You have looked through numerous job search engines, bugged your friends to see if there are opening positions at their company, crawled every single source and connections you have, and finally found a handful of positions you are interested in applying for. What to do now? Now you start working on initial contact, which typically consist of a CV/resume and a cover letter.
The information that I state here are my opinions. It doesn’t necessarily reflect what my current or past employers opinion or process. I am not even an expert and I am not trying to be. I’ll reference sites that I believe have good information to assist on this topic, and other things that I state are things that I look for when I read resumes and cover letters. I have been looking at resumes and cover letters for the past few years for my employers to recommend if a candidate should be advance to the interview round.
What you write on your resume is the most important thing to getting an interview. Your resume should show what you have done and informs them about the skills you have. Virginia Tech has a good section on how to write a resume, and a bunch of FAQ that relates to students. I have a few things that isn’t noted there that I believe is important.
- Your resume should be simple, and easy to read. Recruiters normally have to read about 30+ resumes in a row and spend about 2 to 3 minutes per resume. That is the amount of time you have to grab their attention. If you don’t, your resume may be put in the bad pile. You can still make your resume look nice and simple. Job Mob has a bunch of designs that are simple and not too cluttered. If you are apply to a design or graphics position, your resume falls under a slightly different rule. Your resume should be fancy with graphics and designed well. It is one way to display your talents. This site Web Designer Depot has examples of those kinds of resumes.
- You want your job/project descriptions to means something. I’ve seen many resumes that state that they did a job, but didn’t give any quantifiable measurement of how well they did it. For example, “A cashier at John’s Groceries” says exactly what your job was. However, that is boring and doesn’t impress someone. Instead saying something like “A cashier at John’s Groceries serving over 100 customers a day and handling over $4000 in cash.” Between those two, which one sounds more impressive? Another example is “Created unit test code for a project that increase efficiency by 60% and decrease bugs by 40%.” These numbers stand and jump out to a reader.
- Understand what your applying for. Make your resume work it. If you are a computer science student applying for a software engineering position, you don’t need to state that you’ve taken algorithms (this is a required course in all universities). That is just redundant information. You can use that space for something else. It is the same if you are a software engineer stating that you know Microsoft Office. You shouldn’t need to state that, because you should know it. But if you are applying for an administrative position, you should state that you know Microsoft Office.
- Websites: if you have one, that is great. When you put your website on your resume, there is chance that the reader will look it up. It doesn’t always happen, but it is a nice way for you to put additional information and a portfolio online for them to see. Make sure the website works. A website that doesn’t work is a big no-no. If you are applying for a design position or something similar, make sure your site looks nice and pretty. You’ll be judge poorly if you are a designer and your site looks hideous.
A good cover letter is something that makes the reader want to learn more about you. The goal of a cover letter is not to get your hired off of the bat (which is awesome if you do), but to get you into the next round of the interview process. The next round is an actual interview.
A good source for basic cover letter writing can be found all over the web. Virginia Tech has a really good page on describing a good cover letter and the elements of it. You can read it at Virginia Tech . They definitely do a much better job at it than I do.
I am a slight hypocrite on this topic. It is highly recommended that you include a cover letter. For me, I only write one up for certain situations. I think over the last two or three years, I’ve only written one cover letter.
Here are a few tips I recommend you do when you are writing up a cover letter.
- Write about what isn’t on your resume. This is a chance for you to point out things that a reader would not be able to know by just reading your resume. That can also include writing about something in depth from your resume.
- Show personality in your cover letter. In a resume, it is very difficult to show the human side of you. Adding that in, a reader can feel more connected.
- Don’t ever talk yourself down. People have a habit talking about their shortcomings. You should never do that. If you do, it better be boasting others traits extremely well. Else, it shows that you don’t have any confidence.
There are some things that you can do to impress a reader that would give you extra props. One of them is to show that you understand their business. Do a little research about the company and show that you have invested some time to understand what they do. Being up to date with what is happening to them is also a crowd pleaser. Do a search on news sites or even search news to see what events currently occurred in relation to the company.
The last thing to keep in mind is to not write a book. A cover letter should be around one to two pages. Absolutely never make it more than two, unless they specify you to do so. The reader probably reads over a dozen cover letters and resumes. Don’t make their life annoying by writing too much, if that happens, they are less likely to actually read what you wrote.
There are many positions that require a portfolio. You should either include that, if they ask or have it on a website that is referenced on your resume. This site has good advice for that portion Manifest Your Potential
Remember, these two items are to get you to the next rounds, which is an interview. After that, it is another game you are going to have to do.