Tips and tricks to boost your resume and cover letter

Niya Basha
Staff Writer

One of the challenges young professionals in college face is resumes and cover letters.

A resume is a summary of your education, experience and skills that relate to your career goal or job objective. The primary purpose of a resume is to obtain interviews with potential employers.

According to the Career Development Center (CDC), a resume should outline your educational background, extracurricular activities, and paid or volunteer work experiences. Your resume should also summarize your skills. Before you begin your resume, do some brainstorming. Brainstorming is a very important step in preparing your resume. As you brainstorm, focus on tasks performed, skills and abilities used, and accomplishments.

For unemployed candidates, handing out resumes should be a full-time job. The majority of mid- to senior-level positions are filled through networking, so contact absolutely everyone you know in addition to recruiters who are in a position to hire you or share insights. Networking can include personally contacting people who you’ve worked with or people listed in the alumni directory of your alma mater. Networking is very important. However, when it comes to the resume you will be handing out to your potential employers, there are certain tips that might help you through it.

Focus on what you did in the job, NOT what your job was. There’s a difference. Include a line or two of your job description and then list your accomplishments. For each point ask yourself: what was the benefit of having done what I did? Accomplishments should be unique to you, not just a list of what someone else did.

Keep it simple. No matter how well written, your resume won’t get a detailed read-through the first time. Generally, a resume gets scanned for 25 seconds, according to ASME.org. Scanning is more difficult if it is hard to read, poorly organized or exceeds two pages. So, the format of your resume is very important.

Remember that a resume is a marketing document. It is designed to sell your skills and strengths, rather than just portray a biography of the candidate. Quantifying your accomplishments instead of just making general claims that don’t market the candidate will make a difference in your resume. Include and highlight specific achievements that present a comprehensive picture of your marketability.

List your achievements to ensure greater confidence in the hiring manager. By using exact numbers, percentages, dollars, number of employees, etc., you can then work backwards to quantify your accomplishments by asking, “If I had not done this, what could have happened?”

Cover letters can increase your chances of an interview. As much as they require more work, cover letters are a great chance to cover qualifications you can’t fully give details to in your resumes. In addition, they help personalize job applicants to enable them to come across as more real people to potential employers. If you write a cover letter in the hopes that nobody will actually read it, you might be missing a chance to get the job.

Including a salutation will help your potential employer know how much information you have about the company. When you write the first paragraph of your letter, make sure you mention the job for which you are currently applying and how you found the job listing.

On your body paragraph, try to answer questions such as: why am I a qualified candidate for this position? Why do I want to work for this company specifically? And what work experience do I have that fits the job requirements in the company’s listing?

On your final paragraph of the letter, make sure you provide your contact information, which includes your email address and your phone number, mention that your resume is attached (if it is applicable in your case) and finally thank the person for their time.

Gabe Hewitt

Gabe is a junior mass media student at MSU. He's usually up for anything. You can find him on Twitter (@gabehewitt) or you can email him at gabriel.hewitt@mnsu.edu.

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