By Rebecca Shore
It’s damn hard to get that resume in the right hands, and then even harder to get those right hands to not immediately toss it into the recycling bin. Seeing as you probably spent the last four years sleeping through classes instead of working at a Fortune 500 company, your list of relevant work experience may be a bit short (or non-existent). So how do you make a convincing argument that, although you may not have the qualifications to take over the company, you are ready and prepared for the working world? That, my friend, is where the cover letter comes into play. This nifty resume sidekick fills a number of gaps that recent grad resumes often can’t fill on their own.
Cover letters are one of the greatest sources of existential crises during the job-hunt. You’ve got to explain why you’re qualified to do the job, demonstrate why you want to do the job, and win the reader over with a little bit of personality…all in one page! It’s not easy, but we’ll try to make it as painless as possible. Just follow these guidelines to become the Bill Shakespeare of cover letters.
What is the point of a cover letter?
According to Joyce Lain Kennedy’s Cover Letters for Dummies, there are five main things the cover letter should achieve:
Some overly aggressive jobseekers tend to value quantity over quality, sending a carbon copy of the resume and the cover letter to every potential employer, without taking the time to tailor the letter to the company. Such an approach will likely be perceived as lazy, so be sure to customize your cover letter for each job, and check out these traits to stress in different industries.
What is the structure of a cover letter?
By Julie Fishman
Your application was the appetizer, the interview the main course, and now you’ve hit dessert—the thank you letter. This is your own personalized "cherry on top," so don't let it go to waste. Not only is a note common courtesy, but it's also a final sales pitch for tour candidacy and a chance to make your name stand out from an Olympic-size post-grad applicant pool.
Within 48 hours of the interview, you should send an email thanking everyone who was a part of the interview process for their time and restating your qualifications. If it's one of these places where you are introduced to like 10 people for no other reason other than to confuse you, do yourself a favor and ask for each person's business card so you have their name and contact information. Without sounding like a sycophant, express the idea that after meeting in person you're even more excited for the opportunity. Try to refer to something specific from the interview that made you eager to join the crew. Let them know that you’d be a better fit than Dockers and add real value, giving examples of past experiences that prove your worth. Don't prattle on and on, but do briefly summarize the highlights of your candidacy (one to three short paragraphs is a good rule of thumb).
Forgot to tell them you studied in Sevilla, where you perfected your Spanish? This letter is your opportunity to touch on anything you didn’t get to mention in person or follow up with information the interviewer may have requested. One good question is okay to ask; five unnecessary ones may turn you from prospect to pest. Be sure to keep the personality of the organization and interviewer in mind. If you interviewed with a posse of people or saw several throughout the day, you should send a letter to each of them. Every single letter, whether it be to the CEO or average Joe, should be unique and refer to something specific you talked to that person about. To close the letter, thank them again for their time and consideration. Tell them you hope to hear from them soon. Hit send and let the waiting game begin, knowing full well that you've done your duty.
The jury is still out about whether to send a hand-written note or email. The benefit of email is that it is quick and guaranteed to get their on time. That said, a letter stands out as unique and may sit on the person's desk for a few days as a subconscious reminder of your existence. Our best advice is to default to email, but send a letter if you have incredibely beautiful handwriting.
Then the waiting game begins. Don't call or email until the timeframe you were given for a response has elapsed. At that point, unless you were specifically asked not to follow up, it is appropriate to inquire into the status of your application.
Check out the sample below:Ms. Andrea Sachs
24 Devil Wears Prada Lane
Hollywood, CA 90210
March 3, 2007
Ms. Miranda Priestly
By David Pekema
The key that opens the door to our first job is our résumé. Think of them as codpieces or breast implants for jobseekers—they’re the first thing an employer notices, they should be slightly embellished while maintaining a semblance of reality, and they should take a fair amount of adjusting to feel comfortable
. Since everyone has different strengths, work histories, and objectives, no two résumés should be the same. Furthermore, customization is essential for each position you apply for.
As a recent grads, there is likely one glaring hole on your résumés, and that’s work experience. But even if you spent the bulk of your summers consuming as many Jagerbombs as possible—instead of filing papers at Merrill Lynch—you can still make your résumé stand out by highlighting your other strengths and stressing the traits that you know (from your research) the employer values. (To get started, always re-read the job description and check out our list of traits to stress by industry .)
Companies receive dozens of résumés every month (or in Google’s case, every 15 seconds), and hiring managers are looking for any excuse to toss some out and head to lunch. By not making common mistakes like misspelling words, including multiple pages, or formatting like a failed art school student, you won’t give them that opportunity. The résumés that jump out—and avoid the wastebasket—are clear, attractive, and above all, professional.
There are thousands of résumé guides out there, each of which has its merits and failures. To help you wade through the sea of advice, we’ve combined the best tips we could find with some wise words from hiring coordinators to create the über-guide to post-graduate résumé writing. As you read, you can start to fill out the résumé template provided here . Before you start sending it to companies, send your résumé to friends, family, your college’s career service office, and anyone else who might be able to offer feedback and catch typos.
Name and Contact Info
Unless your name is Jeffrey Dahmer, your name should be big, bold, and right at the top of your résumé. Follow this up with your address, phone number, e-mail address, and if applicable, Web portfolio. Make sure that the email address you provide is both professional and permanent—don’t use your “BigJohnson12” AOL account from back in the day, and don’t provide a work or .edu address that may soon expire. The same goes for phone numbers—it’s probably best to provide your cell phone number rather than your grandma’s house. Just make sure you change your voice mail recording so it no longer says, “Wazzzzzzuppppp muthafuckaaaaaa! Hallelujah holler back.”
The objective lets the person reading the résumé know why we’ve bothered sending it to them. A few items not to list here: “making cash-money”, “get my parents off my back”, “prove to my ex that I’m not an immature chachbag.” This section should be b...