Resume & Cover Letter
Given that most resumes are first glanced at for 3-5 seconds, try not to go over the two-page limit. If you do, and if you have been with some world class companies that don’t appear until the second page, list them in your summary up top on the first page in bold, because the reader may never get to the second page and see your IBM experience!
Keep a permanent file of your achievements, no matter how inconsequential they may appear to be. This is the basis for a good resume. Give each of your references a copy of your resume. Never use your work email as most employers are watching and always bring 10 copies of your resume to your interview.
- After Education, you can include various seminars, classes, and workshops that relate to your jobs.
- You can also list additional awards after education that were not included in the resume.
- Never have a resume that is only 1 1/3 pages, make it one or two pages and format it to use the full page, if possible. If you have been with some world class companies that don’t appear until the second page, list them up on top first.
- Update your resume as you approach completion of each assignment.
- Use “bullet” format where appropriate for accomplishments.
- Use conventional English. Stay away from multi-syllable words when a one- or two-syllable word is clearer.
- Use short paragraphs — preferably no longer than five lines.
- Make sure the resume and the cover letter are error free. Proofread and have others proofread for you, too.
- Include your significant contributions at each one of your jobs.
- Allow the most space for the positions that are most relevant.
- Summarize the technologies (hardware, software, databases, operating environments, etc.) you are familiar with where appropriate.
- List your activities with professional, trade and civic associations — but only if they are appropriate.
While these employers may have different requirements for equivalent experience, a good rule of thumb is to demonstrate past performance and proven results in your previous work. To accomplish this, show how you either made money or saved money for your employer. From your past work experience, develop as many specific instances when you actually have done so. If you can attach a dollar value to your accomplishments, all the better! Here are some actual examples:
- Responsible for generating 13 new accounts by creating database and mailing piece
- Booked $150,000 in new business for 2007 by contracting with 2 major groups
- Increased revenue by 38% from new social market bookings
- Chaired meetings and headed the negotiation discussion that resulted in the settlement of a long protracted contractual and legal issue with the subcontractor and client
- Improved cash collection and debt aging from average 100 days to a more manageable 30 days and realized savings of about $276,000
- Reduced turnover by 45% over previous management within 15 months through my training program and development plans
- Won the Leadership and Excellence award in 2007 for outstanding achievements during my project management role
- Increased our customer satisfaction survey scores by 32% on average by training my team on the proper way to provide a great customer experience
- Reduced non-beneficial spending costs by 40% by effectively researching and analyzing accounts payable data
A cover letter accompanies your resume when you apply for a position. It is your personal introduction to a prospective employer outlining your interest in the position and the organization and expressing why you are qualified for the position. A cover letter is not a summary of your resume; rather, it is a “teaser” whose function is to make a potential employer want to read your resume.
Each cover letter should be tailored to a specific job description and organization. Using bullet points show how you meet the required qualifications for that particular job by emphasizing the two or three strongest reasons why you are a compelling candidate (something more than: “I could do that job.”). Show what you know about the organization/industry and demonstrate why you are a good fit. Use confident language, write in an active voice and except in rare circumstances, limit your letter to one page.
Your cover letter should be designed specifically for each purpose outlined below as for each position you seek. Do not design a form letter and send it to every potential employer—you know what you do with junk mail! Remember this is the first sample of your written communication skills, so make it good!
References & Sample Work
Be prepared that most savvy employers will want to speak with past supervisors and ideally the ones who managed you last, so once you start getting close to an offer make sure you have their names/numbers handy and call them to give them a heads up.
IF you feel that the last supervisor is truly going to be unfair as a reference then give someone who hired you initially or managed you the longest time. Often companies will want a supervisor, client, peer, and subordinate, so be prepared.
Also, companies can verify your income so be honest about what you make it’s very easy for companies to get this information.
Have samples of your past successes like rankings, sample presentations, awards, etc. If you can display them on a tablet or lap top, all the more impressive. It’s nice to have several printed leave-behinds for the interviewer…you never know when you may meet others in the process.
It’s very easy to check out companies with the internet. If it’s a company you are really interested in, go to their web site and read the complete site. That sounds like a lot, but it’s like reading a short 30-page book and the added knowledge will help you be the standout.
After the website research, go out in the field and investigate. For example, if it’s a CPG firm conduct store checks and if it’s a medical opportunity check out the hospitals. This is basic blocking and tackling, but can be a tremendous help and many people are too lazy to do it. This immediately puts you in the top third of your class and you haven’t even interviewed!
Some Provoking Thoughts…
Why does one get “the” job?
- Right skill set
- Demonstrates a high level of interest ( a tie breaker if it comes to that)
- They believe you are a good fit
- They believe you can contribute to building the business
Skill Set—how to communicate it:
Come up with the most outstanding accomplishments in the following areas. Think of scoring a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5.
- Results oriented (found an opportunity and captured it)
- Strategic thinker
- Quantitative skills
- Consumer & business insight
How to answer a question and communicate the Skill Set above:
(in this order, answers must be complete, quick and to the point)
- What was the situation? Situation
- What did I do? Action
- What were the results? Results
Summarize current company’s product categories in terms of the 4 P’s:
- Rambling means I do not know how to answer the question.
- If you don’t know answers, pause and think. You don’t need to fill empty space.
- If interrupted, it usually means they do not understand.
- Avoid self-serving needs, e.i. Want to move to Florida.
Case study questions:
- Not looking for me to solve the problem.
- They want to know how I think.
- Always go back to 4 P’s.
The 3 Most Difficult Questions
How you answer these questions is just as important as what you say:
- Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses. Find weaknesses most people have. e.g. Work too hard. Did not delegate much, now doing it more, and finding myself more productive. Do not say that I turned it into a strength.
- Why are you leaving? State positive factors at the current company and your role. However, points like the company is not growing… opportunities are shrinking… not keeping pace with other companies in its class.
- Why do you want to join us? Pick out something positive from recent activity, acquisitions, growing. Something that is positive about the company that you felt was lacking in the old company.