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Résumés & Cover Letters

 


Résumé​s

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An effective résumé takes a long time to write and getting started is often the most difficult part.  Included on this page are some tips to help you begin thinking about the content and format.  We have found that regardless of how great your skills are or how qualified you are for a position, you will probably not get an interview if you have not properly communicated these, even if you know the hiring manager is aware of them.  

A well written and presented résumé is key to establishing your initial credibility for the role.  A résumé is also singly relevant to the position.  As the writer it is imperative that you make everything in your resume RELEVANT to the position you are applying for.  As you prepare, edit, and consolidate your resume, two key questions to ask yourself as you write the résumé are:
  1. How does this relate to the position;
  2. Why would someone (or I) think this is important?

Résumé Sections

Letterhead 
Your common name (how people now address you) in as big of a font size as possible.  Next line usually includes your current city, province, postal code, phone number and e-mail.  Make sure whichever contact information you include, someone will be able to reach you at that number/location for the next 3 months.
 
Professional Profile
In a list format, write summary statements that collect information throughout your résumé together to demonstrate: years of relevant experience statement; educational background; most important hard skills; experience related to primary job task; and important soft skills.
 
Education 
Include the legal name of any degrees/diplomas/certificates with the institution name and address as well as start and end dates.  You may also list relevant 'things learned' within the program, if they are related to the position.
 
Relevant Experience 
Provide the position title, name of the company, dates and provide a brief summary of 'things done'.  Use action words and simple phrases to describe what and/or how you did, not just what you were expected to do.
 
Volunteer Experience
If you are documenting a volunteer position under Experience, make sure you identify the position as a volunteer position.  Nevertheless if you can, allow it to stand out on its own as volunteer experience so that it highlights your leadership.
 
Certification and Awards 
Include relevant certification and professional development that you have undertaken in relation to the role you're applying for. When recording awards, ensure that you use the description provided by the granting body.  It will then act like an 'in-house' reference for you.

Still unsure of how to build an effective résumé? Check out the University of Toronto Scarborough's Resume Building Tool for a step by step tutorial.

Cover Letters

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The best way to understand how to build your cover letter is to first conceptualize it as the abstract of your résumé.  Your cover letter should always be built after you have written your résumé.  The cover letter is the document that does help to make the first impression to the potential employer but it also sums up why you are the best candidate for this company and for this role.

To get this right, you need to have already researched the company and close read the job posting, the job description, and any company mission statements, goals, annual reports, websites, etc.  This is done so that as you write your cover letter, you can ensure that it shows an awareness of the following:  
  1. That you know what this company does, makes, produces, etc.
  2. That you know how this company helps its clients.
  3. That you know how this company treats its employees.
  4. That you know where this role fits in the organization.
  5. That you know how this role supports the overall goals of the organization?
  6. That you know who works with/for this role and how.
  7. That you know which tools this role uses.
  8. That you know the overall responsibilities that this role must fulfill.
As you begin to write your cover letter, follow the Standard Business Letter template and utilize the AIDA sequence to organize your information, as follows:
Attention:  Objectively prove that you are unique.  Demonstrate to the employer that you are the best candidate.  You are also answering the question - Can we work with this person?  The goal is to introduce your strengths/talents and connect them to how much you know about the company (mission, products, goals, etc.).
 
Interest:  Show why they should hire you.  Demonstrate which of the job requirements/qualifications you can fulfill.  You are answering the question - Are you qualified for the job?.  The goal is not to express how and why but to 'connect' the reader to areas in your resume where they can get that information.
 
Desire:  Convince them that you are relevant.  Reduce the risk for the employer.  You are answering the question - Is this person better than the other candidates?  The goal is to show how your past successes are important to the employer - that they will now allow you to do this job better than anyone else.  Usually, it can be as simple as chosing the right adjectives or writing full sentences or paragraphs about past successes.
 
Action:  Request an interview. Conclude your letter by summing up how you 'fit' the role.  Usually no more then 2-3 sentences, it nicely wraps up your letter and at the same time strongly encourages the employer that an interview will be in their interest.

General Recommendations

DO's
  • Personalize it to the employer and manager
  • Letter should be 1 page
  • Your font size should fall between 11pt - 13pt
  • Your font type should be a sans serif (i.e., times new roman)
  • Use the same letterhead in your cover letter and résumé​
  • Have 3-4 people proof read your letter.
 
DON'TS
  • Do not use “I” in more than 25% of the total number of your sentences.
  • Do not write in a casual tone - avoid the use of acronyms or slang.
  • Do not use flashy formatting and fonts.

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