How to Write a Good Résumé
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Appendix C How to Write a Résumé and a Cover Letter A résumé presents your experience and skills in brief written form. When you apply for a job, you should have an up-to-date résumé that you can send to a prospective employer or carry with you to an interview. Because the quality of your résumé will often determine whether you are called for an interview, it is worth your time to put together a good one. It’s a good idea to visit your college’s career services office, which usu- ally provides handouts and other materials that will help you to create a good résumé. You can also ﬁnd résumé advice on the Web; however, make sure the sponsor of the site is reputable (such as a college or university).The Internet is also an excellent source of information about how to prepare for an interview, how to dress, and other important considerations. Another caution: Avoid the temptation to use a résumé-preparation service. You are the only one who knows what you have done and why it is important; you are therefore the only one who can best represent yourself in a résumé. However, counselors at your college’s career services office may provide coaching and advice on resume preparation, and it’s worthwhile to seek their help if you’re having trouble. A cover letter is the letter you write to a prospective employer when you are interested in applying for a position. Usually, you will send a cover letter along with your résumé. How to Write a Good Résumé The following descriptive guide was written by Jill Lee, formerly coordina- tor of career services at the University of Toledo Community and Technical College. She was featured in a Proﬁle of Success in the ﬁrst edition of this book. The appearance of your résumé is very important. Use a good-quality paper, and print copies of your résumé on a laser printer. Spelling and grammar are also important. A spelling error or an obvious grammar error may eliminate you as a job candidate, so proofread your résumé carefully. Emphasize your positive qualities in your résumé, highlighting your skills and accomplishments. Within each section, list the most recent information ﬁrst and then work back in time. For example, under “Experience” or “Em- ployment” you should list your current or most recent position ﬁrst, then the one before that, and so on. 668 APPENDIX C How to Write a Good Résumé 669 A competitive résumé must be concise and well organized. Prospective employers spend an average of six to eight seconds deciding whether to give a résumé serious consideration, so you should be brief and highlight your skills and experience. Try to keep your résumé to one page. Think about what skills and experience you have that would make your résumé stand out to someone who is receiving hundreds of them. A résumé should include the following categories of information. (See the sample résumé on p. 672.) 1. Identifying Information At the top of the page, put your identifying information: your full name, address, telephone number (including your area code), and e-mail address if you have one. Include your work number if it’s all right for someone to contact you there. It’s important to include a number where a caller can leave a message. Each piece of information should be on its own line and centered. 2. Career Objective If you have a speciﬁc career objective, you can list it under this category. It should be a clearly deﬁned, short-term goal. OBJECTIVE: To obtain a position as an engineering technician OBJECTIVE: To obtain an accounting position Make sure that your objective matches the career opportunities available at the company you are sending your résumé to. 3. Education Under “Education,” be sure to correctly identify your degree(s). Include the date you received each degree, or your “anticipated” or “expected” gradua- tion date. Under most circumstances, you should not include your high school. Note: Associate degrees do not have an -s at the end of the word associate. B.A. in Communication, May 2004 (anticipated) Associate of Applied Business/Science degree in Medical Technology, May 2000 Under the appropriate degree(s), include the complete name of each school you attended, along with the city and state where it is located. The University of Toledo Community and Technical College, Toledo, Ohio APPENDIX C 670 How to Write a Résumé and a Cover Letter List any relevant additional information, such as grade point average (GPA) if it was 3.0 or higher, dean’s list, honorary society, or other academic hon- ors or awards. 4. Work Experience List both paid employment and volunteer work or internships, focusing on the experience that is most relevant to your career objective. If you like, you can create both an “Employment” category listing paid positions and a separate “Related Experience” section listing unpaid positions such as computer-lab tutor, campus guide, or senior mentor. Each entry in the experience section should include the following infor- mation: Title of position Company name and location (city, state) Dates of employment/experience Summarize the positions you’ve held, and highlight your accomplish- ments. Include all of the concrete skills and abilities you have developed, particularly those skills relevant to your current career goals. Remember that a résumé is not the place for undue modesty about your achievements. You need to emphasize your skills to prospective employers. Tell an em- ployer what you can