Resumes and Cover Letters
Many people don't think they have a lot to put on their resumes. Of course, you must include schooling, clubs you participated in, and all part-time, volunteer, and summer positions you have held. Every internship and part-time job counts as experience. Holding a position in a school club or local chapter of an association also makes a great impression. Your resume and cover letter are your first introductions to potential employers, and those first impressions do count.
It is a good idea to send resumes with cover letters to places you want to work before they post a job. True, they might not have an opening yet. However, when one comes along there is a good chance that if your resume makes a good impression, you will be remembered when a job opens up.
Have more than one version of your resume ready to go. When you see a job advertisement, read it carefully and tailor your resume to fit the job qualifications. For example, if the employer is looking for someone who has worked with reptiles, and you have done that, highlight it in your resume. If the ad asks for someone with public speaking abilities, put that up front on your resume.
When a job is posted, the employer often gets more than 100 responses. How can you make your resume stand out in a crowded field? Lead with the most important information, and keep everything brief. Bullet points and short, clear sentences are easy to read. Use a lot of white space, and make sure your font size is at least 10 point; 12 point is better.
“You should also include a website if you have one,” says Rebecca K. O'Connor, an animal behaviorist and trainer who works with birds of prey and other animals. “When I send out a letter to a potential client, I always mention my website and references. Your website should be professional looking.”
Along with her cover letter and resume, O'Connor sends color copies of her published articles about animal training. The more ammunition you have about yourself and your qualifications, the better. Let potential employers know you have what it takes to do the job.
Think of your resume as a public relations and marketing tool. You are the product, and you have to get your message across in an easy-to-understand, clear manner. Include information that lets the potential employer know a good deal about your work, school, and extracurricular activities.
The Internet has several job sites that can show you how to write and construct an attention-getting resume. One important bit of advice is that once you put your resume together, show it to a colleague, professor, or other professional for feedback. Listen to that feedback and make any necessary adjustments.
Don't overlook the cover letter. Even if the job you are applying for doesn't require writing skills, someone with a well-written cover letter will be chosen over someone with a poorly written one. Whether you enjoy writing or find it to be a chore, the best rule to follow when constructing a cover letter is to keep it short and to the point.
Employers don't have time to read through every cover letter and resume. They just want to see the pertinent information, so it is okay to keep the cover letter brief. If someone the employer knows has recommended you for the position, state that in the first sentence of your cover letter. In some cases, a cover letter just has to indicate that you are applying for a specific job. You can include on the cover letter a note explaining that your resume, application (if there is one), and any other backup materials are included.
Proofread and spell-check your cover letter and resume. Your computer has spell check, so use it. However, spell check isn't perfect. You might accidentally use a word that is wrong in the context, even if it is spelled correctly. For example, instead of writing the word “behaviorist,” you might write “behavior.” Typos really do make a poor first impression. Be sure to read over your cover letter and resume before you send them out. It is also essential to have another person proofread your cover letter and resume to catch any errors you may have missed.