The Covering Letter
The covering letter is the most forgotten during the application process, especially since most applicants apply online in today’s world. Conversely, for recruiters (internal and external alike) who do not have a relationship with the job seeker find it to be one of the most valuable. Consider this, the purpose of the covering letter is to explain the reason you are applying to a particular job, as it may not be apparent to the recruiter. A really good example of where this is important is when a jobseeker is choosing to change careers and enter into something different then they have been doing for some time, yet have very good transferable skills to make them successful at the job they are applying for. In this example, because the jobseeker may not have specific position titles or responsibilities it may not be apparent given the volume of resumes and time available to go through them all to catch the transferable skills. As a jobseeker you do not want to leave anything up to chance.
The covering letter serves as your introduction and provides you an opportunity to highlight specific skills, career objectives, as well as qualifications that may contribute to your success in scoring an interview.
Items that should be included in your cover letter are as follows; an introduction to yourself, explanation of why you're applying for the position, why you feel you are uniquely qualified, articulate your availability, and offer ways and means for the reader to communicate with you. The typical cover letter will consist of 3 short paragraphs.
The resume is used as the main marketing tool for job seekers; it allows you to give potential employers insight into your professional background. If you have captured the prospective employers’ interest through your cover letter, it is important to sustain interest through your resume. It is very crucial that you communicate the right information through your resume in order to keep the readers interest. Take the time to thoroughly go over the job description and have complete comprehension of what they are looking for; failure to communicate all the right information reduces your chances of being A listed. At a minimum you should include your full contact information; skills; and experience.
You can start off your resume with a simple one sentence objective statement followed by your Profile or Highlights of Qualifications. Point form is recommended as it becomes an easier read. In point form under your Profile or Highlights of Qualifications include the following;
- Number of years you have in the relevant industry or position. Anything over 20 years you can use the word ‘extensive’.
- The next couple of points should highlight your relevant areas of expertise, what you specialize in. Also state your most unique accomplishments that you are most proud of.
- The last couple of points should verify fit. Highlight your soft skills, personal characteristics or strengths. These points should define more of who you are.
This allows the potential employer to get a snapshot overview of who you are. Next you will want to focus on Employment Experience. This is where you can show the reader where you have worked and duties you have performed. Try to be as clear, concise, and to the point as possible, use bullet points and numbers (statistics) are always good. Employers are always looking for gaps, so be prepared to explain if there are any, and always be as accurate as possible when writing your resume. Remember the words you choose and the context you use them in will make or break you, so choose wisely. Another important heading to add below each company is Key Accomplishments. This gives you a chance to explain if you exceeded sales quotas, developed a new system, or implemented new technologies.
Lastly, make sure to include a section on education. Let’s face it either you’ve got it or you don’t. For foreign applicants, you may want to proactively seek degree equivalency assessment and certification. This will assist both you and employer in understanding the value of your credentials and avoid being overlooked due to the absence of helpful information to fill any misconception. Additionally, if you have attended many courses and obtained various certificates and licenses it is recommended to include an additional section for this. Make sure that you keep track of courses and training sessions you are involved with and include them in your resume.
The rule of thumb is to limit your resume to 2 or 3 pages. The reason to limit it to 3 pages is because if you don’t you may risk the reader quickly scanning over it and missing the most important information, resulting in a missed opportunity for both of you. You have to remember in the job market there are volumes of applicants for every job, and to be successful you have to make it easy for them to find the needle in a hay stack.
The goal of your cover letter and resume is to get them to love you. Get your foot in the door, show them what you can do, and how you can help them succeed.
Format is the way you decide to organize your resume. There are 2 standardized formats;
- Chronological; and
Over time a hybrid (also know as a Combination) that combines the elements of each has evolved.
The format you choose will vary depending on your personal preference and the type of work you do. We'll explore each option a little more in detail here.
A Chronological style resume is actually written in reverse chronological order; beginning with the most current employer to the oldest. This style is best suited for entry level job seekers and individuals that have been with a firm for a long period of time. This format allows your experience to paint a picture of progression.
This style is best suited for individuals who have very little work experience, those returning to the work force after an absence, those who don’t have a clear cut work history, or people with many gaps in there resume. A functional style resume lists your experience in skill clusters. You will typically include 3 or 4 main areas of focus. For example one cluster may be titled ‘Leadership’ where you would explain in bullets various leadership roles and activities you have conducted. In this style, a summary of experience is offered in lieu of the list of employment and associated dates offered in the former style. When using this style you can expect a few more questions, which you should prepare for.
The hybrid style of resume combines the skills and achievements highlighted in the functional style with the employment history from the chronological style of resume. Hybrid style gives you the ability to highlight skills at the beginning of your resume followed by listing your relevant employment experiences. This format is particularly beneficial for those of you the have an 8 – 10 page resume. This format will allow you to reduce large volumes of information into a much more brief and powerful manner.