do for the company or organization. Imagine a reader who is asking the question, “Why should I hire you?” and provide reasons. Use action verbs to describe your achievements. Developed a proposal for marketing career services Assisted with legal research Analyzed reports and data and compiled results 5. Skills and Other Experience List any special abilities and skills in this category, such as computer, budg- eting, or math skills; language skills; telephone abilities; and equipment skills. Don’t skimp on this section. Brainstorm to make a list of everything you can do. Then pare down your list to the skills that may be relevant to an employer. If you have participated in sports or community service or were a member of a group that accomplished something noteworthy (such as raising money for a cause, helping to save an historic building, or de- veloping a guide for newcomers), list that experience. These activities may show your teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership skills, among other things. APPENDIX C How to Write a Good Résumé 671 6. References References are people who will vouch for you. They should be people who have worked closely with you, such as former employers or instructors, who you think will say positive things about you. Be sure to check with the people you plan to list to make sure it’s OK to use them as references. On your résumé, you may list the names, positions, companies, and tele- phone numbers of your references, or you may simply write “References available upon request.” If you state that references are available, make sure you have people and contact numbers lined up. 7. Other Possible Headings You may have qualiﬁcations or abilities that you want to include on your ré- sumé but that don’t ﬁt neatly into any of the categories. Don’t omit them; consider adding categories to ﬁt your qualiﬁcations, such as “Special Train- ing” or “Certiﬁcations.” You want your résumé to include any information that will strengthen your appeal as a potential employee. APPENDIX C 672 How to Write a Résumé and a Cover Letter SAMPLE RÉSUMÉ Taylor E. Willey 2005 Garden Park Drive Toledo, OH 43612 (419) 555-0622 email@example.com CAREER OBJECTIVE To obtain a position as a legal secretary EDUCATION Associate degree in Legal Secretarial Technology, June 2003 The University of Toledo Community and Technical College, Toledo, Ohio GPA: 3.5 • Dean’s list • Golden Key National Honor Society WORK EXPERIENCE March 2001–present: Legal secretary Johnson’s Legal Services Perrysburg, Ohio • Combined and entered expert testimony into database • Drafted distribution and settlement letters • Entered and updated claims in LawTrac • Filled out and ﬁled probate forms • Attended administrative hearings • Helped organize information for spreadsheets January 1997–March 2001: Secretary The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio • Developed an office procedures manual • Typed documents • Organized the office • Provided courteous personal service SKILLS • Proﬁcient in WordPerfect, Excel, Windows, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Word, PageMaker, QuarkXpress • Excellent written and oral communication skills • Excellent editing and proofreading skills • Certiﬁed legal secretary OTHER EXPERIENCE/ SPECIAL SKILLS • Organized 10 km walk to raise money for a family whose house had burned down. Raised $35,000. • Sunday school teacher, Grace Methodist Church, Toledo, Ohio • Volunteer, Green Street Soup Kitchen. Work ten hours per week serving hot meals to needy. REFERENCES Available upon request APPENDIX C How to Write a Good Résumé 673 When you write your own résumé, use the following checklist to make sure it’s complete and effective. CHECKLIST: HOW TO WRITE A RÉSUMÉ STEPS HOW TO DO THE STEPS (IF APPLICABLE) 1. Include identifying ❑ Put your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address information. centered at the top of the page. 2. State your career objec- tive; keep it brief and as speciﬁc as possible. 3. Complete the ❑ List degrees received, the date you received each degree, and “Education” category. the institution for each. 4. Complete the “Work ❑ Start with your most recent position. Experience” category. ❑ List the title of each position, the company name and location, and the dates of employment. ❑ For each position, particularly the most recent one, list your achievements and/or responsibilities. Start with an action verb (Designed a brochure using QuarkXpress). 5. Complete the “Other ❑ List any skills you have that are relevant to the position you Experience/Special Skills” are seeking (computer, language, office machines, and so on). category. Include experiences that demonstrate leadership, teamwork, initiative, and so on. 6. Provide a list of ❑ Check with the people you are listing to make sure that they references, or state are willing to give you a reference and that you have their most “References available current contact information. upon request.” 7. Revise your draft ❑ Add any experiences or skills that you overlooked. résumé. ❑ Make sure that all information is complete and accurate. 8. Edit your résumé. ❑ Carefully read your résumé, checking for and correcting errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. 