With the fall job-hunting season fast approaching, students are seeking assistance in their job search. To aid in this effort, Lin Sherman, Assistant Director of the Career Center and Director of Recruitment, held a seminar on creating effective resumes and cover letters.
Sherman began by suggesting that a resume be easy to read and display the information most appealing to employers nearest the top of the page. A resume should always begin with a header which at minimum consists of a phone number and an e-mail address.
The candidate’s education should be placed under the header. Sherman said that if a candidate’s GPA ranges from 2.6 to 3.0, the candidate should position it under his or her major. A GPA higher than 3.0 should be placed under the candidate’s graduation date, where it is clearly visible. A GPA less than 2.5 should not be included on a resume and should be disclosed only if requested.
Next should be the “Relevant Experience” section under which paid jobs, appropriate course work, and volunteer work are placed. For example, Sherman said that “employers […] really like our EPICS program.” Adding quantitative points under this section will further improve it.
In the “Skills” section that follows, candidates should list their skills, including seemingly basic ones like Microsoft Office. The simplest or least relevant skills should be listed last and the most relevant ones first.
She continued by saying that resumes should contain no negative information and “certainly not a photo of yourself.” In fact, in the interest of equal opportunity hiring, employers are forced to discard applications that specify candidates’ race, gender, or age.
Sherman then spoke on cover letters. A cover letter is “like a love letter,” she said; it is not all about the candidate. Instead, a cover letter is customized for a job or employer and discusses the candidate in relation to that job or employer.
Cover letters should include the same header as on a candidate’s resume and be two-thirds of a page to a page in length. Sherman said to address a cover letter to a specific person or to head it with “Dear Hiring Manager.”
Below this, the first paragraph should introduce the candidate. In it, a candidate should also mention how he or she heard of the job and why he or she wishes to work at the company. To effectively accomplish this, Sherman recommends researching the company first.
The letter’s second paragraph should focus on the job description and the candidate’s ability to fulfill the company’s needs. Here, Sherman said to use the company’s specific terminology. To enhance a cover letter, candidates can include the names of any connections they might have, with their permission, of course.
The final paragraph culminates the letter and is a “request for action.” Sherman said to be sure to thank the employer for reviewing the application and to ask straightforwardly for an interview.
If offered an interview, Sherman recommends arriving a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes early in professional attire. Professional attire includes refraining from excessive perfume or cologne and, for the ladies, keeping attention towards one’s eyes by avoiding jewelry.
During interviews, stay positive and calm. When asked situation-related questions, Sherman says to respond by using a personal example. The “STAR” technique – in which a candidate explains the situation, defines the task, describes the action taken, and provides the positive results – will help articulate answers to such questions. Conclude the interview by expressing a desire for the job and inquiring about further steps. 24 hours after the interview, send the employer a thank you note, relating this note to the interview.
Finally, if all goes well and a job is offered, show excitement but consider the details of the job, such as location and salary, before responding with a yes. More on the job application process can be found in the manuals at the Career Center.