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How to Write a Cover Letter and Resume

Are you new to applying for jobs? Are you a recent graduate wanting to find the right job to utilize and grow your skills? Are you looking to switch careers or employers?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to create a well-written resume and cover letter that will secure you an interview. Your resume and cover letter make the first impression with an employer, and unfortunately, most people devote little time toward writing these crucial job seeking tools.


Don’t be one of those people! Take the time to separate yourself from the hundreds who are competing for the same job.


Resume vs. Cover Letter

Often times, job applicants either do not submit a cover letter at all or submit a cover letter that is a basic carbon copy of their resume but in paragraph form. This is a missed opportunity to not only showcase your knowledge and skills but also to demonstrate your written communication abilities as well as to reveal some of your personality.


PURPOSE OF A COVER LETTER

The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself to an employer, to explain why you want to join their team, and to highlight why you are the best person for the job. This is your chance to draw an employer in through well-written, original content that gives a hint of your personality.


PURPOSE OF A RESUME

The purpose of a resume is to showcase your work experience, achievements, skills, and education. In about 90 seconds, your resume should help the employer understand how you connect to what they are looking for in their position.


Formats

Cover letters and resumes need to be formatted in an organized manner that is easy for an employer to navigate and quickly locate information. Both should have the same letterhead that contains your name, city and state, email, phone number, and website/LinkedIn profile url. Font should be easy to read and professional with a 10 to 14 font size. This is where the formatting similarities end.


COVER LETTER FORMAT

Your cover letter should be written in a business letter style on only one page. Margins on sides should be 1” and top/bottom can be .5” to 1”.

1. Date – left aligned and dated the day you submit your application

2. Greeting – 4 to 8 spaces below date with this wording: To Whom It May Concern:

3. Introductory Paragraph – 3 to 5 sentences with first sentence stating the specific job you are applying for

4. Body Paragraph – 3 to 5 sentences that provide insight into your personal beliefs and skills that directly relate to the job

5. Conclusion Paragraph – 1 to 3 sentences that say why you are the best fit for [Name of Company]’s team, thanking for time, and looking forward to next steps

6. Closing – use “Sincerely,” or “Thank you,” with your full name 4 spaces below it leaving room for signature (or no spaces if not signing)


RESUME FORMAT

Your resume should be formatted into different sections with bolded headings (except for summary or objective statement). Margins can be adjusted as needed to keep your resume in 1 to 2 pages in length.

1. Summary/Objective Statement – 3 to 5 sentences and no more than 5 lines

2. Work History/Experience – each job listed separately with dates and locations; bullets explaining achievements and experiences in 1 to 2 lines each

3. Skills – a simple list of targeted skills separated by commas and no more than 2 lines

4. Education/Certifications – listed with highest level of education first with name of institution (only list high school if no post-high school degree), each degree and certification gets a line of its own


What Should NOT be Included in Cover Letters and Resumes

One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is to include personal beliefs and information in their cover letters and resumes. Employers do not need to know and often are turned off when they read about your personal political views, reasons you hate/are leaving current job, health issues, family problems, etc. Leave this out!


Another mistake people make is including too much information for every job. Employers are screening hundreds of resumes and cover letters with about 90 seconds spent on each one. When you try to cram every little thing into your cover letter and resume, you will lose the reader and give the impression that you are not capable of prioritizing and pulling out important details. Keep your cover letter to 1 page and resume to 1-2 pages.


Resumes and cover letters with punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors tend to be automatically passed over. Employers want employees who care enough to proofread and edit their cover letters and resumes. If this is not a strength for you, then find someone who can proofread and edit for you.


Resumes (not cover letters) should not have any pronouns (I, me, we, us, he, she, they, etc.). Although this goes against grammar rules, it is a standard best practice. In addition, bullets do not need end punctuation.


Are You Ready to Write Your Cover Letter and Resume?

After reading about how to write a cover letter and resume, you have a strong foundation to rely on to write these 2 professional documents. However, if you are still feeling overwhelmed or lost on how to begin, Writings by Kim is here to help. Or, if you need to have someone evaluate your current cover letter or resume, let Writings by Kim help you as well.


Email me at writingsbykim@gmail.com to take the first step toward being a standout among hundreds of other applicants.

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