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Resume and Cover Letter Workshop

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1 Resume and Cover Letter Workshop
A presentation brought to you by the Purdue University Writing Lab Rationale: Welcome to “Resume Workshop.” This presentation is designed to help students understand more fully the expectations readers have when reading a resume. The thirty slides presented here are designed to aid the facilitator in an interactive presentation of resumes. This presentation is ideal for any student, especially those students who are nearing the time when they will be ready to apply for jobs or internships. Directions: Each slide is activated by a single mouse click, unless otherwise noted in bold at the bottom of each notes page Writers and Designers: Angela Laflen and Jennifer Liethen Kunka Developed with resources courtesy of the Purdue University Writing Lab Grant funding courtesy of the Multimedia Instructional Development Center at Purdue University © Copyright Purdue University, 2000. Purdue University Writing Lab

2 What is a resume? A resume is a personal summary of your professional history and qualifications. It includes information about your career goals, education, work experience, activities, honors, and any special skills you might have. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress that the resume is highly personalized. There is no one correct way to organize a resume, and writers should never simply copy a resume format. Job applicants should think about what makes them qualified for the position they are seeking, and they should stress these qualifications throughout.

3 General Guidelines Length: It is best to limit an entry-level resume to one typed page. Be as concise as possible in stating information in each section of your resume. Font: Avoid fonts smaller than 10 point and larger than 12 point. Paper: Use 8 1/2” x 11” 20 lb paper. Print your resume with a laser or high quality ink-jet printer. Key Concept: Most employers will spend 35 seconds scanning a resume to determine whether to schedule an interview or to discard a resume. These general guidelines will help employers locate information quickly and easily on the resume. Rationale: Writers should try to keep their resume to one page, but should not fill that page completely with information. Using a 10 to 12 point font, adequate spacing, and large margins will ensure that employers can read the resume. Click mouse to reveal each item in the list.

4 Preliminary Research Find out * General job information
* Desired qualifications and skills * Key values and words Check with * Placement office files * WWW * Trade journals, magazines, and newsletters * Directories * Professors * Company literature Key Concept: Doing preliminary research helps a writer to tailor their resume for the job they are applying for, and writers should do as much preliminary research as possible about the companies to which they are writing and the jobs for which they are applying. Applicants should conduct research whenever possible, especially for top choices. Job applicants should look at the vocabulary of job ads, especially the vocabulary of the ad to which they are responding. There are many job bank sites on the World Wide Web and browsing through some of the postings at these sites will help applicants understand how to discuss their experiences and skills on their resume. Activity: To browse job bank sites on the Internet, researchers can enter “jobs” as the key word in a search request. This will produce thousands of potential sites to look through, some of which will not be at all relevant to the researcher’s job search. is a particularly helpful source of information on jobs and can be accessed at Some directories researchers might consult for career related information are Barron’s, Ward’s, and Thomas’ Register. For more information on conducting preliminary research, check out Bryan Kopp’s Job Search Workshop, available at Purdue’s Online Writing Lab at

5 Identifying Information
Put your name, permanent and campus addresses, permanent and campus phone numbers, and address prominently at the top of your resume. Avoid using a nickname to identify yourself. Consider including your URL address or fax number if you have one. KIMBERLY ANN HURST 1305 Palmer Dr. #1276 West Lafayette, IN (765) Key Concept: It is very important that employers be able to reach the applicant at the address(es) and phone number(s) listed in the heading. If applicants are going through a time of transition and will be moving, they should make it clear on the resume where they will be on any given day. During transitional times, it is a good idea to include a permanent address where someone will always know the applicant’s whereabouts and can locate them.

6 Objective Statement One to three sentence summary of your area of expertise and career interest. Write as complete sentences or as descriptive phrases with minimal punctuation. Relate your existing skills directly to the job you are seeking. Demonstrate what you can do for the company rather than what they can do for you. Key Concept: An objective statement should basically include what the writer wants to get out of his or her job, while also suggesting what the writer can do for the company. It tells the employer concisely and quickly what the applicant’s goal is in applying for a position. Rationale: Objective statements are not required, but in general it is a good idea to include one. Defining a specific goal can help applicants target jobs that are closely related to that goal, and it can help employers determine right away whether the applicant’s experience and goal match up with the position the employer is trying to fill. Writers should customize the objective statement for the position and company to which they are applying. Writers can customize their objective statement based on their preliminary research of targeted companies and positions (slide 5). Doing so guarantees that the statement will match up with the company’s expectations. Click mouse to reveal each item in the list.

