Cover Letters and Resumes
Cover letters and resumes should work together to sell yourself for the position that you are interested in. Use these guides and best practices to help guide you in your preparation for an interview or when you start applying for jobs. Contact our staff for more information.
Quick Guide: Cover Letters
Your cover letter should provide an introduction and guide the reader through your relevant skills related to a specific position. The sole purpose of the cover letter, paired with a resume, is to generate enough interest for an interview.
In order to generate enough interest from a perspective employer, you need to make sure you include the following elements in your cover letter:
Clearly state who you are and the position you’re interested in:
- I am interested in the Warehouse Manager position with your company. With 10 years of warehouse experience and knowledge of ISO9002/QS9000 procedures, I believe that my skills and experience are a perfect match for the position.
Highlight relevant skills and experience:
Use the employer’s job description to determine the skills and experience you need to highlight. A bulleted list with the key skills and how you posses them is a great way to guide the employer through your background. If a bank is looking for a software technology manager with the “ability to manage and train end users on a variety of software platforms,” then you need to highlight your knowledge of software programs and your experience in training others:
- Software knowledge and training. Along with technical expertise in Windows, Linux, Java, HTTP and SMTP, I have 5 years of experience working on an IT team that supported and trained a staff of 100.
Don’t think you need to have experience in that particular field in order to have relevant experience. If you are applying for a nursing position, but have never been employed as a nurse, you still have valuable and relevant experience to offer. In addition to your clinical work, you can also look to past employment for other skills that are valuable to the nursing profession like attention to detail, ability to work under pressure, or customer service.
Again, the employer will tell what skills they value. You need to guide the employer through the highlights of your past experience to demonstrate that you have what they’re looking for.
Show that you’ve done your homework:
Include a statement or two that shows you know something about the company. One way is to tell the employer something that you admire about the company and explain why you want to work for them:
- I admire your company’s dedication to delivering quality products and service that has resulted in a loyal customer following. As someone who also values and provides superior customer service, I believe that I can contribute to expanding your customer base.
Another way is to find a challenge and offer a solution:
- I understand the challenges small businesses face in moving to electronic record keeping. For the past 5 years I have worked to create an organized and systemic approach to creating invoices, managing payables, completing payroll, and keeping tax related documents.
Request an interview:
- I am excited to begin my career in human resources and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss how I could contribute to the needs of your company. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your consideration.
The Other Side of the Desk: The Importance of Cover Letters to Employers
Unless a particular company has told you to forward only your resume (that rarely happens), every resume you send out should include a cover letter. Even in the case of applying online where a cover letter is often listed as optional, you should take the time and effort to submit one with your resume. Don’t miss an opportunity to guide the potential employer through your background and help them understand why you are the right person for the job. Not only that, the extra effort can set you apart from other applicants, and that, ultimately, is the goal.
Helpful Cover Letter Links
Quick Guide: Resumes
Your resume should be a one or two page summary of your skills and experience. The sole purpose of the resume, paired with the cover letter, is to generate enough interest for an interview.
Your resume should be set up in chronological order (newest to oldest information) with clearly divided categories:
- Summary of skills (optional)
- Certifications (if necessary)
- Work Experience (include relevant internships, volunteer work, clinical work, etc.)
- You can also divide this into separate work categories. For example:
- Accounting Experience and Other Work Experience
The order of the sections can vary, depending on how strongly they apply to the job. For example, if you are a recent graduate in a nursing program without any nursing work experience, you would put your education and certification first, then followed by any work experience you had in the past.
|Include personal information (age, race, social security number, children, etc. )|
|Use quirky email account name (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com )|
|Use complete sentences|
|Use passive verbs (people were managed; process has been organized; design is being created)|
|Include irrelevant information or too much detail in your job descriptions|
|Include anything unless it helps show your expertise or ability to do the job|
|Include references or “references available on request”|
|Include contact information (name , address, phone, email)|
|Use professional email account name (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
|Use bullet points for easy scanning of information|
|Start bullet points with a variety of active verbs in the same tense (managed, organized, created, maintained)|
|Make your past experience and education relevant to the job your are applying for|
|Include relevant internships, volunteer work, student organizations|
The Other Side of the Desk: How Employers Use Resumes
Because employers can have MANY resumes for one job opening, they often use the first read of a resume to find reasons NOT to hire you. This is where tiny mistakes or irrelevant information work against you. So, make sure you proofread your resume! Employers see typos and spelling mistakes as a sign of sloppy work and an inability to pay attention to detail. As a result, you’ll never get that phone call inviting you to interview. Take the time to read it forwards and backwards, paying special attention to your contact information and dates for accuracy. Then, look to make sure you are consistent in your formatting: Are your fonts the same? Are they the same size? Then give it to someone else to look over.
Choose verbs from the following lists to add interest to your resume. Remember, each bullet point should start with a verb:
Needs Identified by Virginia Employers
Adopted, April 2010
Personal Qualities and People Skills
1. POSITIVE WORK ETHIC: Comes to work every day on time, is willing to take direction, and is motivated to accomplish the task at hand
2. INTEGRITY: Abides by workplace policies and laws and demonstrates honesty and reliability
3. TEAMWORK: Contributes to the success of the team, assists others, and requests help when needed
4. SELF-REPRESENTATION: Dresses appropriately and uses language and manners suitable for the workplace
5. DIVERSITY & AWARENESS: Works well with all customers and coworkers
6. CONFLICT RESOLUTION: Negotiates diplomatic solutions to interpersonal and workplace issues
7. CREATIVITY AND RESOURCEFULNESS: Contributes new ideas and works with initiative
Professional Knowledge and Skills
8. SPEAKING AND LISTENING: Follows directions and communicates effectively with customers and fellow employees
9. READING AND WRITING: Reads and interprets workplace documents and writes clearly
10. CRITICAL THINKING AND PROBLEM SOLVING: Analyzes and resolves problems that arise in completing assigned tasks
11. HEALTH AND SAFETY: Follows safety guidelines and manages personal health
12. ORGANIZATIONS, SYSTEMS, AND CLIMATES: Identifies “big picture” issues and his or her role in fulfilling the mission of the workplace
13. LIFELONG LEARNING: Continually acquires new industry-related information and improves professional skills
14. JOB ACQUISITION AND ADVANCEMENT: Prepares to apply for a job and to seek promotion
15. TIME, TASK, AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: Organizes and implements a productive plan of work
16. MATHEMATICS: Uses mathematical reasoning to accomplish tasks
17. CUSTOMER SERVICE: Identifies and addresses the needs of all customers, providing helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable service
Technology Knowledge and Skills
18. JOB-SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGIES: Selects and safely uses technological resources to accomplish work responsibilities in a productive manner
19. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: Uses computers, file management techniques, and software/programs effectively
20. INTERNET USE AND SECURITY: Uses the Internet appropriately for work
21. TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Selects and uses appropriate devices, services, and applications