Resume Cover Letter and References Workshop (PDF)

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					POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE RESUMES
Writing your own resume is crucial if you want to effectively “tell a story” about yourself that will engage
your intended audience.
Avoid resume templates and resume production services; by treating your resume as a self-marketing
tool and keeping in mind the needs of the employer, you will be able to develop a document that will
capture the attention of employers and demonstrate the skills and abilities they’re searching for.


DEFINING YOUR DIFFICULTIES
What do you find most challenging about writing resumes? Are you unsure of how to grab the reader’s
attention? Are you unsure of what you can include and how to describe it? Whatever it is, write it here. We
will discuss the most common issues.


YOUR BIG QUESTIONS:

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REVIEWING SAMPLE RESUMES
Review the sample resumes and the related job description you received at the beginning of the session,
and rank the candidates. Note below which candidate you would most like to interview and provide your
rationale. Do the same for your second and third ranked candidates.




 CANDIDATE #1: _________________________________________________________

 RATIONALE: ___________________________________________________________

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 CANDIDATE #2: _________________________________________________________

 RATIONALE: ___________________________________________________________

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 CANDIDATE #3: _________________________________________________________

 RATIONALE: ___________________________________________________________

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FORMAT FOR HIGH IMPACT
There are many styles of resumes. Regardless of the style you choose, ensure your resume is well-
organized, sharply-focused to the job you are targeting, and visually appealing. Employers often take less
than thirty seconds to review your resume. At a glance, do you think the employer can see how you can
directly meet their needs?

THE FORMAT POLL
Please circle if you “agree” or “disagree” and be prepared to share your answers and rationale with the
group.
1. Your name and contact information should appear in the same style and font as the rest of the
  information on your resume.
  AGREE or DISAGREE?
2. You should never use “Times New Roman” font on your resume.
  AGREE or DISAGREE?
3. Using lines, borders and other design features causes your resume to look cluttered.
  AGREE or DISAGREE?
4. All resumes should include a “Work Experience” and “Volunteer Experience” section.
  AGREE or DISAGREE?
5. Your “Education” section should always be on the first page of your Resume.
  AGREE or DISAGREE?
6. Resumes look better if all your work and volunteer experience entries have the same number of bullets
  AGREE or DISAGREE?
7. To help your documents stand out, the font and style of your resume should differ from the font any
  style of other documents, like cover letters and reference pages
  AGREE or DISAGREE?


LAYOUT: MAKE YOUR RESUME ATTRACTIVE AND READABLE
There are many ways to make your resume more attractive and readable. The following are a few key
areas to focus on.

DESIGNING YOUR LETTERHEAD
If you haven’t already done so, consider developing your own “letterhead” that includes your name and
contact information. It is the part of your resume where you can most easily express your creativity, and it
can be used for all your professional documents (e.g. cover letters, list of references).
When designing your letterhead, consider…
    •   Font. Are you using your word processor’s default font, or are you using something that might
        stand out better to the reader? What impression might you be giving by using a default font?
    •   Size. Your name is like your brand; does it stand out on the page?
    •   Visual interest. How have you laid out your information? Is it attractive and readable?
    •   Your personality. Do you like your letterhead? Does it adequately reflect YOU?

Note: We recommend you provide your name on the second page of your resume using the same font and
style; however it’s not necessary to include all your contact information.
EMBELLISHING YOUR HEADINGS

Next to your letterhead, this is what your readers will notice first. The key is to make your headings stand
out, while still having them fit with the entire document.

When designing your headings, consider…
    •   Repetition. Are you using the same heading style throughout your document?
    •   Contrast. How do your headings stand out from the rest of your text (e.g. font, size, style,
        alignment, etc)?
    •   Readability. Is it easy to recognize when a new section begins? Is it easy for the reader to find a
        section?
    •   Your personality. Do you like your choice of heading style? Does it adequately reflect YOU?

Note: According to design conventions it’s best not to use more than three different fonts on a page.
Using more than three generally impairs readability and attractiveness of the page. When selecting
multiple fonts, be sure they are all legible and that they complement one another.


FORMATTING YOUR BULLETED STATEMENTS
These are the sentences and phrases that are written to entice your reader to invite you to an interview.
They can be presented in a visually interesting way, but readability is critical.

When designing your bulleted statements, consider…
    •   Font. Are you using your word processor’s default font, or are you using something that might
        stand out better to the reader? Be sure to select something that is easy to read.
    •   Size. Is your text big enough for someone with sore and tired eyes to pick out the details they
        need?
    •   Suitability. Given the nature of the employer or the industry, is your font choice appropriate? The
        more progressive the employer and the more creative the industry, the more artistic you can be
        with your document.
    •   Your personality. Do you like the look of your bulleted statements? Does it adequately reflect
        YOU?


USING OTHER DESIGN ELEMENTS

Your word processor provides many tools to help you improve the look and readability of your resume.

When selecting various design elements, consider…
    •   Available options. Have you explored the tools accessible to you through your word processor
        (e.g. borders, shading, tables, colour, etc)?
    •   Suitability. Have you used the tools appropriately? The goal is to make your document attractive
        and easy to read, not simply to use the tools. If not used strategically, you risk making your
        document cluttered.
    •   Your Personality. Are you happy with the visual look of your resume? Experiment, get feedback
        and figure out what works best for you
FORMAT: MAKE YOUR KEY INFORMATION STAND OUT
The names you choose for your headings and the order you present them in your resume can have a great
impact on your reader. Since your resume is a marketing tool, it is important to be strategic and targeted
in this area.


