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Resume & Cover Letter Secrets

by Erin Schreiner

When you mail in a cover letter and resume, you can have two outcomes. In one, your documents reach someone in power and you are called in for an interview that may lead to employment. In the other, your resume is thrown into the trash -- or in a greener office, a recycle bin. If you want the former of these outcomes, learn and use the secrets to effective resume and cover letter composition.

Dress to Impress

While it is true that the content of your letter and resume are more important than what they look like, a well designed and paired set of documents can make a major difference in getting your application materials noticed. Step away from the black-and-white letter and resume of old and add some color. Use a letterhead for your cover letter that matches your resume. Particularly if you are applying for a job in an industry that celebrates the creative, consider turning the resume form on its head, and dress up your resume up by modeling it after a newsletter or a graphic poster.

Be Company Specific

While it may be tempting to take that trusty cover letter and resume duo to the local copy center, run off 100 copies and paper the town, this is an ineffective approach. To really catch the attention of hiring officials, your cover letter and resume must reflect your knowledge of the company to which you are applying. G.L. Hoffman, chairman of Jobdig, cautions job seekers to not underestimate the importance of customization. He urges applicants to spend time on the company’s website before tackling these important documents. Once you have acquired the necessary knowledge, demonstrate it by relating your experience to the company as closely as possible. For example, if a company you worked for won a silver medal in the same competition in which the company for which you are applying took gold, reference this, showing what you know.

Skip the Objective

Is there an “objective” slot on your resume templates? Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to fill it. While objectives were once considered mandatory, they can be seen as just space filler. Instead of relying upon what amounts to a form objective, tailor the contents of your resume to the position for which you are applying and make your intentions clear.

Air out Your Prose

It can be tempting to adopt an overly stilted writing style when composing your resume and cover letter. After all, these pieces are vital to you obtaining a job. Writing in a forced and overly formal style is, however, a mistake. Statements like “It is with exceptional eagerness that I await your response,” are anything but natural, and certainly do not show who you are. Don’t slip into slang, but don’t speak like a hold-over from a bygone era of formality, either.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

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