A résumé is a “selfie” for business purposes—a promotion of you as an ideal candidate for any job you may be interested in. What are the elements of a successful résumé? What must you be especially careful about? And how can your cover letter best complement your résumé to help you win a job? Explore some of the many ways you can design and develop both for the greatest impact in your job search.
A résumé is a “selfie” for business purposes. It is a written picture of who you are—it’s a marketing tool, a selling tool, and a promotion of you as an ideal candidate for any job you may be interested in.
The word résumé comes from the French word résumé, which means “a summary.” Leonardo da Vinci is credited with writing one of the first known résumés, although it was more of a letter that outlined his credentials for a potential employer, Ludovico Sforza. The résumé got da Vinci the job, though, and Sforza became a longtime patron of da Vinci and later commissioned him to paint The Last Supper. You can see the letter and read the translation at Ladders Career Advice.
Résumés and cover letters work together to represent you in the brightest light to prospective employers. With a well-composed résumé and cover letter, you stand out—which may get you an interview and then a good shot at landing a job.
In this section we discuss résumés and cover letters as key components of your career development tool kit. We explore some of the many ways you can design and develop them for the greatest impact in your job search.
Your résumé is an inventory of your education, work experience, job-related skills, accomplishments, volunteer history, internships, residencies, and/or more. It’s a professional autobiography in outline form to give the person who reads it a quick, general idea of who you are. With a better idea of who your are, prospective employers can see how well you might contribute to their workplace.
As a college student or recent graduate, though, you may be unsure about what to put in your résumé, especially if you don’t have much employment history. Still, employers don’t expect recent grads to have significant work experience. And even with little work experience, you may still have a host of worthy accomplishments to include. It’s all in how you present yourself.
The following video is an animated look at why résumés are so important. You can read a transcript of the video here.
Perhaps the hardest part of writing a résumé is figuring out what format to use to organize and present your information in the most effective way. There is no correct format, per se, but most résumés follow one of the four formats below. Which format appeals to you the most?
An important note about formatting is that, initially, employers may spend only a few seconds reviewing each résumé—especially if there is a big stack of them or they seem tedious to read. That’s why it’s important to choose your format carefully so it will stand out and make the first cut.
For many people, the process of writing a résumé is daunting. After all, you are taking a lot of information and condensing it into a very concise form that needs to be both eye-catching and easy to read. Don’t be scared off, though! Developing a good résumé can be fun, rewarding, and easier than you think if you follow a few basic guidelines. In the following video, a résumé-writing expert describes some keys to success.
Résumés resemble snowflakes in as much as no two are alike. Although you can benefit from giving yours a stamp of individuality, you will do well to steer clear of personal details that might elicit a negative response. It is advisable to omit any confidential information or details that could make you vulnerable to discrimination, for instance. Your résumé will likely be viewed by a number of employees in an organization, including human resource personnel, managers, administrative staff, etc. By aiming to please all reviewers, you gain maximum advantage.
Remember that your résumé is your professional profile. It will hold you in the most professional and positive light, and it’s designed to be a quick and easy way for a prospective employer to evaluate what you might bring to a job. When written and formatted attractively, creatively, and legibly, your résumé is what will get your foot in the door. You can be proud of your accomplishments, even if they don’t seem numerous. Let your résumé reflect your personal pride and professionalism.
In the following video, Résumé Tips for College Students From Employers, several college graduate recruiters summarize the most important points about crafting your résumé. You can download a transcript of the video here .
|1||Résumé Builder (from Super Resume)||This site allows you to select a resume template then either edit directly in the website, or download your resume as a Word Doc and edit on your computer. Additionally, once you’ve completed your resume, you can download a PDF of your final resume. You have the option to create an account, but you are not required to do so.|
|2||Résumé Samples for College Students and Graduates (from About Careers)||This site offers a plethora of sample résumés for college students and graduates. Listings are by type of student and by type of job. Résumé templates are also provided.|
|3||JobSearch Minute Videos(from College Grad)||This site offers multiple to-the-point one-minute videos on topics such as print résumés, video résumés, cover letters, interviewing, tough interview questions, references, job fairs, and Internet job searching.|
|4||42 Résumé Dos and Don’ts Every Job Seeker Should Know (from the muse)||A comprehensive list of résumé dos and don’ts, which includes traditional rules as well as new rules to polish your résumé.|
|5||11 Free Resume Templates You Can Customize in Microsoft Word (from Hub Spot)||A collection of résumé templates that you can download and use as a starting point for your résumé.|
|6||The Online Resume Builder(from My Perfect resume)||The online résumé builder is easy to use. Choose your résumé design from the library of professional designs, insert prewritten examples, then download and print your new résumé. Please note that you must create an account to use this resource.|
A cover letter is a letter of introduction, usually 3–4 paragraphs in length, that you attach to your résumé. It’s a way of introducing yourself to a potential employer and explaining why you are suited for a position. Employers may look for individualized and thoughtfully written cover letters as an initial method of screening out applicants who may who lack necessary basic skills, or who may not be sufficiently interested in the position.
The following video features Aimee Bateman, founder of Careercake.com, who explains how you can create an incredible cover letter. You can download a transcript of the video here.
|1||Student Cover Letter Samples (from About Careers)||This site contains sample student/recent graduate cover letters (especially for high school students and college students and graduates seeking employment) as well as cover letter templates, writing tips, formats and templates, email cover letter examples, and examples by type of applicant|
|2||How to Write Cover Letters (from CollegeGrad)||This site contains resources about the reality of cover letters, using a cover letter, the worst use of the cover letter, the testimonial cover letter technique, and a cover letter checklist|
|3||LinkedIn Cover Letter||This site contains articles, experts, jobs, and more: get all the professional insights you need on LinkedIn|
|4||Cover Letters (from the Yale Office of Career Strategy)||This site includes specifications for the cover letter framework (introductory paragraph, middle paragraph, concluding paragraph), as well as format and style|
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