The resume and cover letter are staples in the job search. They’re the number one thing you use to get your foot in the door, highlight your successes and show how much of a superstar you are. Yet, many job seekers underestimate the importance of well-written resumes and cover letters– making even the biggest of superstars seem like total duds.
Recently, while speaking with a previous employer, he mentioned to me that he had some potential job candidates reach out to him for an intern position at his company. As Purdue students, he was surprised at their lack of formatting and basic understanding at what writing a resume and cover letter entails. The biggest kicker is that the position was at a marketing firm– where design and writing skills are essential to being successful. Yet, this candidate showcased neither of these skills in their application materials.
When creating your resume or cover letter, it’s important to keep these 2 things in mind as you send your materials out:
Formatting is important.
Whether you’re applying for a marketing internship or an entry-level job as an engineer, not formatting your resume or cover letter properly will most likely put your application at the bottom of the pile– no matter how great the content is.
Formatting shows your ability to organize information and be detail-oriented, while also exemplifying professionalism. Not formatting your cover letter or resume? It seems lazy and rushed. See our examples of resume and cover letter formats. Are you in a major where designing a specialized resume might make you stand out (in a good way)? Make sure your resume is well-designed if you decide to go with this route– check out some tips here. Also, paragraphs in your cover letters are important! Use them.
Make sure your resume and cover letters serve a purpose.
While your accomplishments from early high school are impressive, no doubt (you’re a Boilermaker, after all!), you do not need to list every single accomplishment ever on your resume– especially if it’s not in any way applicable to the job. If you’re a junior or senior in college, your high school experiences should be absolutely gone from your resume. Whether you’ve been involved in student organizations, internships or volunteer experience, you should be able to create a decent resume from college experiences only.
With this idea in mind, make sure your employer knows what you’re applying for. You’re president of Colleges Against Cancer, worked as an office assistant over the summer, and are a Computer Science major– yet you’re applying for a creative marketing internship? Tell your employer why you’re applying for this position, and make your experiences applicable. They most likely don’t have the time to piece together your resume and cover letter to decide whether or not you’re a good fit, so you just have to tell them why you think you are.
Never underestimate the importance of a well-crafted cover letter or resume. It’s the very first presentation of yourself that employers see, and it could make or break your job search. Need help crafting the perfect cover letter and resume? Stop by the CCO during drop-in hours, 10 AM-4 PM, Monday through Friday.