Resumes and Cover Letters

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Resume and cover letter writing is both a difficult and an incredibly important skill to learn during your time in university. Keep in mind: the main goal of these documents is to land an interview. To make things easier, try keeping a master resume containing all of your job and volunteer experience, your accomplishment statements and your technical skills. This way, if a job comes up, all you have to do is copy the resume and edit out whatever isn’t applicable to the posting!

Writing a resume

The job posting. Dissect the job posting and determine the content of your resume. Make sure you have an understanding of the company and the position you’re applying to. What qualifications and skills is the job asking for? What relevant, transferable skills do you have that you can highlight?

Organize by relevance. The average hiring manager spends anywhere from six seconds to two minutes looking over a resume, so you want to make sure yours is organized effectively. You want your strongest, most relevant content at the top and your weakest content at the bottom so that you highlight your skills early on.

Edit. Remove anything that isn’t relevant to the posting, experience that’s too old or content that’s becoming repetitive.

Resume golden rules

Your resume must be free of spelling or grammatical mistakes. Get a friend to look over your resume before you send it out to catch any caffeine-fuelled late-night errors.

It needs to be aesthetically pleasing to read and look at. If you’ve got a 3,000-word resume with size 8 font and you’re considering adding a fourth colour … maybe it’s time to revisit your design.

Use accomplishment statements under your job and volunteer experience. These statements describe not only what you did, but how well you did it. They usually follow this format: verb/skill + task = result. For example, try changing “Coached kids soccer and led soccer socials” to “Organized social events for 10–20 children, resulting in a welcoming learning environment.” This tells recruiters not only what skills you have, but how you’ll apply them to their company.

Writing a cover letter

Similarly to writing your resume, you’ll want to tailor your cover letter so that it responds to the job posting, doesn’t contain any mistakes and is nice to look at. But is including a cover letter even necessary? Unless you’re batch applying to hundreds of jobs, cover letters can set you apart in a few ways. They can: 

Highlight your relevant skills, especially your written communication skills,

Show how well you understand the requirements of the role and values of the company and

Give you the chance to set yourself apart. The cover letter is your chance to show off your personality and your interest in the role.

Still stuck?

If you’re still unsure of what you should leave out or what sections you should include, the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers offers drop-in advising on resume writing and presentation.

Note: During the COVID-19 outbreak, drop-in advising sessions are being held online.

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