Writing a resumé and cover letter

Cover letters

A cover letter makes a first impression on potential employers.

Top 10 tips when writing a cover letter:

  1. Clearly identify the position you are applying for
  2. Keep it short and to the point - one page is enough
  3. In the first paragraph say how you learned about the position
  4. Introduce yourself in the second paragraph and identify how your skills and experience relate to the position
  5. Mention any relevant information that may not be clear from reading your resumé
  6. Indicate, in the last paragraph, how you can be reached
  7. Use a confident tone
  8. Avoid negative statements, even if your last job ended badly
  9. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors
  10. Sign cover letters

What do employers look for?

Employers look for a description of your character and your skills. Include examples of your experience that demonstrates that you are a:

  • Team player
  • Excellent oral, written and electronic communicator
  • efficient with a computer
  • Analytical and can solve problems
  • Flexible and versatile
  • Get along with others
  • Organized
  • Can manage time well
  • Leader
  • Take initiative
  • Basic math knowledge


What is a resumé?

  • A written description that markets your skills and talents
  • A reflection of your capabilities and achievements
  • A history of your education and employment
  • Answers most of the employer's questions about your qualifications

Top 20 resumé tips:

  1. Target the resumé to the job you are applying for: Your resumé should be tailored to fit the particular job you want. For example, if you're applying for a programming position at a local high-tech company, it would be wise to place your computer experience at the top of your experience listing.
  2. Do not list any personal information: Age, S.I.N. number, marital status, health, religious or political views are illegal questions for an employer to ask. Avoid listing hobbies unless they are related to the job you are applying for.
  3. Concentrate on content: Let your words do the selling. Do not use coloured paper or graphics. Portray yourself as active, accomplished, intelligent and capable of making a contribution. Use verbs to sell yourself. Some examples are managed, launched, created, directed, established, organized and supervised.
  4. Avoid attaching references: Write, "References available upon request" at the bottom of your final page.
  5. Keep it simple, easy to read and understand: Use words everyone can understand. Avoid long sentences and crowded paragraphs.
  6. Be organized, logical and concise: One or two pages of clear, concise information about yourself will show that you can organize, communicate and present your ideas effectively.
  7. Quantify experience: Numbers are a powerful tool. Instead of saying, "Responsible for increasing sales in my territory," use "Increased sales in my territory 150 percent in six months. Managed 30 accounts for annual revenue of $2M."
  8. Omit salary information: Never make reference to salary in your resumé.
  9. Be honest: Lying or exaggerating your abilities will always come back to haunt you. Since employers usually check into serious candidates, you will want even the smallest detail to be valid.
  10. Show consistency: To soften glaring gaps in your work history, consider using a functional resumé which focuses on your skills and accomplishments. Chronological formats emphasize the progression of your experience year-by-year.
  11. Be flawless: Catch all typos and grammar errors. Make sure to have someone proofread your resumé, preferably someone attentive to details. Even the smallest error could land your resumé in the recycle bin.
  12. State specific objectives: Form a solid, clear objective – statement about the kind of work you want to do – to will help you carry a focused message throughout the resumé . The objective summarizes your skills and emphasizes your strengths. It is short, about two sentences.
  13. Brag: Highlighting those accomplishments that relate to the requirements of the position you're applying for. This will let employers know that you have the skills needed to do well.
  14. Make a good first impression: Employers spend less than 30 seconds, on average, scanning your resumé. Place the most interesting and compelling facts about yourself at the beginning, such as a list of accomplishments in order of relevance.
  15. Emphasize your skills: Use a skill-based resumé format that is organized around your main talents.
  16. Use keywords: Include specific key words and phrases that describe your skills and experience, such as Product Launch Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Sales, Account Management, C++, Visual Basic, Word Processing, MS Excel, Adobe Illustrator, Graphic Design or Advertising.
  17. Use buzzwords: Use industry jargon and acronyms to reflect your familiarity with the employer's business, but not to the point where it makes your resumé difficult to read or understand. Spell out acronyms in parentheses, if they are not obvious.
  18. Avoid personal pronouns: Never use "I" or "me" in your resumé. Instead of complete sentences, use short verb-oriented phrases.
  19. Highlight key points: Although most formatting such as bold, italics and underlining is lost in an electronic resumé, you may use capital letters, quotation marks, even asterisks, to emphasize important words or section titles.
  20. List only recent information: The general rule of thumb is to show only the work experience over the last 10 to 15 years.