Resumes, Applications and Cover Letters

Occupational Outlook Quarterly • Summer 1999 (2009 update)
yourself and the occupations that interest you,
choosing a résumé format, adding style, and
proofreading the final document. You may
also want to prepare your résumé for e-mail-
ing and an online application form.
Gathering and organizing the facts
Start working on your résumé by collecting
and reviewing information about yourself:
previous positions, job duties, volunteer
work, skills, accomplishments, education, and
activities. These are the raw materials of your
résumé. This is also a good time to review
your career goals and to think about which
past jobs you have liked, and why.
After compiling this information, research
the occupations that interest you. Determine
the duties they entail, credentials they require,
and skills they use. Your résumé will use your
autobiographical information to show that you
meet an occupation’s requirements.
You will probably need to write a differ-
ent résumé for each job that interests you.
Each résumé will emphasize what is relevant
to one position. Remember: Even if you do
not have many specialized and technical
skills, most occupations also require abilities
like reliability, teamwork, and communica-
tion. These are particularly important for
entry-level workers.
The next step is to organize the personal
information you have assembled. Most ré-
sumé writers use the following components.
Contact information. This includes your
name; permanent and college campus address-
es, if they are different; phone number; and
e-mail address, if you have one. Place your
full legal name at the top of your résumé and
your contact information underneath it. This
information should be easy to see; review-
ers who can’t find your phone number can’t
call you for an interview. Also, make sure the
outgoing message on your voicemail sounds
professional. If you list an e-mail address,
remember to check your inbox regularly.
Qualifications summary. The qualifi-
cations summary, which evolved from the
objective statement, is an overview designed
to quickly answer the employer’s question
“Why should I hire you?” It lists a few of your
best qualifications and belongs below your
contact information. A qualifications summary
is optional. It can be particularly effective for
applicants with extensive or varied experience
because it prevents the important facts from
being lost among the details.
Education. List all relevant training,
certifications, and education on your résumé.
Start with the most recent and work back-
ward. For each school you have attended,
list the school’s name and location; diploma,
certificate, or degree earned, along with year
of completion; field of study; and honors
received. If you have not yet completed one
of your degrees, use the word expected before
your graduation date. If you do not know
when you will graduate, add in progress after
the name of the unfinished degree.
The education section is especially impor-
tant for recent graduates. Include your overall
grade point average, average within major, or
class standing, if it helps your case. The gen-
eral guideline is to include averages of 3.0 and
above, but the minimum useful average is still
widely debated. Graduates should also con-
sider listing relevant courses under a separate
heading. Listing four to eight courses related
to a particular occupation shows a connection
between education and work. College gradu-
ates need not list their high school credentials.
Experience. Résumés should include
your job history: The name and location of
the organizations you have worked for, years
you worked there, title of your job, a few of
the duties you performed, and results you
achieved. Also, describe relevant volunteer
activities, internships, and school projects,
especially if you have little paid experience.
When describing your job duties, em-
phasize results instead of responsibilities and
performance rather than qualities. It is not
enough, for example, to claim you are orga-
nized; you must use your experience to prove
Job descriptions often specify the scope
of a position’s duties—such as the number
of phone lines answered, forms processed, or
people supervised. If you worked on a project
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