7 Objective Statement Avoid overgeneralized statements:
A position allowing me to utilize my knowledge and expertise in different areas. Avoid statements that focus only on what a company can do for you: A position where I gain experience in working on biological problems. Make the statement as specific as possible: A position which allows me to apply my background in engineering and high performance computing to biological problems. Examples: There are two major pitfalls writers should avoid when writing an objective statement. The first example, above, is so vague that employers cannot garner any information from the statement. Although this is a perfectly fine objective for someone to have, written this way it does not provide any specific information about what “knowledge and expertise” the applicant has or what “different areas” they would like, or are qualified, to work in. The second example, above, demonstrates the second pitfall to avoid. This example stresses only what the company can do for the applicant, rather than what the applicant can do for the company. The third example is the best choice of these three because the applicant is specific about how his or her qualifications could be utilized by the company. Click mouse to reveal each guideline and example.

8 Education This is an important section for recent college graduates or students seeking internships or summer jobs. Beginning with the highest level of educational achievement, include information such as university attended, degrees earned, major, minors, grade point average, date of program completion, and so forth. Key Concept: The education section highlights an applicant’s relevant education. This section may be placed before or after the work experience section of the resume, depending on the amount and quality of an applicant’s work experience. Recent college graduates will usually place this section immediately below their objective statement because it is their strongest qualification for a job. Applicants with substantial work experience may include a relatively brief education section.

9 Education Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN Graduation May 2000 Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering GPA: 3.2/4.0 Major GPA: 3.5/4.0 You do not have to include your GPA on the resume, but if it isn’t included, employers may assume that it is lower than it really is. Always state the grade point scale your school is using. Key Concept: Writers have several choices in presenting their GPA on the resume. They can leave the GPA off of the resume, although employers may automatically assume that it is lower than it really is. They can include only their “Major GPA,” or their GPA only for those classes required by their major, or they can include their overall GPA, perhaps in combination with the Major GPA. Some other information applicants might include in the education section of the resume if it is relevant are: * Their minor as well as the minor GPA * Academic honors such as the Dean’s List, Summa Cum Laude, etc. * Emphases or concentrations within the major * Special projects completed * Certifications * Special Training Completed * Funding * Relevant Coursework

10 Relevant Courses List relevant courses that:
Help you stand out from the crowd Have provided you with specific skills or knowledge Consider including this information in the education section of the resume. Spanish (4 semesters) Computer Science Business Writing Business Law Ethics Only include courses taken in addition to your major or minor. Refer to the course by name rather than by number. Example: A management student, Terry, took the courses listed above in red to supplement his management degree. He would like to work in sales, and listing these classes helps Terry to support his claim that he has strong communication skills.

11 Employment Experience
Include positions you have held which are related, in some way, to the job you are seeking. These might be both paid and volunteer positions. Be creative with this section of your resume by describing and emphasizing your experiences in the most relevant way possible. Key Concept: This section of the resume can go by various names, depending on a writer’s specific experiences and the job for which the writer is tailoring the resume. Some names that writers use are: Work Experience, Employment History, Professional Experience, Qualifying Experience, and Related Experience. Some writers include both volunteer and paid positions in the work experience section; other writers divide these into two sections, such as “Volunteer Experience” and “Employment History.” Writers should customize this section to reflect their strengths and experiences. For more information on customizing and presenting work experiences, see slides which discuss several ways to organize information in the resume.

12 Employment Experience
Hospitality Intern (May 1999-August 1999) Mountain Jacks, Lafayette, IN Oversaw the planning, production, preparation and prompt delivery of food Assisted in training and retaining new and experienced employees Created a positive and healthy atmosphere in the restaurant Include information such as company name and location, job title, dates, and duties performed. Make this section easy to read by using spacing and bullets. Use action phrases to highlight the duties you have performed. Key Concept: A writer’s descriptions should be easy to scan and should demonstrate the writer’s qualifications. Writers should use action phrases and parallel language to make their descriptions as clear as possible.