NAMING YOUR SECTIONS
There are no strict rules about what you call the headings on your resume. Therefore, choose heading
names that sell you best and that make sense to your intended audience – employers.

When naming your sections, consider…
    •   Functional groupings. Can you combine your experiences along functional lines (e.g. event
        planning experience, technical experience, etc)? When using such groupings, there is no need to
        differentiate between volunteer and paid positions; it’s the experience that matters.
    •   Targeted headings. Can you choose new heading titles that highlight the skills employers are
        looking for (e.g. accounting experience, project management experience, etc.)?



ORDERING YOUR SECTIONS
As with the naming of your sections, there are no strict rules about the order in which your sections
appear on your resume. The key is to make sure that the sections that sell you best appear first. This will
vary from person to person, and will change over time.

When ordering your sections, consider…
    •   Your impressive qualities. On a two page resume, the first page is the most important, and the
        space at the top of the first page is critical. Make sure your best stuff goes here.
    •   Your unique qualities. Think about what an employer would find most interesting about you;
        does it appear first? Be sure to emphasize accomplishments and qualities that differentiate you
        from other applicants.



EMPHASIZING YOUR BEST
The goal of your resume is to effectively market yourself to employers, not to ensure that all entries have
the same amount of space. Therefore, sections or individual entries that will be of more interest to
employers should take up more space on your resume.


When allocating space, consider…
    •   Relevance. Are some of your experiences (paid or volunteer) more related to the job you are
        applying for than others? These warrant more description.
    •   Distinctiveness. If you’re having trouble coming up with material, think in terms of what sets you
        apart. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? How have you taken initiative in the past? What
        have you done in class or on the job that impressed your teammates, your supervisor, or your
        professor? What are you most proud of in each job, course, or volunteer activity? Be specific.
CONTENT: MAKE YOUR WORDS COUNT
Now that you have some insight into the importance of format, it’s time to focus on your content, the
words that will determine whether or not you get invited to an interview. This can be done by generating
strong statements that focus on your accomplishments.

DEVELOPING STRONG BULLETED STATEMENTS
The following formula is one way of developing strong bulleted statements:

                            VERB and NOUN THE VERB IS MODIFYING
                                                    +
                      RESULT OF ACTION or RATIONALE FOR THE ACTION
You can also think about these two components as the “what?” and the “so what?”

For example, Sarah has included a standard statement on her resume. It reads, “Developed a web
site.” This may seem like a solid statement. Who wouldn’t be proud to have developed a web site? But
this statement only answers the “what?” question.

After some prompting, Sarah reveals that the web site was developed for an organization where staff
members work in various locations, and because of this, staff found it difficult to communicate with each
other and share information. Therefore, the web site Sarah developed bridged that communication gap.

Knowing this, the statement above can be transformed into a strong accomplishment statement, such as,
“Developed an intranet site that helped increase inter-office communication between twenty staff
members across three locations.”
Relating this statement back to the formula:

                       VERB and NOUN THE VERB IS MODIFYING (“what?”)
                                  Developed an intranet site…
                                                    +
                  RESULT OF ACTION or RATIONALE FOR THE ACTION (“so what?”)
  …that helped increase inter-office communication between twenty staff members across three
                                          locations.

Examine the statements on your resume that you have written to describe your experience. Does each
statement state what you did (the “what?”) and how it benefited the organization, the clients, the team,
etc. (the “so what?”)?


Rewrite two of your bulleted statements using the above formula.

Hint: Where you are using general statements, it may be more effective to separate them into several
more specific statements (e.g. instead of “planned an event…” consider “planned…” + “recruited
volunteers…” + “booked the venue…” + etc.)

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OBTAIN FEEDBACK AND REVISE ACCORDINGLY
Obtain feedback on your resume from as many people as possible. Ask them things like: “Do my
accomplishments and skills jump out at you? At first glance, would you be impressed?” Feedback on
both content AND format are important.

The following checklist can be used as a guide:

        Is your resume visually interesting (format)? Will it look visually different from other
        candidate’s resumes? What sort of first impression does it give?

        Is your resume easy to read (format)? Is white space used effectively? Are your font choices
        (size and style) readable by tired eyes?

        Have you ordered your information in the most advantageous manner (format)? Is your best
        ‘stuff’ listed first? Are you using targeted headings? Do your most relevant experiences stand
        out (more bullets and earlier in the resume)?

        Is your formatting uniform? For example, if a period is at the end of one bullet, a period should
        be at the end of all bullets; if one degree is in boldface, all degrees should be in boldface, etc.

        Are your bullets strong (content)? Are you highlighting the accomplishments you are most
        proud of? Do your bullets state what you did and what the results were (What? and So what?)?

        Have you created a unique and readable personal letterhead? Is your key contact information
        easily found? Can your letterhead also be used for cover letters and other professional
        documents?

        Are there ABSOLUTELY NO ERRORS in your resume? Typos, spelling, and grammatical errors
        must be avoided! Have someone (or two people) proofread your resume!




Exchange resumes with your group members and provide feedback to each other using the above
checklist as a guide.

Take note of suggestions and ideas you will incorporate into your resume later. Don’t forget, there are
many differing opinions on resumes, and it’s ultimately your decision what your resume looks like. It’s a
reflection of you and you need to be happy and comfortable with it.

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SELF-REVIEW ACTIVITY

Please take a moment to reflect upon what you have learned at today’s workshop, including what you
plan to change about your resume right away. Also take note of any additional, specific questions that you
would like to take to your Coordinator or Student Advisor.


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posted:2/24/2010
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Description: Writing your own resume is crucial if you want to effectively “tell a story” about yourself that will engage your intended audience.