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Writing Cover Letters and Resumes


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  • 1. © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho1 Writing Resumes and Cover Letters
  • 2. Preparing for a Job Search 2 Keep a professional data file and update it regularly. Employment Course Projects Volunteer or Unpaid Work Experience Awards / Activities Compose a working resume and adapt for each application. Organize working resume using headings/subheadings. Write concise, detailed descriptions of past employment, course projects, etc. Find position descriptions in job announcements. Internet, newspaper classifieds, UI Career Center
  • 3. 3 Write a Targeted Cover Letter and Resume Recruiters spend about 30 seconds reviewing a resume before making a decision. Maker sure your resume is effective by tailoring resume and letter for the position.
  • 4. How to Write a Targeted Resume 4 Analyze position description to identify qualifications and skill-sets. Create a list of qualifications and skills employer wants and in order of importance in position description. Analyze your qualifications and skills -- what matches or closely matches items on the list from your employment history, coursework? Identify applicable transferable skills. Use language from position description Decide how to organize body of resume. Adapt working resume by choosing those skill sets and experiences that will target the position.
  • 5. Identify Your Transferable Skills 5 A transferable skill is a skill you have used in one situation or experience that applies to another. Identifying transferable skills will help you decide how to organize the body of your resume.
  • 6. 6 Three Ways to Organize Resume • Chronological • Functional • Combination
  • 7. Chronological Employment Focus 7 Lists and describes employment history in reverse chronological order (starting with the most recent job). Works well if you have employment experience that fits potential employer needs. Poor choice for recent graduates because a student’s job history often reflects part-time work not in his/her field of study. As a result, it is difficult for a potential employer to see how you would fit the position description.
  • 8. Functional or Skills Focus 8 Organized to emphasize course work, particularly, large projects. Allows you to showcase the knowledge and skills you have developed in pursuing your degree that fit position description. A functional resume does not mean that you should ignore your employment experience. After all, if anyone has employed you, it is relevant to a potential employer, but you want to de-emphasize those positions (such as that pizza delivery job, wait-staff positions etc.) that do not sell your qualifications well. Typically, you can list employment that is not directly relevant at the bottom of the resume and limit the content (generally, you will want to just state the name of the position, employer, and dates of employment.
  • 9. Combination Employment/Functional Focus 9 If you have experience in your field (such as a previous internship experience or other position), you may want to choose a combination of targeted employment/functional focus. Body is organized around work history that directly relates to the position you are applying for and also includes a section that emphasizes course work, particularly, large projects where you collaborated with others. Again, this type of resume does not mean that you leave off all other employment experience, but you de-emphasize it as in the functional resume.
  • 10. 10 Pay Attention to Document Design Headings/Subheadings Bullet Points White Space Horizontal Lines Typography Color
  • 11. Resume Design 11 Design for eye-at-a-glance-appeal. Use headings and subheadings. Bullets White Space Horizontal lines Use keywords (nouns and noun-phrases) and specific descriptions of skill sets using strong verbs. Write fragments not complete sentences. Choose typography wisely. Consider serif font for headings and sub headings and san serif for descriptions. If you use a template, modify it, so you don’t look like everyone else who is using the same template.
  • 12. Standard Resume Sections 12 Name and Contact Information (top heading) Objective (optional) Education Awards Relevant Courses (optional) Body: Skills and Experience Chronological, Functional, or Combination focus Activities and Interests (optional)
  • 13. Standard Resume Sections 13 Name and Contact Information (top heading) Objective (optional) Education Awards/Scholarships Relevant Courses (optional) Body: Skills and Experience Chronological, Functional, or Combination Activities and Interests (optional)
  • 14. Name and Contact Heading 14 Include permanent and local addresses, e-mail address, and phone number. If using two addresses, indicate dates you can be reached at each. Avoid centering all of the information. Use a table to justify some information to the left and some to the right. Eliminate table borders when finished.
  • 15. 15 Objective Statement: Don’ts How to tell an employer you don’t really want this job: Objective: seeking position in publishing business with opportunities for advancement. How to tell an employer you want to use them. Objective: to gain useful tutoring experience that will help me to become a great teacher.
