Onward and Upward: Resumés and Cover Letters
A resumé is a persuasive summary of your qualifications for employment. It's designed to entice an employer into calling you for an interview. Of course, when they see your smiling face, they'll give you the job.
A resumé is always accompanied by a cover letter. They're a team, like Ben and Jerry or spaghetti and meatballs. Effective resumés and cover letters are neat and accurate, free from any writing errors, and usually no more than one page long.
As you write your resumé, emphasize the things you've done that are most relevant to the position for which you are applying and show how you are superior to other candidates. Be realistic, use the layout to emphasize key points, and relate your experience to the job you want.
A resumé is a written presentation of your educational background, job experience, and related talents and abilities. A cover letter is the letter that accompanies a resumé when you apply for a job.
Here are the facts you must include:
Questions about your age, marital status, race, sex, and health are illegal. If you include any of this information, large companies will delete it from your resumé so they cannot be accused of discriminating. Include height information only if the job has a minimum height requirement.
Here are the facts you can include:
You're expected to put your accomplishments in the best possible light, but always tell the truth. Background checks are a hot topic in personnel circles today. Experts say a decade of litigation has nervous employers turning more and more to professional background checkers, who report that caseloads are growing at 30 percent a year. Investigators find discrepancies or outright lies in about one third of the resumés they check. Yours won't be among them.
An effective cover letter and resumé aren't like sweat pants: One size doesn't fit all. A successful cover letter and resumé are tailored to suit the employer's needs and your qualifications as closely as possible. For that reason, savvy people have several different versions of their resumé, depending on the specific job for which they are applying. There are two basic types of resumés, the work history resumé and the functional (skills) resumé. Here's each type of resumé in detail:
Work History Resumé
A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is the Goodyear Blimp of resumés: It contains every relevant thing you've ever done. Scholars use CVs instead of resumés to include all their publications, conferences, and professional affiliations. My CV is 22 pages long.
The work history resumé summarizes your accomplishments in reverse chronological order (starting with the most recent accomplishments and working backward). It stresses academic degrees, job titles, and dates. Use a work history resumé when …
Academics, such as scientists and scholars, create a work history resumé that contains every relevant accomplishment, not just the high points. This type of resumé, called a curriculum vitae (CV), can run more than 10 pages.
Functional (Skills) Resumé
A functional resumé emphasizes your skills. Use this type of resumé when …
Like a resumé, the purpose of a cover letter is to get an interview. Although a resumé and a cover letter do overlap in certain areas, there are three crucial differences:
If you decide to drop some names in your cover letter, only use the names of people who will speak well of you. Be sure to get prior permission from the person to mention his or her name.
Tailor each cover letter to the specific company or organization. If you can substitute another inside address and salutation and send out the letter without any further changes, it isn't specific enough. Here's what to include:
Some people find it difficult to write effective cover letters because they don't want to sing their own praises. My advice? Sing away. Good work rarely speaks for itself—it usually needs a microphone to be heard. Studies have shown that successful executives spend about half of their time on their job … and the other half on self-promotion and office politics.
To increase your chances for success …
I can't overestimate the impact a professional, individually tailored cover letter can create on prospective employers. It shows that you're a member of the inner circle: an intelligent, competent individual. Writing a brilliant cover letter can help you convince employers that you're someone worth hiring.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well © 2000 by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.