My Resume and Cover Letter – Part Two

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Putting together a high quality cover letter and resume is important. Not only is it going to get you a good mark for this assignment – it’s also going to help make sure you’re successful when you’re competing for jobs on the job boards.

Remember what we talked about during the job search module? You’re competing with 100% of job searches for about 30% of job opportunities when you’re only applying to jobs online. So if applying to jobs online is going to be your main job strategy, you want to make sure you’re armed with some high quality documents.

To see if you’re on the right track, review the Cover Letter & Resume Checklist below. You want to make sure you can say “yes” to all these questions. These are the questions we are going to be asking ourselves about your documents when assessing them later on.

Cover Letter & Resume Checklist

Creative Header

  1. Does your name stand-out? Is it written at the top of all pages of your job application? Is it written in another colour or is it the largest text on the page? You don’t want to go too crazy – especially if you’re not graphically gifted – just make sure it pops.
  2. Does your header include your contact information (i.e., your phone number & email address)? Is your email hyperlinked? You can include your location (city and province), but do not include your full address. You can also include your LinkedIn URL but make sure it’s hyperlinked and customized (e.g., www.linkedin.com/in/kaylavatcher). Remember to remove the blue font and underline from all your hyperlinks – they’re not visually appealing.
  3. Does your header look professional? Is it visually appealing and appropriate to your industry? If you are not graphically gifted, use a more traditional header – there’s nothing wrong with them!!

Cover Letter Format & Formalities

  1. Does your cover letter come before your resume? Is it only 1 page long? Is it 3-5 paragraphs? (1 paragraph can be substituted for a set of bullet points). Is the text single-spaced within paragraphs and double spaced between? The paragraphs should not be indented.
  2. Does it include all professional letter writing formalities i.e., does it include the current date? The company’s name & FULL address? A formal greeting (e.g., “Dear Kayla Vatcher,” or “Dear RBC Talent Acquisition Team” if no contact information is provided)? Does it end with a professional sign-off (e.g., “Regards,”) and e-signature? Is your full name typed after the e-signature?
  3. Are the design elements (e.g., font style) and formatting (e.g., margins) consistent throughout your cover letter and with your resume? Your cover letter and resume should have the same exact style or “feel” – this is an important part of professional branding and self-marketing and it also makes it look like you care about quality.

Impactful Introduction

  1. Is your opening paragraph creative and engaging? It should not copy any of the examples from class. Is it tailored specifically to the position and company you’re applying to? Does it include the job title and company name? Does the tone you use match the tone they use in the job posting? (e.g., if their job posting is fun, your cover letter should be fun; if theirs sounds very professional, yours should sound very professional; if theirs is bare bones, yours is allowed to be to the point too, etc.)
  2. Does it demonstrate sincere interest in and understanding of the industry, company and/or position? Demonstrating company research and making a connection between yourself and the company is usually very important for organization’s with clearly defined vision and mission statements. But job postings will usually tell you if they want you to have a passion for the industry or line of work.
  3. Does it explain how you will add value to the position and/or company in a realistic way? It should absolutely not talk about how the position will benefit you! It should definitely talk about how you will benefit them (or why you are a great match for the role).

Memorable Middle Paragraph

  1. Does each of your body paragraphs have a clear and specific theme or point? Are your paragraphs and sentences clear, concise and relevant to the job posting?
  2. Does your first body paragraph discuss your relevant hard skills and professional abilities? Does it include key words from the job posting and industry phrases that demonstrate your ability or familiarity with the role? Does it explicitly reference your ability to do the job duties described in the job posting?
  3. Do you use specific examples from school, work or volunteer experiences that prove you have the relevant skills they are looking for? Do you describe how you have used those skills and what you are able to accomplish when using those skills? Do you tell stories, give examples, provide facts or any evidence that substantiate your skill claims?

Convincing Closer

  1. Do you start your closing remarks by summarizing your interest and/or qualifications in the role in 1-2 sentences (think of the hamburger method essay)?
  2. Does it include a call to action regarding next steps? Do you ask for an interview?
  3. Does it thank the reader for their time?

Resume Appearance & Organization

  1. Does your resume have the same exact header as your cover letter? Is the header the same on both pages of your resume, if applicable? Are the design and formatting elements (fonts, colours, margins, alignments, etc.) consistent throughout your resume and with your cover letter? Is it visually appealing and professional looking?
  2. Is your resume organized in a logical and strategic way that makes it easy to read and pick up key information? Are your qualifications evident within a 6-second scan? Do you avoid using columns and tables (they’re hard on both the human and electronic eye)?
  3. Is your resume either 1 or 2 full pages? Do you make appropriate use of white space (i.e., the information is not too crowded but not too sparse)? If you do use a 2nd page, do you make good use of it? Half of the page shouldn’t be blank – either condense it 1 page or find a new template.

Professional Summary

  1. Does your Brand Summary/Profile Statement clearly demonstrates your understanding of the role? Does it explain how you would be able to fulfil those duties? It should summarize your relevant interests, skills, experience and/or education to demonstrate your value as a candidate.
  2. Do you include 4-6 bullet points that demonstrate your ability to perform the job duties described in the job posting? Do you include keywords from the job posting and industry phrases that are relevant to this specific job position (not your industry in general)? Are the majority of your points related to your relevant hard/professional skills and abilities?
  3. Do you provide facts, evidence or context that help describe your skills or show their relevancy? Do your points explain what you are able to achieve through the use of your skills? This is particularly important for any bullet points related to your relevant soft skills.

Education & Academic Projects

  1. Do you include all your relevant post-secondary education in reverse chorological order? There should be no mention of your high school education. Any other relevant professional development like training and certifications should be listed in a separate section labelled “Additional Training & Certifications”
  2. Are your educational credentials properly and consistently formatted? Is the full official name of your program written in bold text? Do you include the name of the educational institution? Do you include your actual or anticipated date of graduation? Do you include any academic achievements (awards, scholarships or GPA if 3.5+) or list relevant courses? Have you noted that you’re a Co-op or Internship student?
  3. If you don’t have any relevant experience, do you include an “Academic Projects” section? Did you choose 1-3 relevant projects or courses? Projects or courses chosen must relate to the job posting – they must demonstrate your ability to perform key job duties listed in the job posting. Does each project include 2-4 accomplishment statements describing what YOU DID? Does each bullet point include all 4 elements below?:
    • Be a clear and concise statement (ideally between about 10-25 words each)
    • Start with a powerful action verb (e.g., negotiated, authored, transformed, etc.)
    • Incorporate keywords from job posting and industry phrases appropriate to job
    • Include objective facts or numbers wherever possible

Experience (Employment, Volunteer, Extra-Curriculars, etc.)

  1. Do you include your experience (paid, volunteer, extra-curricular) in reverse chronological order? They are usually separated into 2 separate categories: Employment Experience and Volunteer Experience. But you can choose to separate them into Professional Experience and Additional Experience if it makes more sense for you.
  2. Is your experience section properly and consistently formatted? Do you include the name of position (even if volunteer or extra-curricular position)? Name of organization? Start date & date?
  3. Does each position include 3-5 bullet points that describe what you did/accomplished? Do you highlight your transferable skills and accomplishments over tasks and duties? Do not describe tasks and duties if they are not directly related to your job posting. Does each bullet point include all 4 elements below?:
    • Be a clear and concise statement (ideally between about 10-25 words each)
    • Start with a powerful action verb (e.g., negotiated, authored, transformed, etc.)
    • Incorporate keywords from job posting and industry phrases appropriate to job
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