For most of us, there’s nothing more challenging than sitting down and writing a cover letter. Writing about yourself is one thing. Writing about yourself in a way that shows you can do a job and gets you noticed out of 100 applicants is another. Resume and cover letter writing is just step one on job hunts, and can often be the hardest step. But thanks to career services and many other professional tips, it’s time all of us heading into the job market or applying to internships know how it’s done.
The best way to set up a resume is to make a list of everything you’ve done in college—once you’re a sophomore or older, you typically want to forget high school ever happened in your applications (unless you went to a highly prestigious boarding school or something of the like). Think about internships, clubs, courses and class projects relevant to the job. Once you have it all laid out before, pick and choose from the list to tailor your experiences to a job description. Yup, that’s right. You don’t necessarily want just one kind of resume for every job you apply for—though you can often repeat when applying to all jobs in the same field. The best way to get hired is to cater your resume and cover letter to the job description given and the skills required. That way, one glance at your piece of paper—because your resume should always be one single piece of paper—will immediately show an employer you could do this job.
When writing your resume, format is important. Use bold headings for different sections, like education, leadership experience, etc. You can group your internship and class work experiences under different headings related to the job, so they can see a wider range of what you’ve been up to—especially since by the end of senior year, most of us can’t fit all of our experiences on one page and have to choose what to include. For each experience, make sure you include the name of the company, where you worked, your job title, and the dates of your internship or class. Keep the format the same throughout the whole resume to make it look more professional and flow better. Under each title of your experience, include at least three bullet points as to what you did. Be honest, beginning each bullet with an action verb, and again try to make your experience as closely related to the job description as possible without making up details. Voila! You have a resume that will stand out to the company and hopefully help land you the job.
In addition to working hard on your resume, you need to put the time in to writing different cover letters for each job. Companies can tell if you’re using the same letter repeatedly and just inserting a different company name. Here’s the trick to these: the company wants to know if you can do the job, if you want the job (aka have passion for it), and if you’ll fit into the work environment. So, you should take this opportunity—again, the cover letter should be just about a page if not less—to try to reference all of these points as best you can.
You should begin your letter by addressing the employer by name if possible, and launch into a short paragraph about how you’re interested in such a position and why. The why aspect is important because it can help show your passion and what it is about this particular company that makes you want to work there. Then enter a new paragraph that is about 10 sentences at most, highlighting three to five experiences on your resume that make you a good candidate. DON’T just re-iterate what your resume already tells them about your study abroad experience, but go into detail about what you learned exactly…which should be related to the job description and what experience they want you to have! Be concise and clear, and stick to the most important details of what you did. Conclude your letter by thanking them for their consideration and giving them details on how to reach you. Include references with their information, and with one final thank you and “hope to hear from you soon,” you’ve just finished one of the most difficult letters to write ever. Phew!