Resumes & Cover Letters
Learning how to create a resume and cover letter is an important part of post-school life. A resume is a written summary of skills, education, and work experience usually asked for when applying for employment and sometimes for graduate school. There are three major types of resume: functional, chronological, and combination. A cover letter is a document often sent with a resume to provide additional information relevant to the position for which you are applying.
A good resume is short, concise, neat and easy to read. Generally, resumes are two pages or less for less than ten years of work experience. Formatting should be kept simple, with no more than two fonts used in the document and margins should be set at a standard one inch. Sans Serif fonts such as Arial, Calibri, and Helvetica are ideal for resumes submitted in electronic format. Perfect spelling and grammar are a must.
A chronological resume begins by listing work experience from the most recent position. All other jobs are listed in order going backwards to the applicants first job. This kind of resume is best for applicants who have worked consistently, with few unemployment gaps.
Applicants who are just beginning to work might find a functional resume more useful. A functional resume highlights an applicant’s skills and achievements at the top rather than their work history. Work experience may be listed but without dates of employment. Functional resumes are often used by people who are just beginning their careers or people who are changing their careers.
As the name suggests, a combination resume is a mix of both chronological and function resumes. The top of the resume has the applicant’s skills and achievements and below is the applicant’s work experience in reverse chronological order. This applicant can use this type of resume to customize and organize the kind of information the reader may want to see. A combination resume is best for an applicant that has a lot of experience in a specific field.
What kind of information can be seen on a typical resume? Usually an applicant’s personal information will appear at the very top of the document. This includes the applicant’s full name, address, email address and a contact number. Following the applicant’s contact information, a resume formally introduces the intent of applicant with a summary, career objective, or heading. This serves to further highlight relevant skills and experience that will stand out to the employer.
One of the core sections of a resume is the employment or work experience section. The work experience should not include every job held by the applicant. Stick to listing jobs that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Each heading should have the company’s name, city & state, the applicant’s title, and the month and year of employment at the company. Under each company should have 3-5 bullet points summarizing the main duties of the position and any significant achievements.
Another major part of a resume is the education section. Education shows that the applicant has formal knowledge of this industry. Some points included in a section include the name of the school, the city and state of the school, the month and year of the graduation, the type of degree received, and the GPA (if the overall GPA is above a 3.0). Applicants without a lot of work experience also can mention extracurricular activities and related course work.
Other than work history and education sections, a resume’s remaining headings will vary based on each applicant’s background, skill set, and the type of position being sought after. A person fluent in a second or third language might choose to mention this in a resume. A few other headings that may be seen on a resume are volunteer experience, awards, references, publications, and memberships. Another person with a certification that is related to a certain job may choose to highlight this in their resume. When creating a resume, it is important to remember that a resume is an advertisement of the applicant’s best skills and experience to the employer.
A cover letter will often accompany a resume. An important thing to note is that a cover letter should not simply repeat what is written on a resume. It should be a unique document that complements what is already highlighted on the resume. Unlike a resume, a cover letter allows the use of first person language. It is important for an applicant to carefully read the job requirements in the job posting. Often an employer may ask the applicant to mention specific details in their cover letter such as salary requirements or availability.
A cover letter is written in a professional business letter format which includes a greeting, several body paragraphs and a closing. Following the appropriate greeting (Dear Mr./Ms./ Dr. etc.) to the company contact who will read the letter, the applicant will begin the introduction of the letter. The applicant may mention where they heard of the position and elaborate on what skills and experience he or she has that match the position requirements in the remaining passages. To conclude, the applicant should thank the reader(s) for their consideration and express a desire to interview or discuss future employment opportunities.
There are a few different types of cover letters. As discussed above, an application cover letter is for applying for a particular position or job opening. A networking letter is sent to professional contacts to ask about career advice or job leads. This is a great way to build and keep connections with people within the applicant’s network. The purpose of prospecting letters is to ask a contact about job openings within a particular company.
The ability to create a cover letter and resume is one of the most critical business skills a student should learn. Most employment opportunities in the corporate world will require these documents. Writing them well can help an applicant stand above the competition. A good cover letter and resume can land an applicant a job or at the very least grant an opportunity for networking.
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