Resumes and Cover Letters: A brief how-to

I recently ran a workshop at my university where I gave advice on writing resumes cover letters. Here’s a summary of what I covered. There are free resources that you can access with this folder here:

  1. Keep yourself organized
    • Have some way to keep all of your accomplishments, employment history, talks, appearances, etc all in one document
    • I recommend an excel file (you can access the “Career History Template.xlsx) to keep yourself organized. Don’t stress in making it perfect, put what you remember and update the document when you remember something new
  2. Resume – i. Organization
    • Use a template – seriously this saves you so much time (there are multiple templates to choose from in the resources file)
    • Use “grid lines” to move things around easier in your resume (You can find an example of this in the Template entitled “Shavrova_Resume_CL_Template”). The gridlines will not be present in a saved PDF file
  3. Resume – ii. Content
    • Using your excel (or whatever way you organize all your career history) copy paste the relevant experience
      • I recommend only putting relevant experience/awards/education on your resume. For example if I am applying for a science communication job I will put down any outreach projects that I am leading, projects I have been a part of, and presentations I have done. I would probably avoid putting my thesis dissertation and specific research skills.
    • Use AI or Word to better explain what you did in your job
      • In the “Other Resources” file you will see links to resume templates as well as AI writing assistance that can make “lead a team in a project” sound way more sophisticated
      • Using Word “Resume Assistant” in the Review Tab, will show you what people in similar careers have written on your resume – use this as inspiration
    • Keep it short and easy to read – there’s nothing worse than seeing a resume with huge paragraphs, save this for the cover letter
  4. Resume – iii. Edit
    • Seriously, edit your work, get someone else to review – anything – that will prevent you from making silly mistakes on your resume
  5. Cover Letter
    • Typically have 5 paragraphs
      • Paragraph 1 – an intro about yourself and why you would be interested/good for the job. Outline the three arguments you will present on why they should hire you
      • Paragraph 2 – why they should hire you Point 1 (i.e good at research)
      • Paragraph 3- why they should hire you Point 2 (i.e general managing skills)
      • Paragraph 4 – why they should hire you Point 3 (i.e an excellent communicator)
      • Paragraph 5 – thank them for reading your resume and cover letter
  6. Interviews
    • Dress for the job NOT the interview – to a point. You want to look like you already work there at the interview
    • Bring in your resume & cover letter – seriously, I’ve been asked for this in all of my interviews, employers seem to always lose your resume
    • Bring a copy of your References – I do not typically put my references in my resume, so I always bring a printed out copy to the interview
    • Research the company – shows your interest in the company
    • Ask questions – when they ask you “do you have any questions you say “yes” and ask some questions (eg what is it like to work in the company). Asking questions makes you look like you were paying attention in the interview and also keen to work the job
    • Email/ call to thank them for the opportunity

Remember the employer looks at your resume for about 7 seconds before they decide if they want to hire you or not. Keep your resume short, to the point, and pleasant to the eye (but don’t go overboard unless you’re applying for a design job).

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