9. Format and print your ❑ Leave enough space between items so that the résumé looks résumé. easy to read and attractive. ❑ Use bold to highlight key information. ❑ Use a high-quality printer and paper, or go to a copy shop to print your résumé. It is important that it look clean, crisp, and professional. APPENDIX C 674 How to Write a Résumé and a Cover Letter How to Write a Good Cover Letter Although your résumé provides detailed information about your experience and skills, your cover letter is the ﬁrst item a prospective employer sees, so it is a very important piece of writing. A GOOD COVER LETTER • considers your audience (the prospective employer), what information that person would value, and the appropriate tone with which to address that person • keeps your purpose (to become a candidate for employment) in mind • follows a standard business-letter format • brieﬂy but speciﬁcally summarizes what position(s) you are interested in, what your qualiﬁcations are, and why you should be considered for a position • provides contact information • is free of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors The cover letter on page 675 uses a correct business format, and its parts are labeled to show you how the letter should be set up and what it should include. Note that the writer tells the prospective employer exactly how to reach her. APPENDIX C How to Write a Good Cover Letter 675 SAMPLE COVER LETTER Taylor E. Willey 2005 Garden Park Drive Toledo, OH 43612 Letterhead should match (419) 555-0622 heading of résumé. firstname.lastname@example.org January 4, 2004 Date of letter Donna Contini, Manager Name and title of person Human Resources you are writing to Carter, Jonas, and Abrams 1027 Center Drive Department Canton, OH 44011 Name of company and Dear Ms. Contini: address I am interested in the position of legal secretary at your ﬁrm, which you recently advertised in the Canton News. Carter, Jonas, and Abrams Uses formal Mr., Ms., or is a well-respected, large, and busy law ﬁrm, and I would like to be Mrs. followed by a colon part of just such an organization. I believe that my education, experi- ence, and skills ﬁt the requirements for this position. States position writer is interested in In June 2003, I received a degree in Legal Secretarial Technology from the University of Toledo Community and Technical College, where I Makes positive statement maintained a consistently high grade point average. While pursuing about company and writer’s my degree, I worked full time as a legal secretary at a small ﬁrm where ﬁt for position I am still employed. During my years there I have had the opportunity to sharpen my computer and communication skills and have learned to Summarizes experience, organize and keep track of a large number of tasks. education, and skills I am ready to move to a more challenging atmosphere and am eager to apply myself to a new and demanding position at a dynamic ﬁrm Shows beneﬁt of hiring such as Carter, Jonas, and Abrams. Because of my experience, I can be writer and enthusiasm productive from my ﬁrst day on the job, though I know I will have much to learn. I am enthusiastic about that prospect. Lets reader know how to I have enclosed a résumé that details my education, experience, and reach writer skills. I hope you will agree that they are a good match for the position at Carter, Jonas, and Abrams, and I will look forward to hearing from Ends with enthusiasm, con- you. Because I am at work during the day, the best way to reach me is ﬁdence, and polite thanks to call the number listed above and leave a message letting me know when it would be convenient for me to return your call. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, Taylor E. Willey Taylor E. Willey APPENDIX C 676 How to Write a Résumé and a Cover Letter When you write your own cover letter, use the following checklist to make sure it’s complete and effective. CHECKLIST: HOW TO WRITE A COVER LETTER STEPS HOW TO DO THE STEPS (IF APPLICABLE) 1. Include your identifying ❑ Put your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address information. in a letterhead that is centered at the top of the page. 2. Write the date and ❑ Write the date and skip two or three spaces. address of your letter. ❑ Write the name, title, and address of the person you are writing to. Skip two more spaces. 3. Write your salutation. ❑ Write Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr. and the person’s last name. Put a colon (:) after the name. Skip two spaces. 4. Write the body of ❑ In the ﬁrst paragraph, state the position you are interested in. your letter. ❑ In the second paragraph, brieﬂy but speciﬁcally state your qualiﬁcations, skills, and strengths. ❑ In your ﬁnal paragraph(s), restate your interest in the position, your enthusiasm, and your conﬁdence in your ability to suc- ceed in the position; indicate how the prospective employer can contact you; and thank him or her for considering you. Skip two spaces. 5. Write your closing. ❑ Write Sincerely followed by a comma (,). Skip four spaces. ❑ Type your name. ❑ Sign your name, neatly, above your typed name. 6. Revise your letter. ❑ Reread what you have written, and add anything that would strengthen your appeal to the prospective employer. 7. Edit your letter. ❑ Carefully edit your letter, making sure that it has no errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation. 8. Format and print ❑ Make sure that the letter follows the standard format for a your letter. letter of application and includes all of the elements. ❑ Use a high-quality printer and paper, or go to a copy shop to print your letter. It is important that it look clean, crisp, and professional. ❑ Make a copy of your letter for your ﬁles.