Need a little help with drafting your first resume?
We’ve compiled some best practices for you to put together the three things you’ll need to apply for an entry-level job. See below for tips covering cover letters, resumes and references!
Think of your cover letter as an introduction to your resume. You get the chance to describe yourself and your experience, where your resume needs to be direct and to the point. That said, your cover letter isn’t supposed to be a novel. Be brief, highlighting just the important things! A good guide is three to four short paragraphs — no more than a page formatted as a letter.
Below are a couple of topics to help guide these paragraphs as you craft your cover letter.
1 – Who are you & why are you applying? Introduce yourself. If you are responding to a job posting, refer to it.
2 – Why should they care? Briefly highlight your most relevant skills. If there is a job posting, read it carefully and try to express why you fit the position. If you have an interest in their specific company, tell them why.
3 – Get the interview. Lead the Employer toward meeting you in person. Repeat your contact info (even with it on the heading of the page), and stress how much you would like the opportunity to connect.
If you are delivering a hard copy (paper) resume in person, sign your Cover letter.
If you are sending an email, you could use your letter as the message content and direct them toward your attached resume (don’t forget to add the job you’re applying for to the email subject line!)
Review your resume for EVERY job you apply for.
As needed, reorganize your resume to highlight skills relevant to the job description. Use bold headings to separate sections and draw the reader’s attention to the most relevant information.
You have one list of experiences that you have lived, but you can re-arrange it by pulling out the most significant TRANSFERABLE SKILLS. This means that even if you do not have direct work experience in a certain industry, there are skills and knowledge that can transfer from one job to the next (i.e.: customer service, communication skills, time management, organization, and problem-solving).
Make sure it reflects YOU
Templates can be a great guide, but your resume needs to reflect you. You won’t need years of experience for an entry-level job, so it should be brief (one page would be ideal). Employers want an accurate depiction of your skills & experience — do NOT “pad” an entry-level resume to fill it up. If your resume doesn’t reflect you, then they will be very surprised by the candidate who shows up to an interview.
Avoid “Goals/Objectives” statements that are vague or are unrelated to the position. If you want to mention relevant aspirations, your Cover Letter is the perfect place for that.
Don’t use an out-of-date template for a new and innovative job. The last thing you want is to be lost in a sea of similar-looking applications.
If you have past employment, list it with your title and the timeline when you worked.
- Include a list of transferable skills you demonstrated rather than a list of basic tasks you did at work;
- Use descriptive examples instead of buzzwords like “hard-working”.
Volunteer roles can be just as valuable as paid employment (sometimes more so). Education, awards, certifications, sports teams — even some hobbies & interests, all have value depending on how you present yourself! Be brief and well-organized, as it will be quickly scanned for anything of interest. Above all be RELEVANT to the employer and demonstrate your key skills relatable as an employee for the role you are applying for.
Rethinking Your Resume
Rather than keeping a resume template on file, try keeping a document of your experiences.
- Keep track of each job you work (including volunteer) – including start/end dates, your title, a list of job duties, and any interesting information that you might need.
- Keep a list of education, and courses or training you received, etc.
- You can keep a section for references, including all contact information.
When you are applying for a new job, use this document as your source material for a resume tailored to the position. You can organize your information however it best suits the position. Each new job opportunity deserves a relevant resume!
ASK PERMISSION before using someone as a reference (and ask EACH TIME you apply somewhere)! This notifies them that they might receive a call, and they can better prepare to provide your reference. Make sure you are only including people who will speak well of you. You should have a list of references ready when you go to an interview.
Use professional connections over personal whenever possible. Teachers, coaches, or people in some sort of authority role can often stand in when you have no professional references, but do not use immediate family. Your reference page should have names, titles, and contact information, as well as some sort of clue to how that person connects to you (a past manager, etc.). Do not hand a prospective employer a list of names and phone numbers without context.
For an entry-level position, two or three good references is ideal – so start thinking about people who will vouch for you!
Looking for more help? Connect with your local Nova Scotia Works
If you live in the HRM, check out the link below to see some of the services offered by Opportunity Place!