October 23, 2009
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I currently have three close friends that are all looking for jobs (thanks economy!), and are seeking my help with their resumes. Since I’ve been in the hiring position a lot in the past few years (both at small businesses and MSU, an enterprise), I’d like to share some of the tips that I’ve been sharing with my friends. I encourage you to fill the comments with more suggestions and your experiences to share
- The cover letter is your chance to show your future employer your communication skills. This usually trumps the checkbox you had on the job application of “Has good written or verbal skills.” Make sure it is spit-shined! Spell-checks, grammar checks and punctuation checks are all MUSTs before you print the letter.
- Did you follow proper business etiquette in the formatting of the letter? Do you even know what that is? I am not a dear friend, but a future boss — your letter should act that way. (Pay attention to the opening).
- Your cover letter should NEVER be generic. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER open the letter “Dear Potential Employer”. If you are applying for a job and have direct communications with somebody at the company, put their name on it. Your cover letter should always have information you know about the company you are applying for — and this means do some research. If you are applying at MSU, I want to see something about working at the largest single-campus university in America, or working for a Big Ten University.
- The cover letter should always include your full contact information, including name, email address, phone number and mailing address. If you have a blog, twitter account or linked-in profile, it would be bonus points to include them too (especially for tech jobs).
- You should never mention pay in your cover letter. This is a huge turn-off for the people reading it, and it makes you feel like your only doing it for the money.
- Your cover letter SHOULD highlight your objectives at working at the job (remember, getting paid, and simply holding a job are objectives, but those should be understood — don’t highlight them).
- When I am am first looking at potential candidates, I always start with the resume. Your have 30 seconds to wow me. Your better make those 30 seconds pleasing to the eye. Have you thought about using color?
- Make the size of the resume fit your content, not some golden rule. If you can say everything in one page, use one page. If you need three, than use three. Don’t ever make the size of the font too small to squeeze in that extra bit of info, or have lots of empty white space.
- Your resume, like your cover-letter should have ALL of your contact information on it. Again, postal address, email address, phone number (landline and cell), blog, twitter, etc.
- If your objectives section is one sentence, and very generic, don’t include it. That is what the cover-letter is for. Make it specific to the job you are applying for, and very descriptive of your goals in the job — but don’t include the “to make money,” “to have a job at…”, or simply “to learn and grow.”
- You should not list more than 3 years, or your last three jobs (whichever has more), unless older jobs are relevant to the job you are applying for. Having pages and pages of past jobs doesn’t add much to the mix.
- Past jobs should always have : Company name, location, your position, your responsibilities, and the time you worked there. Make sure to put your real job title on there, and not something like “Maintenance Engineer” (instead of janitor). We know not every job is glamorous, and sometimes we look for those types of positions to show a well-rounded individual.
- You should always list any accreditations, certifications, or major honors you may have on your resume. They don’t have to be relevant to the job, but they show you as an individual.
- Put your educational references on your resume. Make sure to include the name of your high school, location, and graduation date. If your high-school changed names or no longer exists, find out where your records are. The same goes for college / universities. If you are older, only show the college (but only do this if you completed school). Many larger organizations use this information to verify you graduated, and in all honesty, use this space to catch liars. Use this space to show involvement in relevant clubs, projects, or activities. If I’m hiring you as a webmaster, I don’t care that you were homecoming king, but I do care that you were in the Communications Club, and an NHS scholar. You don’t have to include your GPA if you don’t want to.
- ALWAYS include references, unless you are in a position where you don’t want them to be contacted. For example, if you currently are at a job and don’t want people to know you are applying for others, then it is permissible to have a “Ask for References.” Otherwise, put them in — it makes my job easier, and your chances better.