Writing a resume and cover is about as much fun as going to the dentist. There is a delicate balance between showing your skillset, and coming off as conceited. You need to show confidence but also humility. We have been taught that it is best to be humble, to downplay our strengths and not appear to be bragging. The resume however, tosses all that aside.
Writing a resume and cover letter is an art in and of itself. What do you include? Exclude? Embellish or downplay? It depends on the job you are seeking as to what you include. If you are seeking a job in service you probably do not need to include publishing history, and vice versa. A publisher will not be interested in the time you spent painting houses. A resume must be geared specifically for the position you are trying to secure. It was often taught in the early “learning to write a resume” days that you were to include all the jobs and volunteer information. However, no one cares if you volunteered at a foodbank 13 years ago.
It was thought that the cover letter is where you personalize your address. And, while it is, the resume itself needs to be personalized. The cover letter is personalized to each and every job you’re applying to. Find out who is going to be reading it and address the letter to them. In the letter itself be sure it is not reading like a standard cover letter and make them feel like it has been personalized, this will stand out for plenty of employers. Even if you only personalize a few lines and recycle the rest, you will stand out from the rest in doing this; and the employer will feel like you are actively seeking their job and not just a job.
There are many resume and cover letter templates out there. I have found that the template chosen also depends on the job you are seeking. For example, an office job resume should appear clean and concise; there is no need for extra headers/footers. It should show that you have an understanding of how to use word, which means that each heading and subheading should be appropriately formed. For a more creative job using the header and footer can prove an asset, especially for a job where they are seeking someone with skills in digital advertising, media, etc. By using these other functions you are using the body of the resume to show off your skills; there are the spelled out jobs, skills, and experiences, but the resume itself, how it is laid out and crafted, will show that you are also proficient in creating an appealing web-design.
I have always found though, that when in doubt, clean and simple is the best. Always (always) use a standard font. It is simple to read and comes across as professional. Comic sans, while it may be acceptable for some jobs, will put off employers for other jobs (I have seen this first hand). A standard font that will not get tossed aside is Times New Roman: regardless of the job. TNR is like the word “said” in creative writing, the mind does not register it. However, replace “said” with “screamed” and suddenly it is seen, just like TNR and comic sans. If a resume looks messy or busy it will come across as unprofessional and, regardless of the information on the pages, it may be set aside for these reasons alone.
One final piece of advice; as with any written work, have a second set of eyes read over both the resume and the cover letter before submission. After you read something numerous times the errors are skimmed over and go unseen, but fresh eyes have the ability to pick out misspelled words (such as asses instead of assess?not that I am speaking from experience).
Deanna Roney is an AU graduate who loves adventure in life and literature