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Resumes & Cover Letters to Help You Stand Out

Understanding how to write a powerful resume and cover letter can help you win the job you want.

You’ve heard it before: employers want highly qualified candidates with the right experience. As a job seeker, your resume is the best tool you have to help prospective employers understand you’re the right candidate. The right resume can make the difference between getting an interview or rejection.

There are many websites offering information about how to write a resume. provides a step-by-step method to follow. It’s free and provides one-click designs, multiple formats, and cover letter examples.

How to Write a Resume

  1. Use a proofreader or editor to check for formatting, spelling, and grammatical errors.
    • Your resume has about seven seconds to impress the hiring manager, so it needs to be easy to read and free of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Regardless of the industry, even one error can make you appear sloppy or lazy and can cost you the job.
    • Run your resume through a spell checker, but double-check it yourself in case you accepted an incorrect word. You can ask a friend to edit it. Read it out loud to make sure it makes sense.
    • Use bullet points to list your previous positions and accomplishments. No potential employer wants to read a paragraph about how you felt working at Big Bowl. Employers want short, focused, and easy-to-remember informative phrases and sentences
  2. Focus, Focus, Focus! Your resume must be as focused as possible. It must be tailored to your particular skill-set and to the job you’re applying for.
    • Don’t list every single position you’ve ever had if the positions aren’t relevant or you worked there 10 years ago. Do your research about what the company is looking for (you did your research, right?), and put careful thought into stating how you meet their needs.
    • If you need help figuring out your particular skills, refer to your StrengthsFinder test results to identify your strengths and qualifications. You can even use that language in your resume.
  3. List your accomplishments and not tasks for each previous position.
    • When you talk about a current or previous job, focus on specifics and use action verbs instead of industry buzzwords and jargon. Highlight what you accomplished in your role: “Sales rose 5 percent under my management.” This provides evidence of your skills and the potential value you could bring to a company.
  4. Formatting is critical and must be web-friendly.
    • Test your Word document to ensure it looks nice (without awkward page breaks) when it’s opened.
    • Keywords are critical if you want your resume to be found online. Do your research to identify the critical keywords associated with a job or industry, so someone can find you through a search.
    • Inserting keywords into a resume isn’t difficult but it does need to look and read as a natural part of your descriptions and headers. Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to research the best phrases to describe the position.
  5. Address or highlight the specific qualities the employer has requested.
    • Every job description includes a list of details describing the ideal candidate. Prepare yourself both in your resume and for your interview, to address each of those characteristics. For example, if the list of details mentions working well under deadline pressures, provide examples of how you met short deadlines for projects and how you handled the pressure.
  6. Do not use the same resume for every job you apply for. You need to customize your resume for each application.
    • Every job and company is different. Even the same position at a different location may require different skills and experience, depending on the local team, company needs, future plans, and other factors.
    • Sending out the same resume to 50 companies is lazy and unproductive. Your resume and cover letter (also mandatory) should be tailored and focused on the specific company and their needs.

Follow Up: Send Thank You Notes

The advice your mom gave you about writing thank-you notes for gifts holds true in the workforce: a brief, genuine, handwritten thank you note can make your interview memorable.
Thank your interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. Remember to include your contact information so they can easily follow up with you. Sending an email is acceptable, but everyone gets more than we want. Send a handwritten thank-you note to stand out from the pack.

Cover Letters

A great cover letter is just as important as your resume. Don’t confuse a cover letter with a cover page; they are not the same thing. A cover letter is your chance to explain why you would be a great fit for the job and the company. You have an opportunity to highlight the key elements of your resume. A cover page contains only the information required to introduce yourself and is less formal.

There are many great resources and sample cover letters available online. We recommend as a good place to start exploring how to write a compelling cover letter.

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