard for an experienced professional
- 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.
A strong summary includes two parts:
1. Professional Identity
A strong summary includes two parts:
2. Marketable Skills and Strengths
– Describe your strengths that match the professional identity
DESCRIBING YOUR EXPERIENCE
The easiest way to approach writing about your experience is to break it down into smaller steps.
- 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
– 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?
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 tasks 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.
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.
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 Store Manager kept hearing complaints from angry customers:
– Customers were complaining about long checkout lines at lunch.
– Recommended a new checkout line for “five” and “under five” item purchases.
– 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 ($, #, %)
Improved, enhanced, ensured, expanded, increased…… quality, performance, efficiency, sales
Reduced, eliminated, decreased……time, costs, waste
- 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
400 Heath Street – Chestnut Hill, MA 02467 – 617-731-0000 – firstname.lastname@example.org
SUMMARY: Senior marketing professional with expertise in product rollouts, emarketing programs and materials.
$700 million Company that develops and markets integrated hardware and software products for digital video and applications.
Managed lead product of business unit focused on digital video products for corporate, industrial and government markets.
- Authored and implemented product plans which were adopted and extensively referenced for related products.
- Created comprehensive launch programs including emarketing, direct mail and product promotions to successfully introduce and market new product releases.
Oversaw new desktop video product through entire release cycle of product planning, development and launch that achieved first-year revenue goals and won major awards.
- Initiated programs targeted at corporate training that established the product’s largest vertical market segment, representing 20% of domestic sales.
- Created reseller seminar kits, training and product promotions to establish product first sold through the reseller channel and help develop the channel of 200+ resellers.
$100 million Company that develops and market software and services for electronic publishing, document management and information distributions application.
Product Marketing Manager
Managed multi-platform electronic retrieval and distribution product line.
- Pioneered a new product introduction process focused on bringing products to market faster to optimize revenue opportunities.
- Managed and promoted strategic customer relationships through industry presentations, trade shows and e-newsletters to leverage key competitive strengths.
$25 million video game developer.
- Managed software sales through dealers in Northeast U.S.
- Exceeded quotas consistently in territory representing 25% of company’s U.S. revenues.
Bachelor in Management and Organizational Change, Minor in Accounting
Honors: Dean’s List, GPA 3.5
Boston Marketing Associates, Brookline, MA (Fall 2007)
Marketing and product promotions firm.
Product Marketing Intern
- Compiled collateral materials meeting all deadlines.
- Reorganized files and product information for easier retrieval.
Software Marketing Product Planning (SMPP)
Vice-President, Marketing Management Consortium
Member, Software Marketing Professionals Association
MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access
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.
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!
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.
Keep this short. Do not be repetitive. Thank them and explain what action you will take next.
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:
The DSS is seeking a Communications Department Coordinator 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 facilitation: plan and distribute agendas, and coordinate across agencies to ensure full representation 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
January 1, 2014
Massachusetts Department of Social Services
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 333
Boston, MA 02114
Dear Ms. Jones:
Your opening for a Communications Department Coordinator captured my attention. My five years of experience at a private adoption agency plus my education as a Social and Political Systems major and Communications minor at Pine Manor College have strengthened my commitment to your important mission. My background as it relates to your needs includes the following:
- Extensive customer service experience answering telephones and greeting clients at ABC Adoptions where I was recognized for my positive attitude both over the telephone and in person
- An active member of the Adoption Resource Association for three years where I have planned meetings, organized materials, distributed minutes and utilized 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.