Whether you're a recent college grad, an established employee switching to a new field or just trying to end a period of unemployment, landing an entry-level job is not an easy task. Your resume and cover letter are how an employer decides whether to interview you -- these documents are your chance to demonstrate why you're better suited to the job than other, more experienced candidates. Even though you might lack work experience, crafting an effective resume and cover letter will bring your name to the attention of potential employers.
Selling Yourself in the Cover Letter
In the cover letter, show the employer what you have to offer that other individuals don't. Address particular skills or expertise that the company desires and use personal experience to show that you have these abilities. Browse the company's website and learn more about the position to address specific job tasks. For example, if you see that the company wants individuals who feel comfortable leading a group, talk about how you worked as head lifeguard, took charge of a project in school or helped organize a rec softball team. Be sure to also use the cover letter to explain any gaps in your resume, such as long periods of unemployment or a large gap between high school and college.
Selling Yourself in the Resume
Include community service, awards and honors, sports teams, extracurricular activities and hobbies -- all of these demonstrate to employers that you're well rounded and involved in your community. List any special skills you have, such as being proficient in software programs or speaking a foreign language.
Volunteer Experience Is Work Experience
When listing past experience, include any volunteer work you've done -- even if you weren't getting paid, this is still work experience. An unpaid internship or volunteering at a school or nursing home demonstrates leadership, teamwork and people skills. This is especially important if you want to enter a job in the customer service industry.
If you're a recent high school or college grad, your biggest asset is your education. Even if you have internship or other work experience, an employer will be most interested in the degree that you just received. In your resume, lead with the name of your school, your degree, graduation date, GPA if 3.0 or higher and any awards or honors you received. Also include any courses you've taken that are relevant to the job. In your cover letter, address how your high school or college experiences have prepared you for the specific duties of the job to which you are applying.
Most recruiters spend only about six seconds looking at a resume to decide whether to pursue a candidate for employment, according to a 2012 study conducted by the Ladders career site. This means that they prefer to read resumes that are succinct and direct. Keep your resume to no more than one page and your cover letter between one and two pages. Begin your resume with your name, followed by your contact information. Use a larger font for your name so that it stands out to the employer.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images