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Ah, the resume and the dreaded cover letter. How “artsy” should it look, what words should you use, what layout should you pick? There seems to be an ever-changing list of things you should and shouldn’t do, and no one seems to be on the same page about any of it. So where does that leave you? Confused, frustrated and stressed the heck out. Over pieces of paper.
Despite the crazy amount of information about how to make them, it can get overwhelming trying to figure it all out. They aren’t as complicated to make as it seems, promise! I would know – I’ve definitely made my fair share, and a few times I was even complimented on them. How cool but weird is that btw?
Since you might not necessarily need the cover letter, but will definitely need the resume, I’ll start with the resume first!
Keep it simple, and try to fit it all on one page! For most of us millennials, we’re still dealing with people in older generations – so as much as we might want to go crazy with design to really make it pop and stand out, it can come across as being a bit #extra. Be sure to pick something that won’t look too busy. Unless you’re applying to a design/marketing or super-hip young and fresh kind of place, then go crazy. But still keep it simple with the fonts. No one wants to see comic sans. Because I was applying to law enforcement (rigid/strict/etc.), I kept mine simple and clean. So fancy fonts or colors for me!
I highly recommend changing the native layouts you can find on your computer a little bit (or find a great free one elsewhere), just so it doesn’t look exactly like another one someone else could have submitted. I personally love going to Pinterest or Behance and searching for free resume templates. With either one, you get a ton of options or ideas to make our own, and the latter has a ton of minimalist templates to choose from! I personally love this layout!
Always save and send as a PDF – preferably with your name in it (First Name Last Name Resume). How many people do you think saves theirs as a generic “Resume” file?
Also. It goes without saying that you should never ever ever lie on your resume or cover letter. Just don’t do it! It not only reflects poorly on your character, but also your judgement and you as a person. Do. Not. Lie.
Start off with your name, current address/location, phone number, and email in the header or top section of your resume. You can also include a “profile” section if you wish. Generally, readers will get through the first third of your resume before deciding if you’re a good fit or not, so this section can add a few details to set you apart. Just be sure to keep it short (2-3 sentences)!
List your education, then work experience. Be sure to include dates, positions, company names, school names, degrees received, etc. For each job position, also include a general list of responsibilities that you had. Tailor these for each position that you apply for as needed.Also be sure to use those power words! No “tries”, “loves”, “watches”, etc. for you! Instead use “advises”, “directs”, “supervises”. So bust out that thesaurus (on Google) and find some powerful alternatives to everyday words!
I like to list my degrees and positions with the school or company under them, rather than vice versa, but you can do this however you want.
List any special skills you may have. Again, keep it short and to the point, and tailor it to each position you are applying for. Are you fluent in any other languages, proficient in any programs/software specific to the job, or have skills in anything related to the position that isn’t mentioned in your work experience section (copywriting, statistics, chemical analysis, social media, etc.)?
The Cover Letter
Now for the cover letter! I only had to submit a handful of cover letters in the 70+ applications I ended up filling out, so while you might not need them often, you definitely need to know how to make one!
Just like with your resume, keep the layout of your cover letter simple unless you’re applying for those few positions mentioned above where they are looking for a little personality. Carry over the theme of your resume – fonts/style, any color (careful with color though!), etc.
Do no, do not, do not use the same exact letter for every single position you’re applying for. Just like with your resume, you’ll need to make some changes each time.
Also just like with your resume, always send it as a PDF – preferably saves with your name in it (First Name, Last Name Cover Letter) or something along those lines. You’d be surprised how many people just save it as “Cover Letter”on their computer!
And keep in mind your cover letter is meant to elaborate on your resume – not repeat it. So rather than just state the same old stuff, twist it to show how the company you’re applying for could benefit from a person like you. Bonus points for adding in a few details about the company itself. “Because of your recent promotion with ___, I believe my skill in ___ would prove to be a valuable addition to your company.”
Just like with your resume, be sure to put your name, current location/address, phone number and email in the header section. Include the company name, the name of the person you’re contacting (if you find it), their position, and the company address before the opening (but under the header).
Start off with the appropriate opening.
Dear X if a specific person, To Who It May Concern if you have no idea who to address it to. Definitely try and check out LinkedIn to see if you can find the person in charge of interviews for the company/position you’re applying for so you can address it to a specific person! That shows you did your research and adds a personal touch for the reader!
State your reason for writing.
Along the lines of “I am writing to express my interest in the position of…”, “I am writing to inquire about openings in…”, etc.
“I am currently working/studying at ____ working as/majoring in ____.”
Talk about yourself.
Make it good and make it to the point. You are selling yourself in a matter of sentences – make it count! Talk about your education and experience. Keep the idea of what qualifies you for the position in mind as you write.
Why you are the best for this position.
Mention any special skills you have and turn them into why that sets you apart and makes you perfect for the job. Explain why your qualifications/skills make you better than anyone else applying. What makes you special, what makes you different? “I believe that my experience in/with ___ makes me an ideal candidate for this position.”.
“Thank you for taking the time to consider my application.”, “If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at ___.”, etc.
“I look forward to hearing from you.” “Yours sincerely, XX”. Be sure to include your signature in this in addition to your typed name. It breaks up all the text!
And that’s it! Not that bad right? Trust me, if I could manage to create and submit 70+ resumes and a handful of cover letters, then you can too!
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Have any questions? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!