How to design a marketable resume and cover letter

How to design a marketable resume and cover letter

Keeling, Anne E


Business organizations reframe, retool, reinvigorate, reenergize, and reinvent themselves to be competitive in the global market, to keep up-to-date with technology changes, and to remain “on the cutting edge.” With a struggling economy, businesses constantly reassess their methods of operation to ensure that clients are provided with the best products and services. The same reframing strategies that businesses use can easily be adapted by students to find jobs.

Setting the Stage

Reframing, a term used to improve, to make better, to fit, or to adjust, means to assess a situation and to decide on corrective measures to improve, to change, or to develop. As prospective graduates, interns, and/or co-op students, consider how reframing strategies used by business organizations parallel with reframing strategies used in creating your resume and cover letter.

Business Success Game Plan

Set Goals

Develop Objectives

Identify Action-Oriented Activities

Graduate Success Game Plan

Design a marketable resume & cover letter

Research resume formats and cover letters

Assemble appropriate information (e.g., identify skills & accomplishments, create resume & cover letter)

Obtain results-Get A Job

Using these business strategies, design a marketable resume and cover letter that attracts employers, and creates interest in you landing a job. Initially, focus on your past performance and identify the steps needed to begin your job search. Remember, your resume represents you; therefore only you can write your script.

Reframing Strategies

Strategy I – Reflection: Take Inventory Before moving forward, reflect on past experiences and accomplishments. Look inward and analyze yourself (e.g. identify strengths, weaknesses, job-related skills, abilities, etc.).

Strategy II – Explore Your Options: One Size Does Not Fit All

A resume is a marketing tool that tells a story about your past history. It describes your qualifications, and allows you to formally articulate your skills, abilities and accomplishments. It is your first opportunity to make a great impression. Not an autobiographical showcase, the resume, instead is an introductory letter, structured in such a way that you become a prospective employer’s ideal candidate.

Compile employer-friendly information:

Personal Data: List your name, address, telephone/cell numbers, and e-mail address. If you have more than one address, include them both (e.g., permanent, campus).

Career/Job Objective (Optional): An objective informs the employer about the type of position you are seeking. If you have multiple interests, it may be necessary to create more than one objective. If you are seeking a position in accounting, you would not send a sales job objective. Remember, job objectives should be tailored to a specific position.

Education: List information in chronological order (the most recent information should be listed first). Identify college dates, location, matriculating college, degree major, degree type, etc.

Special Skills: List special skills (e.g., computer skills, level of language proficiency, etc.).

Work Experience: List jobs in order of occurrence (chronological order). Include dates worked, company name and location, duties performed and accomplishments. Some resumes list work experience before education. However, if you list a job objective, and your work experience is related to that objective, reverse the order and list work experience before education.

Honors/Awards: List awards received (e.g., academic, leadership, honorary memberships, sorority/fraternity awards/scholarship, etc.).

Extracurricular Activities: List organizations, positions held, and committee work.

Military: List branch, rank, dates, and responsibilities (if appropriate).

Reference: A reference statement is optional. Some people feel that listing a reference statement signifies the end of your story. Under no circumstances should you list your references as part of the body of your resume. Do not give the employer too much information too soon. Remember, when using a reference, always ask permission.

Critical to marketing your resume and cover letter is choosing the appropriate delivery system that reflects workplace changes.

Promotion Choices

a. Number of resumes to design

b. Posting resume on the World Wide Web (www)

c. Use of templates

Delivery Systems

a. Electronic version-convenient way to access employer 24 hours a day.. Cost effective; Paper version; Scannable version-used by employers looking for “keywords” (e.g., nouns or noun phrases instead of action words) in the resume.

b. Produces a wider circulation. Any resume format can be used. If you have a Web site, you can showcase your creative skills.

c. Available on the Web. Limits creativity. May have difficulty manipulating headings.

Strategy III – Format your Resume: It Is Not A Toss Up

Now, you are ready to select the appropriate resume format to tell your story. The two most popular and most used formats are the Chronological and Functional resumes.

The chronological resume is familiar, and employer-friendly. Successfully used by graduates with limited experiences, this format lists skills and personal qualities in reverse chronological order. Employers like simplicity. They like to review the resume, extract pertinent information, and move on. If they have to spend too much time searching for information, you lose them. The simple direct approach works.

The functional resume highlights specific functions and/or job titles performed in previous jobs. It is extremely effective for job-changers interested in focusing on specific qualifications for a position. Other advantages in using this format are; to cover gaps in your education and work records; to emphasize marketable skills; and to allow more flexibility and freedom to organize the material.

Strategy IV – Analyze Your Accomplishments: Put Your Best Foot Forward

Analyze your accomplishments; highlight their academic importance in the workplace, as well as in other aspects of your life. Give highlights, reduce details, and leave room for discussion in the interview.

Strategy V Masterpiece: Create Your Own; Connect The Dots

Now you are ready to build your resume with data collected from your worksheets. Remember, prepare a rough draft, edit and re-edit before submitting the final copy.

Strategy VI – Envision Your Readiness for Employment: Get Results

Evaluate your masterpiece with this checklist. My resume:

Makes a good first impression, is attractive in appearance; and typed on 8 1/2 by 11 inch bond paper.

Is free from errors, limited to one page (if possible),

Avoids the use of personal pronouns (e.g., “I,” “me”, etc.),

Uses action words to describe duties (e.g., actively involved, generated reports, evaluated projects etc.),

Uses short forceful phrases throughout the resume to describe experiences and accomplishments (e.g., organized a group of eight people to work on a project, etc.),

Is long enough to read and short enough to sell, and

Identifies appropriate format for telling my story and remains consistent throughout.

Reframing Your Cover Letter

A cover letter, which is, a personalized document accompanying the resume, shares your interest in a particular position. It further describes skills and competencies that you can contribute to the organization.

The first paragraph tells your purpose for writing the letter, position you are applying for and how you heard about the opening.

The second paragraph briefly summarizes your qualifications and skills for the position based on job specific requirements listed in the ad. You should use key words to match the position, tailoring your message to the needs of the employer.

The closing paragraph requests some type of action or response (e.g., directs employer to the enclosed resume, date of an interview, request for additional information, etc.). Remember, be precise in your letter, avoid wordiness, and be brief but informative.

Final Tips

Developing a resume and cover letter is very tedious and time-consuming. It is something that cannot be hurried because it will show in your presentation. Remember, your Career Services Office is the best place for you to seek assistance in developing an effective resume and cover letter, along with providing key tips for you to use during on-campus and later on-site interviews. When emailing an employer, always include a cover letter with a copy of your resume in the same document. To take the employer through too many paces is a bad idea. You only have one chance to make a good impression. Good Luck!

Ann Keeling is a professor in the Division of Professional Practice at the University of Cincinnati.

Copyright Black Collegian Oct 2002

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