  • 16. 16 Objective Statement Do’s Objective: To produce effective technical documents that meet the needs of audiences. Objective: Assist students to become successful learners while challenging and expanding my knowledge and understanding of teaching.
  • 17. Education 17 Degree and Major Last degree earned first Do not list high school information Where Earned Graduation Date GPA (if 3.0 or higher)
  • 18. How to Write Your Degree Information 18 Spell it Out Bachelor of Arts in English, Literature Emphasis Bachelor of Arts in English Abbreviate B.A. in English, Teaching Emphasis B.A. in English, Professional emphasis
  • 19. Second Language 19 Rate level of proficiency • Basic • Conversant • Fluent
  • 20. Second Language levels of proficiency 20 Basic Able to speak simple phrases and sentences to communicate basic communicative tasks. May have some difficulty understanding native speakers, elementary reading and writing skills. Conversant Intermediate level of language proficiency. Can easily participant in conversations but may be less skilled at reading/writing. Fluent A high level of language proficiency (speaking, reading, and writing).
  • 21. Relevant Curriculum 21 Relevant Curriculum (Optional) Create a list Use course names not numbers Use table or column feature to structure the list into two or three columns. Don’t take up valuable real- estate with your list.
  • 22. Resume Body 22 Use keywords in headings and subheadings. keywords are nouns or noun phrases that organize the focus you have chosen for the resume.
  • 23. 23 Descriptions should answer: What? Who? For Whom? Where? Why? How? Write fragments not complete sentences. Punctuate consistently. Relevant: • Skills • Experience (Paid or Unpaid) • Course Work / Projects
  • 24. Example 1: Prior Employment 24 Relevant Employment History Researcher and Writer Summer 2010 Pennsylvania Resources Council Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Compiled comprehensive guide to recycled products for consumers and small businesses. Composed questionnaires sent to over 500 companies nationwide for product verification; designed database for storing information. Edited articles for PRC newsletter. Researched legislation on environmental issues; attended and reported on EPA conferences.
  • 25. Example 2: Internship Experience 25 Engineering Intern Summer 2008 Energy Systems Spokane, Washington Assisted in the design of transmission lines throughout Washington. Used Microstation to update standard structure drawings for transmission lines and substations. Completed an individual project and gave a presentation at the conclusion of the internship.
  • 26. Example 3: Course Project Description 26 Writing Experience Senior Capstone Project. Collaborated with mentors and professors on campus to produce a 20 page analytical report on the topic of technical communication. Research included scholarly articles, books, surveys, and interviews with professional writers across multiple disciplines. Analyzed research findings to identify and explain skills and work ethic needed to be successful as a technical writer across multiple emphases.
  • 27. Example 4: Course Project Description 27 Wildlife Course Projects Golden Eagle Research Project- (Fall 2012) Organized semester long research on golden eagles Wrote proposal for research Created data analysis using Microsoft excel and PopGrowthAnalysis
  • 28. Example 5: Course Project Description 28 Wastewater Treatment Projects • Lab Research with Alternative Carbon Sources: Currently evaluating PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) production in microbes utilizing alternative carbon sources, such as glycerol and dairy waste, in UI CE Environmental Lab with Dr. Erik Coats. Lab procedures include COD, DO, pH, and solids testing. Research is conducted in academic journals.
  • 29. Review descriptions for this problem 29 Not parallel: Responsibilities included: recruitment of volunteers; coordinating fund-raising; and distributed promotional materials. Parallel: Responsibilities included: recruiting volunteers; coordinating fund-raising activities, and distributing promotional materials.
  • 30. Additional Sections 30
  • 31. Length of Resume 31 Page Entry level resumes are often one page, but they may be longer. Page Research shows employers prefer two- pages. Even when they claim otherwise. Avoid crowding on a single page or “padding” resume to meet two pages.
  • 32. References 32
  • 33. Cover Letter 33 • Creates the first impression of your writing ability. • Sells your qualifications. • Targeted just like the resume.
  • 34. 34 Use standard business letter format. But . . . . . A simple search will yield hundreds of examples.
