Resumes & Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts

Resumes & Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts

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Have you ever wondered what to put on a resume or maybe what not to put on a resume? Maybe you’re mystified by the cover letter
and why you need one. So I’ve been spending a lot of time
lately looking at resumes and talking to people about their resumes, and so I
thought it might be useful to do a short video on some of the dos and more
importantly some of the don’ts when it comes to doing resumes and cover letters.
I want to start with the caveat that these are just my suggestions based on my
experience in reading and writing cover letters and resumes. My suggestions may
not fit for every situation or job interview and of course there’s more to
writing a resume and cover letter than i’m gonna be able to cover in a short
video. So let’s start with the dos. Do: Do your research. So you see a job posting
and you think ‘hey I might actually fit here!’ or ‘oh this is an organization I’ve
always wanted to work for!’ What do you do next? Well I would recommend going directly to
the internets! Doing your research about an organization or about a job position
is really, really, really important. Whether or not you know about the
organization, looking on their website, maybe even contacting them for an
informational interview; your knowledge about the organization can really come
through in the cover letter and in your resume. You can also work your network. So if you know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody who might be able to put you in touch with somebody at the organization, it’s often worth reaching
out. Do: Do craft your cover letter and resume for each and every position
you’re applying for. Just, just do it. I know this one is really painful,
especially if you’re applying for a lot of jobs at one time, but it is so
important to craft your cover letter and your resume for each and every position
you’re applying to. Basically in these two to three pages you are trying to
make the case for why you are the best fit for their organization. You want to
make sure that in those two to three pages it becomes very clear to them how
your skills fit their needs. A lot of people think of the resume is just sort
of a list of all the other jobs I’ve ever had, and yes it is that, but it’s also a
way to convey your interests, and your unique experiences, and your skill set to
what it is that organization’s looking for. I know if this can take time and it
can seem really arduous but it’s so important. You also want to be able to
impress them with the way that you talk about your skills. No, you shouldn’t lie
on your resume, but you also shouldn’t underestimate yourself. One of the
things I recommend is that you talk to to a close friend or colleague. Someone
who knows you. Somebody who knows your skills or your personality. Someone who
can talk through a little bit what they see in you and what they think are
valuable skills and personality traits that you should represent. Because
oftentimes our friends are way better at seeing the qualities that we can’t
recognize ourselves. In the cover letter you really want to make the case for why
you’re the best fit for their organization. I often recommend starting
off the cover letter with a few sentences about the organization to
which you are applying to convey that you understand what it is that they do
what they care about and what they’re looking for. Then you want to spend the next paragraph or so outlining how the experiences on your resume fit the needs
of the organization has. And you want to be pretty specific here, the more you’re
able to articulate how your skills meet their needs, the more impressed they’re gonna be. And I cannot
stress this enough, the cover letter is so important. It’s what gets you in the door for an
interview. Do: Choose your words. When you’re writing your cover letter and
your resume you want to be pretty specific about the words that you’re using.
I often recommend to people using what I call ‘mirroring.’ I do this in grant writing a
lot too, where I go to an organization’s website and I’ll take note of the words
that they use to describe their work and I’ll try to use those words when I’m
writing a cover letter or a grant application. Basically the more you’re
able to convey that you understand the lingo and the way that they talk about
the work, you’re more likely to seem like, to them at least, somebody who’s already
on board with the work, whose already drunk the kool-aid. Don’t: Don’t blindly apply for
everything. And especially don’t copy paste the name of the organization and
and the position title into a form letter and expect that to work. It’s a
waste of your and your potential employer’s time and we see right through
that. So cut it out. Don’t: Don’t submit more or less than what’s asked for. Oftentimes
in a job application, people will ask for just a resume and cover letter at the
first blush. So if they ask for a resume cover letter, give a resume and a cover letter.
And only a resume and cover letter. Chances are most employers aren’t gonna
spend the time looking at any additional materials that you add on that they
didn’t ask for. A lot of times you get to an interview phase, at which point an
employer might ask for references or a writing sample. At that point, of course
provide them with everything they need but beforehand, it’s not worth it. Don’t: Don’t pick
references who aren’t gonna say nice things about you. I don’t see it is too
often because usually people are pretty good about picking references, but I’ve
been asked to be a reference for people sometimes where I feel like: ‘I don’t know
you, like at all…’ So I’m not gonna provide a good reference. Not because I don’t like
you, or think that you’re perfectly nice human being, but I literally can’t
speak to your work qualities or professionalism. This happens a lot more
for students who are coming out of undergraduate institutions, especially
very large ones, where they haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to work
one-on-one with professors or graduate students. But I think it can happen in
the job market too. You wanna be careful to think about who your references are,
and the messages that they’re going to send to your potential employer. So you
want to pick people who you’ve worked with – people who know your work skills,
your productivity, your professionalism – all the characteristics that you want them to
talk about when a potential employer calls. So you got the interview! Now, what?? Don’t
panic. This is a good thing! This means that
your cover letter was spot, on your resume has the right qualifications on
it, and they think you’re kinda cool and they want to bring you in for an interview. A lot of people get really freaked out
at the interview phase, and I totally get it. But I’ve got some tips and tricks for
you that’ll come up in a future video. So subscribe to this channel if you haven’t to see that when it comes out in a couple of weeks. If you have other questions
about resume and cover letter do’s and don’ts, leave them in comments. I’ll try to get as many of them as I can, and if any of you have really great examples of either
really good, or really terrible resumes and cover letters to share with others,
please leave comments as well. And in the meantime give it a thumbs up if you liked it. Thanks
for watching and we’ll see you next time!

1 thought on “Resumes & Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts”

  1. Great video, Sarah! I have a resume and cover letter template, I guess you would call it. So it's kind of like a form letter, but I wrote it myself and I go in and adjust it whenever I apply for a new position. That's also lead to me revamping the whole thing at times, but it's a lot easier and less stressful for me to start with something that feels somewhat complete and make changes than start with a blank screen.

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