How to Write a Resume and Cover Letter for Beginners
Awhile ago, I covered how to format your resume. This week, I am going to give you some basic information about how to write a resume and cover letter. As with the previous post, this information applies to freelancers and those seeking more traditional employment.
This is very basic information geared toward those who may never have written a resume. If you need more extensive help, I suggest checking out these books on Amazon:
- Resume Magic, 4th Ed: Trade Secrets of a Professional Resume Writer (Resume Magic: Trade Secrets of a Professional Resume Writer)
- Knock ’em Dead Resumes: How to Write a Killer Resume That Gets You Job Interviews (Resumes That Knock ’em Dead)
Contact Information: Put your complete contact information, including mailing address, telephone number, and your e-mail address. That way, the employer always has it in front of them in case your e-mail and resume get separated. If you have room, include your LinkedIn profile (as long as it is up to date!)
Objective: Unless there is a specific request from the employer or on the application for an objective, I like the idea of replacing an objective with a bulleted list of skills at the top under your contact information. You can tailor it to the type of work you are seeking.
- When putting your resume together, please put your current or most recent employer at the top and work backwards that way.
- Make sure that you put the dates of employment on your resume and address any gaps in your work history you may have in your cover letter. It helps put the hiring manager’s mind at ease.
- Do not list your high school education if you have a 2- or 4-year degree.
- Don’t forget to include any continuing education you may have taken.
Cover Letter Content
Most job applications require a cover letter, even if it’s only to be included in the body of your e-mail. Don’t be lazy and just say, “I am interested in your job – here is my resume.” Tell them why you are applying, why they should hire you, etc. One book I swear by is Knock ’em Dead Cover Letters: Cover letter samples and strategies you need to get the job you want. I used the older versions of this book when I was first out of college, way before you ever applied for jobs on the Internet. I still use a modified version of one of their cover letters when applying for jobs.
Here are some other cover letter writing tips to keep in mind:
- List where you saw the job posting, and make sure it is correct.
- Read the posting thoroughly. Some companies are intentionally planting actions in their job postings to make sure people are actually reading the entire thing. An example might be to put a specific subject in the subject line of your e-mail, or ask you what your favorite color is.
- Address any gaps in your work history in your cover letter. An example might be something like, “For the past 4 years, I have been working as a self-employed virtual assistant, where I handled scheduling appointments, writing correspondence, and making travel arrangements.” It shows your potential employer what potential skills you have.
What do you think? I’m sure there are some HR professionals out there who would like to chime in! Please feel free to leave a comment below. I would love some feedback.