Many job applicants believe that an interview is the initial chance they get to make a first impression, but that happens long before the introductory handshake. The first impression ultimately takes place with your resume, which should be more than just a list of your educational and career accomplishments. Along with your cover letter, your resume is your strategy for getting out of the applicant pool and into an interview. Here we’ll discuss how to create a winning resume, even if your job experience is thin.
The Cover Letter
Any resume is incomplete without a carefully crafted cover letter. The rare exception is career fairs, when you will be meeting recruiters and handing out many resumes at a time. The cover letter is a one-page document that expressly tells what position you are interested in, why you’re the ideal match for the job, what drew you to the company and what sets you apart from other applicants. It’s your chance to sell yourself. Essentially it shares the most pertinent information you would like to get across in an interview, without actually sitting for one.
A cover letter is always individualized; the last thing it should be is generic. If you are using the same cover letter for all of the resumes you send out and simply changing the names of the positions around, you are making a big mistake. Each cover letter you write should be uniquely matched to the job to which you are applying. The qualities that attract you to one organization are usually very different from the ones that attract you to another. And the roles of each job are different. For these reasons and many more, you should always tailor your cover letters to the specific company or position you want.
A resume should always contain the following: contact information; job experience with the most recent employment appearing first; educational attainment and awards with highest degree appearing first; interests/community involvement; and references. Some applicants insist on including a brief objective statement at the top of their resumes, but a good cover letter will include any information you list in an objective. If your applicable work experience is thin, however, you may wish to include an objective to beef up your resume.
Your contact information should include your phone number, email address, website (if applicable) and LinkedIn site. This way, not only will people reviewing your resume be able to easily contact you, but they will also have a means of finding out more about you.
When you list your previous employment information, it’s important to not only include your job responsibilities but also your accomplishments. For instance, if you were able to boost your former company’s sales by 15 percent, note this achievement in a bullet point. If you implemented a strategy that improved a company’s productivity, flag this as well. And if you assumed a leadership role, even in a non-management position, showcase this too. Always be sure to highlight any time you were promoted to higher position. Those reviewing your resume like to see that you possess the qualities to move up in a company. Throughout your resume, focus on the job skills that best translate to the position you’re seeking. For example, if you are applying for a job as a team leader, stress any time that you had to work with others to meet a goal.
If you have very little relevant employment experience, you can still shine on your resume. Internships, teacher’s assistantships, volunteer work and community involvement are all experiences that you can use to demonstrate your strengths and how they translate into the workplace. In these instances, it’s also important to emphasize your college education, drawing attention to your MBA and concentration, certifications and good academic record. Emphasize membership in professional organizations and attendance at industry-specific training events and conferences.
The “interests” section of your resume is your chance to share what makes you unique and add some flavor. Briefly describe what you do outside of work. For example, if you have a passion for running marathons, volunteering at an animal rescue, are a member of your local PTA or are an elder at your church, this is the place to make it known. These little tidbits reveal valuable pieces of your character.
Last but not least, don’t force the person reading your resume to ask you for references. Include two to three professional references from among your professors, former employers and colleagues who can vouch for your character, work ethic and reliability.