Tag Archives: resume writing

How to write a successful cover letter.

How to write a successful cover letter. (From Drongowski on Flickr.)

Writing cover letters can seem astronomically hard. Yes, this struggle is similar to personal statements– you know yourself better than anyone else yet writing about “you” as a formal subject is a hard task.

But, there is a major difference. Personal statements ask you to show why you should be considered as part of a pool of accepted students by writing about an anecdote, specific event, or your life history thus far. Cover letters, on the other hand, ask you to showcase not only why you should be considered for the job but why you deserve this position over anyone else, period.

Now what?

Well, to begin, you have to do some introspection. Like personal statements or papers, you have to do a bit of brainstorming to formulate an appropriate topic or a particular bent. So, sit down and think for a bit: What is it about this position that is so attractive? Granted, ITE, you are most likely considering this position along with many others, sending a slew of resumes into cyberspace at large, and hoping for a response back. Or, this could be your dream job/internship/position that you’ve been fantasizing about since you were six. Either way, you have to consider: What do you like about this particular position? Make a list of your ideas: write down every reason, whether it’s the field, the particular company/brand you’re interested in, or even the increase in pay, better benefits, or better location. Then, consider what you offer: What makes you the ideal candidate? Is it your problem-solving skills, your punctuality? Maybe, it is your “go-get-it-ness” and genuine drive to be in this industry? Or even just your desperate need to get out of your current job or industry?

Now, consider how these intersect: How will you utilize your strengths if you’re given this position? How will this position satisfy your needs? And, in turn, how will you satisfy the requirements of this job?

Think carefully about your answers. These questions I’ve just posed are meant to get your juices flowing and to get you to start thinking about your selling points– and, how to market them to your prospective employer. You want to prove that you are not only a shoo-in for this job but also a natural fit.
Lastly, here are a few tips to get you on your way:

  • If you’re responding to a job posting or ad, follow the directions. Meaning, if they ask for specific information in your cover letter (the specific position you’re applying for, your salary requirements, etc) then you must provide it. Also, if it says “no phone calls”, don’t call. I’m serious.
  • Proofread. If you take away anything from this post (or even this blog), please proofread your work. Remember, mistakes reflect carelessness– the total opposite of “detail-oriented.”
  • Keep it simple… and short. Purple prose is always a no-no, but this is especially applicable here. Be concise; most cover letters are only a page long. If it must be over a page, make it only a page and half, tops. So, don’t send a missive, send a directive– keep it short and sweet.
  • Keep it professional. Use a professional-sounding email or, at the very least, your school email when including your contact information. As hot as “spankmebaby69@aol.com” sounds, it’s incredibly jarring to Human Resources. Don’t be the office joke, and sign up for a nice, normal-sounding Gmail account that includes your name and not any weird proclivities.

How to write a resume.

Pens and ink. (From Keith Williamson on Flickr.)

With application season gearing up, all sorts of questions are coming up– not surprisingly, they don’t all involve personal statements. Application packets can be lengthy with lots and lots of written, edited material to keep track of– your statement, of course, as well as letters of recommendation, supplemental essays (like addenda, for instance), and your resume.

In all this hubbub, the resume is often left for last, as it is supposedly the easiest of them all. To some extent, that is true. But don’t ignore it and certainly don’t forget about it– it is representative of you by containing a wealth of information about you, making a vital document in your application.

Whether you’ve chosen to write about volunteering for an NGO or coaching the local little league team, you are free to talk about these experiences in your statement. But, you don’t want to waste valuable space (and time!) listing your entire job description. Of course, your personal statement might not even be about about your time at school or in the work force– and that makes your resume even more important.

Your personal statement is meant to highlight your personality and drive. In it, you’re encouraged to describe how your school, work, and life experiences have demonstrated your qualities or have honed and developed them. Your resume, in turn, provides the background knowledge of these experiences. While your personal statement is meant to persuade the admission counselor with a creative yet compelling argument,  your resume provides the factual evidence to back this up. It serves as a gallery of your school and work experiences, awards, and accomplishments. Your resume is where you can more explicitly state what these work and job responsibilities were / are and how they fit with these qualities emphasized in your personal statement.

A helpful way to start working on your resume is to brainstorm. Think about what each and every  role you’ve had in school, work, or elsewhere. Think carefully– what were you responsible for? What were you counted on to bring to the table? Chances are, somehow and somewhere, you were responsible for something– in some way or another, a responsibility rested totally with you. Admissions councelors want to see that you have been held responsible and accountable for a job well done in some way and that a person or team has counted on you.

Then, use action words and phrases to move your resume. Be demonstrative with your job titles, descriptions, and work history. You want to highlight these responsibilities in a way that’s dynamic, allowing you ownership of your duties. Think beyond what you’ve done but what you’ve accomplished. The following are good examples of action phrases:

  • “Performed…”
  • “Created…”
  • “Worked directly with…”
  • “Managed…”
  • “Increased…”
  • “Produced…”
  • “Handled all…”
  • “Improved…”
  • “Enhanced…”
  • “Worked alongside with [lead supervisor/director/head coordinator/etc]
  • “Expanded…”
  • “Responsible for…”
  • “Achieved…”
  • “Succeeded in…”
  • “Completed…”
  • “Secured…”

…and so on.

When writing your job descriptions, you need to highlight where and how you were directly involved in each  role– whether it was by being director or coordinator yourself, or being shift manager at Starbucks. You will need to showcase all of your responsibilities held as these will be further testament to your exceptional abilities next to your statement. By brainstorming effectively and using action phrases like the ones I’ve listed above, you’ll be well on your way.