SSGT NICHOLS - UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Effective Resumes and Cover Letters
Posted by Moto Entertainment

This is an article commissioned by Moto Entertainment and written by a third party. 

You have probably heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Not only is it true, it can mean the difference between a ho-hum job and the position of your dreams.  Don’t sell yourself short to potential employers by submitting a resume and cover letter that fail to show what a skilled, knowledgeable, and conscientious person you are. When you enter the civilian job world, most employers’ first impression of you is gleaned from your resume and cover letter. Even if you start your own company, many lenders will request a resume of your accomplishments prior to lending your company money.

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Private Sector Employers

For private employers, the culling process starts with the resume and cover letter. The purpose of the resume and cover letter is to impress an employer enough that they will offer you an interview. The interview is an important component of the hiring process, but you will never obtain one without an impressive and professional resume and cover letter.

In order to maximize your chances of being interviewed, each document you submit to an employer has to be polished. The following is a basic resume format. While this is an excellent starting point for organizing your information, remember that customization will highlight your qualifications and set your resume apart from the crowd.

Contact information

  • Make sure your contact information is accurate, professional, and up-to-date.

Education

  • Don’t include high school, unless that is your highest level of education.
  • Think outside the box: include any specialized training or programs you have completed that are relevant to the position for which you are applying.
  • Don’t forget to include special honors or achievements you attained during your educational career.

Experience/Employment

  • “Experience” is a great word, because it gives employers the impression that you didn’t just work at a job, you gained something from it—experience, knowledge, and skills.
  • Cluster the experience you have that is related specifically to the position you are applying for, even unpaid experience. This will put your relevant knowledge and skills at the forefront of your resume.

Use a classic, readable font in black ink. Don’t get carried away with artistic fonts, bold fonts, underlining, or italics—these are distracting elements and can make your resume look sloppy. Choose one element only to set off section headings.  Do not omit any pertinent information, but be sure to leave plenty of white space on the page. You don’t want to overwhelm an employer’s eyes with a wall of text—they are likely to skip your resume without even reading it.  Print your resume and cover letter (if you are submitting a physical copy) on heavy, good quality paper—this will make you stand out, and is worth the small investment.

Keep your resume brief and to the point! Ideally, your resume should only be one page in length. Do not go beyond two pages.  Remember to include dates for education and work experience! Employers will be looking for a candidate who can commit to a position for the long term.  Avoid using too many buzzwords—these are a turn-off to employers who are looking for a candidate with legitimate skills and experience. Also avoid jargon unless you are certain the person reading your resume will understand industry-specific language.

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The Cover Letter

Cover letters are the indispensable accompaniment to a well-crafted resume. The cover letter provides an opportunity for you to express your personality and customize your interaction with an employer. You should submit a cover letter along with your resume when applying to any professional job—whether the employer has specifically asked for one or not.

Your cover letter should be tailored to the company to which you are applying; never submit a generic cover letter. Keep in mind that your task is to convince the person reviewing your application materials that you will be an asset to the company.

Industry and company-specific research is helpful. Have a sense of the company, what the company does, and why you want to work for the company. Read journals, articles, and news about the company and industry. If necessary, familiarize yourself with industry jargon.  When you have a reasonable understanding of this information, you will be equipped to draft a compelling cover letter.

If at all possible, address your cover letter to the person who will actually be reading it. If you don’t know who that person is, you can try calling the company and requesting the name of the hiring manager. Use the appropriate title, Mr. or Ms.—never use Mrs. or Miss.  Keep your cover letter brief and interesting! Your cover letter should highlight the qualifications you will bring to the position as well as revealing something about your personality.

Especially if you do not have room for them on your resume, include a few of your interests in your cover letter. It helps the employer to understand you a little as a person, as well as providing talking points should you be invited to interview. However, don’t include anything too outlandish or off-putting, and spin everything in a positive light.

Display your knowledge of the company to which you are applying. If you don’t know anything about the company, research it. Do not describe the company’s entire history, of course, but include one or two sentences that show the employer you are interested and knowledgeable enough to be invited into the fold. If you can, try visiting the company before you apply in order to get a feel for its work environment.

In addition to your resume and cover letter, there a few more details to keep in mind when applying for a position:

Regarding references, writing samples, and other additional materials, make sure to follow application instructions carefully. Nothing will automatically disqualify you like omitting material the employer has specifically requested. However, do not include extra materials, unless you feel strongly compelled to do so. An interested employer will surely request any extra information they need if they are impressed with your resume and cover letter, so don’t bombard them with extra material.

You may be tempted to include a picture, but resist. Attaching a picture of yourself to your resume, no matter how attractive you are, is simply not considered professional.

Be honest about everything. Not only does the Internet make it easy for employers to verify the information you provide, but if you are invited for an interview you may be asked questions you are unable to answer. Honesty is the best policy.

Investigate your online presence. Assume the employer will Google you; make sure they won’t find anything unappealing! If you have even the slightest concern about your social media activity, make your accounts private. You may have information on the Internet that you don’t even know about, so do regular checks to ensure that your public persona is appropriate and professional.

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