Tips for a Better Resume And Cover Letter
August 24, 2012
Remember the Goal
The purpose of your cover letter and resume is to get you an interview, not get you a job!
The Concept of Real Estate
While your resume or vitae can be several pages long (the one page rule only applies to people fresh out of school), be sure to keep the most important and impressive information on the first one or two pages. Everyone who reads a resume is guilty of paying the most attention to the first few pages.
Chronological vs. Functional vs. the "Combo"
Think carefully before making a decision to use the pure functional style. What kind of judgments do you make when you see that type of resume?
Describe Your Institution
There are too many institutions for all of us to be familiar with every one. Give your readers some scope by providing a brief statement describing your institution. Consider providing data such as the number of students, the number of majors and type of degrees offered, the location (urban vs. rural), private vs. public, Carnegie classification, etc.
Responsibilities vs. Accomplishments
Be sure you understand the difference between these two concepts. A responsibility is something that can be taken almost directly from your position description—it stays with you throughout your time in the position. An accomplishment is, by definition, something completed successfully—usually a concrete project or measurable assignment. Virtually every resume can be improved by listing key accomplishments in addition to major responsibilities.
Quantify, quantify, quantify.
"We Want Someone Just Like Us!"
Remember that many hiring managers and search committees are hoping to hire someone to whom they can relate, e.g., someone with the same credentials as the prior incumbent, someone from an institution virtually identical to their own, etc. One way to address this issue is to draw connections in all your communications (cover letter, resume, interviews, etc.) between your background and experience and that of the people you interact with during the search process.
Be Aware of Layout and Design
Stay away from using capital letters, boldface, and underline type all at once. Avoid justifying your text to the right margin—you will end up with odd "rivers" of space flowing through the documents.
Refer to Dictionaries and Style Guides
The Chicago Manual of Style 15th Edition is a great style guide, but there are others. Be especially careful to check the hyphenation of words such as micromanage (not hyphenated) and multi-tasking (definitely hyphenated)!
Have at Least One Person Proofread for You!
Our own eyes cannot catch every comma and every misspelling. Rely on others for a final review.