13 Action Phrases Action phrases will help you avoid being too brief and from understating your qualifications. Think about your qualifications as a professional would. Hospitality Intern (May 1999-August 1999) Mountain Jacks, Lafayette, IN Oversaw the planning, production, preparation and prompt delivery of food Assisted in training and retaining new and experienced employees Created a positive and healthy atmosphere in the restaurant Key Concept: Using action phrases helps writers avoid being too brief and from understating their qualifications. Writers should try to look at their qualifications as a professional would and use concrete words to describe their experiences. Example: Consider the example above. Is it more impressive to say “swept the floor and cleaned tables” or “created a positive and healthy atmosphere in the restaurant?” Activity: The facilitator might relate several passively written or understated phrases and ask for ways to make the phrases stronger. Some examples of phrases that need to be rewritten are: Before: Answered the phone and related messages After: Took orders and verified their correctness with customers Before: Planned activities After: Planned arts and crafts activities for preschool aged children Before: Made change After: Handled large sums of money, balanced the cash drawer Before: Talked to customers After: Giving quality customer service while promoting the sale of products

14 Parallel Phrases Hospitality Intern (May 1999-August 1999) Mountain Jacks, Lafayette, IN Oversaw the planning, production, preparation and prompt delivery of food Assisted in training and retaining new and experienced employees Created a positive and healthy atmosphere in the restaurant Make your descriptions easy to read through parallel structure. Set up a pattern and stick with it. In the example, all the verbs are parallel: “oversaw,” “assisted,” and “created” are all past tense verbs. Key Concept: Descriptions that are not parallel but appear in a list are difficult to read quickly. Activity: The facilitator might ask for ways to improve the following non-parallel descriptions. The facilitator might also point out that it is difficult to tell whether the writer performed these duties in the past or is still currently performing them. Resident Assistant August 1998-December 1999 Office of Student Life, Purdue University My responsibilities were: *To counsel residents *Reinforcing intellectual, cultural, and social development *Implement hall programs, rules, and maintenance requests

15 Activities and Honors Include relevant activities and honors that you could discuss with your prospective employer or that have given you valuable experience or skills. Key Concept: It is best if writers limit their discussion of activities and honors to those most recent, most important, or most relevant to the position for which they are applying. This section can easily be customized for specific positions since applicants will not include all their activities and honors but only those that make the resume stronger. This section can help applicants demonstrate their preparedness for the job for which they are applying, and it can help them demonstrate that their work has been recognized as of a high quality by others. Example: A recent college graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering wants to emphasize the academic honors she received. She includes: Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society General Motors Tuition Scholarship (4 years) Dean’s List (4 semesters) Another recent graduate with a degree in communications is looking for a position in public relations. This graduate wants to emphasize his leadership and organizational skills. Thus, on his resume he includes: Vice-President, Golden Key National Honor Society Copy Editor, Purdue University’s student newspaper Coach, local middle school soccer team

16 Specialized Skills Include skills that make you unique, such as computer skills, foreign language skills, or military service. Be specific in describing your special skills; name computer programs you know, how long you studied a foreign language, or your dates of military service. Key Concept: Like the activities and honors section of the resume, this section should be included only if the applicant has some significant skill in addition to those expected of the profession. If an applicant has a special skill, they can use this section to stand out from other applicants. Applicants should not include skills that are required or expected for applicants to have.

17 References In general, do not include the names and addresses of your references on your resume. It is enough to state that references are available upon request. Choose professional references rather than character references. Employers and professors who know you and your work are the best references. Key Concept: Many times job ads will specify whether or not employers want the names and addresses of applicants’ references included on the resume. Applicants should read job ads carefully to determine how to present their references for any given job. It is a good idea for applicants to compile a separate reference sheet that they can send out along with their resume if references are requested.

18 Reference Sheet Dr. Mary Delinsky Heavilon Hall, Room 226
Purdue University West Lafayette, IN (765) Dr. Delinsky is my current academic advisor in the Creative Writing and Science Fiction Program. Include the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your references. Always ask permission before you include any information on your reference sheet. Consider giving your references a copy of your resume so they will be prepared to talk to employers. Key Concept: Applicants should not assume that someone is willing to serve as a reference for them, and they should definitely contact their references before including them on the reference sheet. It is also helpful for applicants to briefly describe how they know a reference on the reference sheet, so that the employer will know the kind of information a given reference can provide.

