A resume is a personal summary of your experience, skills and qualifications for the position you are applying for. A resume is often the first contact you have with a prospective employer. It lets them know of your accomplishments, educational and personal background, skills, work experience and interests.
Your resume tells an employer:
- Who you are;
- What you know; and
- What you have done.
A resume outline can help you organise the information you will be using to complete a resume, or you can use the Action Verb List, and Resume Worksheets to complete your Resume.
Writing a Resume
A good resume is brief, typed neatly in block form with no errors and easy to read. When preparing your resume, consider the following points:
- Limit yourself to two pages. As a rule, three or more pages resumes are acceptable when you have a number of years of experience.
- Print your resume on the best letter quality printer you can access. Photocopy additional copies for interviews as needed.
- Type or print it on plain white bond paper in block form. Use 2.5cm margins on both sides and 1.5 to 2.5cm margins on the top and bottom of the page. Use a font that is easy to read, preferable 12-point font size. Double space between each section of the resume.
- Spelling must be accurate. Use your dictionary or your spell check, and ask someone to read it to check spelling, format, grammar, and comprehension before sending.
- Use clear and concise statements describing your experiences. Use proper grammar and punctuation.
- Use a heading at the beginning of each section. Type the headings in capitals and underline.
- Under the headings “Education” and “Experience”, the most recent should be listed first.
- When describing your experiences use active not passive language and action verbs that will stand out and tell the employer that you have really done something.
- Do not lie or exaggerate about your experience, education or capabilities.
A typed covering letter should accompany each resume you send out. Always send a typed letter unless the advertisement specifies that the letter should be “hand written”.
Your covering letter may make the difference between getting a job interview and having your resume ignored. It makes sense to devote the necessary time and effort to write an effective covering letter. A covering letter should compliment, not duplicate your resume.
The purpose of a covering letter is to add a personal touch to your resume. A covering letter is often your earliest written contact with a potential employer, creating a critical first impression.
An effective covering letter explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organisation, and identifies your most relevant skills or experiences (remember, relevance is determined by the employer’s self-interest). They should express a high level of interest and knowledge about the position.
To be effective, your covering letter should follow the basic format of a typical business letter (make it personally addressed if possible) and should address three general issues:
- First paragraph – Why you are writing
- Middle paragraphs – What you have to offer
- Concluding paragraph – How you will follow up
Why you are Writing
In some cases, a friend or acquaintance may have referred you to a potential employer. Be sure to mention this mutual contact by name up front since it is likely to encourage your reader to keep reading!
If you are writing in response to a job posting, indicate where you learned of the position and the title of the position. More importantly, express your enthusiasm and the likely match between your credentials and the positions’ qualifications.
If you are writing a prospecting letter (a letter in which you inquire about possible job openings) state your specific job objective. Since this type of letter is unsolicited, it is even more important to capture the reader’s attention.
If you are writing a networking letter to approach an individual or information, make your request clear.
What You Have To Offer
In responding to an advertisement, refer specifically to the qualifications listed and illustrate how your particular abilities and experiences relate to the position for which you are applying.
In a prospecting letter express your potential to fulfil the employer’s needs rather than focus on what the employer can offer you.
You can do this by giving evidence that you have researched the organisation thoroughly and that you possess skills used within that organisation.
Emphasise your achievements and problem-solving skills. Show how your education and work skills are transferable and thus relevant to the position for which you are applying.
How You Will Follow Up
Bid directly for the job interview or informational interview and indicate that you will follow up with a telephone call to set up an appointment at a mutually convenient time. Be sure to make the call within the timeframe indicated.
If you are applying from outside the employer’s geographic area, you may want to indicate if you’ll be in town during a certain timeframe (this makes it easier for the employer to agree to meet with you).
In conclusion, you may indicate that your references are available on request. Also, if you have a portfolio or writing samples to support your qualifications, state their availability.
Covering Letter Tips
- Try to keep paragraphs relatively short so they are easy to skim.
- Cover letters should be printed neatly on standard size paper. Make sure there are no spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors and that you have ample margins (1″). Keep your letter to one page, and balance the paragraphs on the page.
- Always address your covering letter to a specific person and include their title. To determine the name of the appropriate party to address, ask a mutual contact, check the company’s web page, call the organisation to request the name and title or consult trade publications, industry specific reports, guides and/or directories found in library reference sections or on the internet.
- Remember, for each position you apply for, you may need to do a different cover letter specifically for the job. You may even need to alter your resume to suit the position.