Wednesday, May 7, 2014

College to Career: Cover Letters and Resumes

Remember first impressions, even on paper, count!  Well-written cover letters and resumes can open the door if you make a good first impression. 

The Cover Letter
Cover letters should always be addressed to either the hiring manager, the recruiter or the HR Director by name.  Find out to whom your cover letter should be addressed.  Check the company website or LinkedIn.
Mention the name of the company and reference the position for which you are applying in your cover letter.  Let the reader know you’ve taken the time to personalize your letter in response to their job posting.
Describe how your experience is a fit for the position and outline the value you can bring to the table Day One.  
Ask for an interview and state when you will follow up – and do follow up.  Follow up should occur within 2-3 days.  

Not all hiring managers will read a cover letter; however, take the opportunity to introduce yourself and impress regardless.

The Resume
Target your resume to the position for which you are applying.  Highlight competencies, areas of experience and education that best match the job qualifications required.  
Avoid ‘buzzwords’ like “successful, highly qualified, and competent” for example.  Hiring managers see these words repeatedly and will lose interest reading the ‘same old stuff.’  Even if you need to consult a thesaurus, say it with your own unique style.  
When noting your experience in various roles, do not list what your responsibilities were in the job.  List your accomplishments.  
For example, you are applying for a position as a recruiter.  Your current job is with a not-for-profit agency as a volunteer coordinator.  An accomplishment statement might say “Increased volunteer base 25% over 90 days.”  You would use the interview to discuss how you were able to solicit the additional volunteers, i.e., through your outstanding ability to network.  The hiring manager wants to know what you are capable of and what you can do for the company.
If you don’t have much work experience, include your accomplishments in the different organizations of which you have been a part.  
Keep your formatting simple.  Fancy fonts and scented paper may get you noticed but for the wrong reasons.  Easy to read and well-organized are key!

The Application
Most companies will ask you to complete an application prior to or at the time of an interview.  Complete all sections – do not fall back on “see attached resume.”  This may be perceived as lazy.  Take the time to complete the application in full.

Poor grammar and misspelled words will likely land your resume in the circular file (wastebasket).  There is nothing worse than reading a cover letter or resume that touts your ability to be detail-oriented followed by a misspelled word.  Have someone else review your resume and cover letter before submitting.  This goes for the application as well.

Most campuses have a career center that offer services for resume writing, vocational counseling and job search assistance.  Take advantage of these services.  There are numerous websites out there to assist you as well.  One of my favorites is You will find a plethora of resources – everything from resume templates to job search tips, practice interview questions to career advice.  Also network with your local alumnae group.  You may be pleasantly surprised to find additional career service resources wearing an anchor just like yours!

Nancy Rife, Gamma Iota-DePauw, and long-time DG volunteer, currently serves as Regional Collegiate Specialist in Region 4.  Professionally, Nancy has a background in finance, accounting and human resources.  She has served as Human Resources Director at MJ Insurance, Inc. for just over 9 years.

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