19 What Is a Cover Letter? A cover letter expresses your interest in and qualifications for a position to a prospective employer. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress that a cover letter is highly personalized. There is no one correct way to write a cover letter, and writers should never simply copy another cover letter. Job applicants should think about what makes them qualified for the position they are seeking, and they should stress these qualifications throughout their letters.

20 What Should My Cover Letter Accomplish?
Your cover letter should introduce the main points of your resume. It should also help you to “sell” your qualifications to the prospective employer. Key Concept: The cover letter should give the employer a sense of what makes an applicant unique and how their experiences and skills have prepared them for the job they are seeking. Applicants should demonstrate their knowledge of the company in the cover letter, and they should write persuasively, using solid facts and figures to support their claims.

21 Header Emma Markley Human Resources Director St. Luke's Medical Center
729 S. Paulina Chicago, IL 60612 Dear Ms. Markley: Address your letter to a specific person, ideally to the person who will interview you. Look for the person’s name in company publications, or phone the organization and ask for the person’s name or for the personnel manager. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress that the key is to get the cover letter into the correct person’s hand with as few extra steps as possible. Sending the cover letter and resume to the person who is actually interviewing and/or hiring for a specific position will reduce the possibility of the letter “falling through the cracks” and being misplaced or lost. If an applicant does not know to whom they should address their letter, then they probably have not done enough research on the company to which they are applying. Visiting a company’s web page or consulting a reference librarian is the most minimal amount of research that an applicant should expect to do, and this research should yield the name of the person who should be addressed. In some cases, companies will post “blind ads” and will not reveal the name of the person interviewing. In this case, it is acceptable to address the “Personnel Manager” or the title listed in the job ad.

22 Introductory Paragraph
Your first paragraph should: Get the reader’s attention, stimulate interest, and be appropriate for the job you are seeking. Make your goal clear to readers. Preview the rest of your letter. Highlight the qualifications you will discuss throughout the letter. Key Concept: It is important for applicants to write persuasive opening paragraphs. Writers can capture their reader’s attention best by demonstrating their knowledge of the job or company. If the job an applicant was advertised, applicants might tell where they learned of the opening. If applicants are writing to find out if a job is available, they might mention a product or project on which they are interested in working. In either case, applicants should work to tie their qualifications in with the job they are seeking. The approach writers take will be guided in large part by whether they are writing a solicited application letter or an unsolicited application letter.

23 Solicited Application Letters
Solicited application letters are letters written in response to an advertised job opening. It is appropriate to mention where you learned of the opening in the first paragraph. I believe that my knowledge of public relations and my proven communication and leadership skills make me a strong candidate for the position of Media Relations Coordinator that was posted by the Delta Airlines Job Opportunities Program. Example: The facilitator might point out that in the above example the applicant specifically names the position for which they are applying and where they learned of that position. They also start off by demonstrating what they can do for the company and how their qualifications have prepared them for the job.

24 Unsolicited Application Letters
Unsolicited application letters are written to companies that have not posted a job opening. It is important to gain the reader’s attention and persuade them that you can contribute to the company’s goals. As a member of one of the fastest growing publishing houses in the world, do you have an opening in your acquisitions department for a recent college graduate with a major in English and publishing and editing experience? Example: The facilitator might point out that in the above example the applicant demonstrates their familiarity with the company and its departments, and emphasizes their qualifications for the position they are seeking, but does not mention a specific position by title since one has not been advertised.

25 Goals of the Body Paragraphs
Highlight your strongest qualifications for the position for which you are applying. Demonstrate how these qualifications will benefit the employer. Refer employers to your enclosed resume. Key Concept: It isn’t necessary for writers to summarize their resumes in the cover letter. Rather, writers should focus on the few most significant things that qualify them for the position. Even one relevant experience is enough to discuss in the cover letter. Writers should also take the opportunity to refer employers to their resume.