  • 35. Consider using the same heading from your resume. 35
  • 36. Writing a salutation (Dear …..) 36 It’s not a term of endearment. Avoid “To Whom It May Concern” (too generic) Use Person’s Name (if known) or Name of Company Avoid Miss and Mrs. (I don’t really have to tell you why do I?) Avoid Sir and Madam
  • 37. Writing the introductory paragraph 37 State the position you are applying for and where you learned of it. Helps the employer know which ads drew the most qualified candidates. Compose a “thesis statement” that serves to interest reader and forecast what is in the letter.
  • 38. Example 1: introductory paragraph 38 I'm writing to express my interest in the Editorial Assistant position listed on I have a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Idaho where my course work provided applied practice in many areas important to this position. I have strong skills in writing, reviewing, and editing a wide range of documents for a variety of audiences and purposes.
  • 39. Example 2: introductory paragraph 39 I am appyling for the tutoring internship position posted at IndeedJobs. My coursework here at the University of Idaho has prepared me well for this position and includes experience in critical thinking and problem solving, as well as knowledge in providing help to disabled and low- income individuals.
  • 40. Example 3: introductory paragraph 40 I am applying for the student practicum position recently posted at the University of Idaho’s College of Forestry. My coursework has prepared me well for this position and includes extensive study in all aspects of rangeland ecology and management. My senior class projects were focused in areas important to your organization: wild land vegetation restoration and forest ecosystem management.
  • 41. Example 4: introductory paragraph 41 The enclosed materials are in application of the project engineering position recently posted in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Idaho. My strong background in construction and engineering education make me well qualified for this position.
  • 42. Writing the Body of Your Letter 42
  • 43. Elements of the body of your letter. 43 Education – focus on advanced course work, particularly projects. Employment – Internships. Explain what you did. Be specific. Highlight accomplishments. Be specific. Avoid writing about your hobbies (especially if one of them is hang-gliding) --- ).
  • 44. Paragraphs in your letter 44 Education: course work, projects, collaborations. Relevant employment, internships, paid or unpaid. Explain relevant accomplishments with specifics.
  • 45. Example 1: paragraph in body of letter 45 For a professional writing course, I composed a technical white paper, marketing brochure, event flyer, press release, and a public policy report. [Go into more detail about one of these that would be of interest to employer. State what you did, how, etc.] These and other samples of my writing can be viewed at my e-portfolio. Be certain to test that the link works.
  • 46. Example 2: paragraph in body of letter 46 As part of course work in education, I tutored third grade students over a span of four months in reading and math. [describe a specific tutoring session you led].
  • 47. Example 3: paragraph in body of letter 47 For one of my most recent projects, I created a shell to run in a Linux environment. This shell supports path, history, and tripwire functions. I thoroughly researched the strategies necessary to implement the shell, like to use of fork() and exec(). The result was a shell that reliably executes.
  • 48. Example 4: paragraph in body of letter 48 For my senior design project, my group worked on a model power system, and we set up the protection scheme using all SEL hardware. We learned how to use relays, switches, data concentrators, security gateways, and how to wire everything together.
  • 49. Writing the 49 Indicate when you are available for an interview. End on a forward looking note.
  • 50. Example 1: closing 50 I am available for an interview upon your review of my enclosed resume. I welcome the opportunity to discuss my qualifications for this position in person.
  • 51. Example 2: closing 51 In closing, I would like to note that I am available anytime after 11:30 Monday through Friday to further discuss my qualifications the tutoring position. I welcome the opportunity to contribute my tutoring skills to help students are your school to be successful life-long learners.
  • 52. 52 Closing Phrase Sincerely is most common Best Regards (not bad but maybe not you)
  • 53. End Note 53 Serves to explain what is included in your application. Place underneath your name. Sincerely, Jane Doe Enclosed: • Resume • Three Letters of Reference
  • 54. Signature: 54 Sign your letter. If uploading or sending as an attachment, scan.
  • 55. Reviewing Letter and Resume 55 Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. Ask others to review. Where letters and resumes with errors wind up.