April is the best time to talk about resumes and cover letters. Not only is it internship season, but college seniors everywhere are preparing for graduation, and starting to think about that next step. In order to pursue any career or internship, students need that up-to-date relevant resume and cover letter. In fact, in today’s competitive job market, I tell students to always send a cover letter, even if the company doesn’t require one. At this point, most students have a resume and cover letter, they just need a little updating. Here are a few of my favorite quick tips to give your materials a mini-makeover:
1. Get It In Tip-Top Shape Before Showing Anyone.
Of course, I want you to show your materials to as many people as possible before sending them out. That being said doesn’t show your resume or cover letter to any mentors, professors, parents, or career center employees until you’ve gone through it a few times yourself. You want to make sure that you’ve fixed every spelling and formatting error possible before sharing it with others. Don’t waste their time by having them spell-check your resume. Put 110% into your materials and when it’s finally time to share it, people will have real feedback and real ideas for you.
2. Always Always Customize Your Materials.
Never send the same resume and cover letter to more than one company. Each resume and each cover letter you send out should be tailored to fit the specific needs of the company you are applying for. To make sure you are on track, read the job or internship posting clearly, incorporate buzz words from the posting into your materials.
3. Sweet, Short, and To-The-Point.
No one wants to read a novel. All resumes should be 1 page – no matter what. I’m “The Intern Queen”, I had 15 internships, and my resume is 1 page. I put the most relevant information on the resume. Also, make sure your cover letter doesn’t go on and on. The cover letter should be one page as well. If the employer sees a five-page document, they are going to press the DELETE button. Who wants to read that?
4. Don’t Just Make Lists, Explain Yourself.
In both resumes and cover letters, people tend to put together lists of adjectives and let those serve as the content of their materials. For example, one student named Sarah, had a resume that spoke about her previous experience as a hostess. Her resume read “Greeted, Cleaned, Seated, Counted Money.” What does this mean? Sarah should have explained what she did and how that positively affected the business. For example, “Successfully greeted and seated over 75 patrons per night ensuring the flow of the restaurant stayed on track.” Sarah’s cover letter read that she was “intelligent, kind, and loyal.” Again, What does that mean? I’d rather hear about experiences that Sarah’s had explaining how those qualities come into play. I don’t want to read a list. Show don’t tell.
5. Get A Second Opinion – In Fact, Get A Few!
There are a few different people who should view your resume and cover letter before it goes out to anyone. The first is your career center. The second is a professional in the most relevant field you can find. Is your dad’s friend a lawyer? Are you applying for a job in a law office? Have him look over your resume and provide feedback. The best way to easily share resumes is to use a program like Microsoft SkyDrive. Typically, your resume and cover letters are saved as Word docs. SkyDrive enables you to easily upload your Word docs online and then share them with others to view and even edit.
For example, I uploaded a cover letter and resume that I liked here that could be a good reference (names and details have been changed):
To log-in or sign-up, just visit: HERE. Plus, If you’re a college student you can get 3 months of Office 365 and an extra 20GB of SkyDrive storage if you sign up from this link: HERE!
Then simply click upload, select your resume, and you are officially up and running! To share the document, go to your SkyDrive, select your resume document file, hit the “Share” button, and then email it out with a note! If you’d like the person you’re sharing with to edit or provide comments on your resume, just check the “Recipients can edit” box. This is a great way to keep organized and keep your materials in one place.