26 Detailing Your Experience
Show (don’t tell) employers your qualifications Include specific, credible examples of your qualifications for the position. Use numbers, names of equipment you've used, or features of a project that may apply to the job you want. As a banking representative at Bank One, I provided quality customer service while promoting the sale of products to customers. I also handled upwards of $20,000 a day and was responsible for balancing the bank’s ATM machine. Key Concept: Writers should not simply restate descriptions from their resume in discussing specific experiences. They should be anecdotal instead, helping the employer to picture the writer working on the job.

27 Using Active Language—Don’ts
Don’t be vague in your descriptions. Don’t use weak verbs such as endeavored, tried, hoped, and attempted. Don’t use sexist language such as chairman and manpower. Vague: I worked as a ramp agent at Comair. Weak: I attempted to attract customers. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress that writers want their readers to get a clear sense of what they have done and are capable of doing from their cover letters. The writer’s language should help, and not hinder, the employer’s understanding. Using language that is unprofessional, offensive, or vague creates obstacles in the reader’s understanding and therefore considerably weakens the cover letter and the writer’s chances of success. Click mouse to reveal each example.

28 Using Active Language—Do’s
Use concrete words to describe your experience. Use present tense to discuss current activities and past tense for previous job duties or accomplishments. Be as specific as possible in descriptions; list dollar amounts and figures when you can. Vague: I worked as a ramp agent for COMAIR.  Specific: As a ramp agent, I assisted in loading baggage, oversaw fueling the aircraft, and stocked commissary items on the aircraft. Weak: I attempted to attract customers. Strong: I initiated a program to attract customers to Pizza Hut, which resulted in a 5% increase in sales for the month of June. Examples: The facilitator might point out that when the vague and weak sentences are rewritten, they become much longer. This is due to the additional information added to convey meaning more clearly. If applicants find themselves writing very short sentences throughout the letter, it may be one sign that they are not including enough detail. Click mouse to reveal each example.

29 Organizing Your Letter
In general, cover letters should be no longer than one typed page. Organize your body paragraphs to emphasize your strongest and most relevant qualifications. Only include the two or three strongest qualifications from your resume. Make it easy for readers to scan your letter by beginning each paragraph with a topic sentence. Key Concept: Writers should consider the needs of their audience as they organize the information in their cover letter. Prospective employers will most likely scan the cover letter before they read it to decide whether to read or discard it. Therefore, writers should make the cover letter easy to scan by including only their most relevant qualifications and by devoting a short paragraph to each of these qualifications.

30 Concluding Your Letter
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these and other qualifications with you. If you are interested, please contact me at (317) 555- 0118 any morning before 11:00 a.m., or feel free to leave a message. Conclude by asking for a personal interview. Be flexible regarding a date and time for the interview. Be specific about how the interviewer should contact you. Include a thank you. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress the importance of politely asking for an interview in the conclusion of the letter. Writers should not assume that because they are writing a cover letter it is obvious and doesn’t need saying that they want an interview. Writers should also give specific instructions on how to be contacted. For those in transition, it is a good idea to include a phone number they will always have access to or where someone will always know how to reach them.

31 Mailing Your Letter With Your Resume
Coordinate the design of your letter with the design of your resume. Be sure to send both to prospective employers; they both reveal different kinds of information about you. Key Concept: It is best for writers to be consistent in their use of font, paper, and page layout for both the cover letter and the resume. This conveys an attitude of professionalism to the employer and demonstrates that the applicant has spent time customizing both.

32 Key Points to Remember Appeal to company values, attitudes, goals, projects, etc. Elaborate on the information in your resume. Provide evidence of your qualifications. Proofread carefully for grammatical and typographical errors. The letter should be error-free. Key Concept: The facilitator should stress the importance of proofreading the cover letter before mailing it and of having a critical reader proofread the cover letter as well. A critical reader will often pick up on typographical errors or vague wording that the writer may overlook due to familiarity with the content.

33 Where can you go to find extra help with your resume and cover letter?
Purdue University Writing Lab Heavilon 226 Grammar Hotline: (765) Check our web site: brief questions: Help with drafting, revising, and editing your resumes and cover letters Key Concept: Purdue’s Writing Lab offers a variety of services to writers. Purdue students can schedule one-on-one tutoring sessions with tutors trained in writing cover letters. Writers can also call the Grammar Hotline or the writing lab with brief questions they have as they write their resume and cover letter. It is also a good idea to check out the writing lab web site which offers a variety of online handouts and workshops related to the job search.

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