Whether you are seeking a job with a staffing firm or a Fortune 500 company, the process is pretty much the same. Start by crafting a compelling resume. This will help you identify your marketable skills. Then, before you apply for a job, make sure that your skills match what the company is looking for. If so, prepare an effective cover letter and send it to the prospective employer along with your resume. Unless you have more than 10 years of experience, your resume should be no longer than one page. Use a simple layout.
1. Know what you want. Compose a clearly stated job objective. State what you want to do, for whom, where, and at what level of responsibility.
2. Stand out from the crowd. Instead of just listing your job skills, describe the benefits and results of your performance. For each permanent job or staffing assignment, develop a list of major accomplishments, placing the most emphasis on your recent achievements. What problems or challenges have you faced? What actions did you take to overcome them? How did your actions benefit the company? Keep in mind that most companies value workers who enhance profits and save time and money.
3. Sell yourself. You only have one shot to make a great impression. Your resume is a word picture of yourself. Showcase your strengths and one or two outstanding skills or abilities. List your education, training, and any relevant awards.
4. Never list the reasons for termination or leaving a job on the resume. The reader can find negative connotations for even the best reason. You’re far better off explaining employment lapses in person.
5. Make sure the resume and the cover letter are error-free. Proofread, and have others proofread them, too. Make your resume understandable by avoiding jargon and using plain English.
A cover letter allows you to personalize your resume. Its main purpose is to emphasize your strengths and assets in a way that will interest employers in interviewing you.
1. To attract the reader’s attention, the cover letter must look good and be easy to read. Pay particular attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, spacing, paragraph length, and margins. Address it to a particular person by name, making sure that the spelling and title of the individual are correct. A good cover letter is not too long, so try to limit yours to a single page.
2. The first paragraph should arouse the reader’s interest. State some particular knowledge you have of the reader’s business, or comment on a “timely” issue relating to the company’s operation.
3. The body of the cover letter should explain what you can do for the company. Put yourself in the employer’s position as you write. Present facts that will be interesting and that accurately describe your assets and qualifications. Your prospective employer will be interested in your ability to make or save money, conserve time, and effectively assume and delegate responsibility. Do not stress weaknesses, such as lack of experience.
4. The last paragraph should request action. Ask for an interview, and state specific times and dates when you will call to arrange an interview (allow at least three business days from the day you send the letter). In all circumstances be courteous, but be direct.
5. The letter should end with the formal salutation “Sincerely.” Below the salutation, type your name and then add your signature.
As a 21st-century jobseeker, it’s important to have an electronic cover letter and resume to send at the click of a mouse. Here are some steps for converting your cover letter and resume from Word or WordPerfect documents into electronic ones.
1. Remove all formatting, including lines, boxes, bold, italics, and underlining. Change the font to Courier, size 12. Convert your page margins to 1 inch on the left and 3 inches on the right. When you save the cover letter or resume, choose “Save As” and change the type to “Text only with Line Breaks.” A warning box may come up informing you that you might lose some formatting. Click “OK” or “Yes.”
2. Launch Notepad (PC) or SimpleText (Mac) to reformat and clean up your resume. Move all centered items to the left margin, and make sure all text is flush left. As you scroll through your document, remove all Tabs, replace all bullets with asterisks (*), and change bolded words to all caps. Increase white space by hitting Return twice between sections.
3. Make sure your cover letter and resume are e-friendly. Do not send them as attachments, but, rather, pasted in the body of the email. Practice sending them via email to yourself as well as a friend who uses a different Internet service provider—to ensure the documents are clean and professional-looking. Once you’ve made any required adjustments, your cover letter and resume are ready for a prospective employer’s inspection.
4. Words matter. Always include keywords in your resume. Recruiters use keywords to search for resumes. So choose some of the basic, important keywords in your field and pepper them throughout your resume. For example: Web designer, account manager, communications specialist, to name some.