How To: Resume and Cover Letter Writing

Googling “resumes” or “cover letters” is really a blast to the past. Many of the sites offering resume and cover letter templates haven’t been updated since the early 2000s, and that’s not helpful when you’re preparing to apply for internships in this decade. And so, I thought it might be helpful to aggregate the words of wisdom I’ve picked up throughout my education and internships to offer some resume and cover letter writing tips for the Digital Age.

Disclaimer: When talking about resumes and cover letter writing suggestions, it’s important to remember that they are just that—suggestions. They can be subjective and most likely will change depending on your background, the position you’re applying for, and your potential employer.

 

RESUME WRITING

  • Times New Roman font? It ain’t 1931. Breathe some life into your resume by using an inviting font that’s still easy to read. Good example: Helvetica. Bad example: Rosewood STD. [Insert STD joke here.]
  • Leave the objective out. This one varies depending on the company to which you’re applying, but the consensus seems to be that the objective is a thing of the past.
  • Use bullet points to describe your relevant employment experience but keep them specific. Describe your experiences with active, engaging verbs, and avoid generalities. Did you create a Facebook page for your company and drive two thousand more viewers to the company’s site? Tell them that.
  • If you’re including awards on your resume, choose just a few and explain them briefly. To your interviewer, some awards may be unfamiliar and thus won’t serve as a telling reflection of your achievements.
  • Do you have specific skills? Put them on there.

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COVER LETTER WRITING

  • Rule of thumb: Always send a cover letter with your resume. Forgetting to send a cover letter is like showing up to the doctor’s office without first scheduling an appointment: Why are you here? Or, why are you applying to this position?
  • Keep it short! Assuming the internship coordinator has hundreds of applications to go through, he or she is going to read a concise and meaningful cover letter over one that’s the length of an ancient Greek epic.
  • Address the letter to a specific person if this information can be obtained. “To whom it may concern” can sound cold. When in doubt, “Dear Internship Coordinator” may be the best option.
  • Put yourself in your potential employer’s shoes and answer the following questions they may have while reading your cover letter, devoting one short paragraph to each:

o   Paragraph 1: Who are you and what do you want? If you were referred to the position from an employee at the company or the NY Creative Interns Job Board, this is also the place to mention this. This may be a given, but be sure to mention the specific position to which you’re applying.

o   Paragraph 2: Why should I give it to you? Tell them why you want to work for them. Do you find their work cutting-edge and exciting? Why them and not a similar company? 

o   Paragraph 3: When will I hear from you next? Tell them how they can get in touch with you. It also can’t hurt to reaffirm your enthusiasm for the position and to thank them for the opportunity to apply for it.

 

Ultimately, dear readers, writing resumes and cover letters is not unlike trying to change your boyfriend or girlfriend. While you may want to improve his or her look via new jeans or a colorful scarf, sometimes he or she just looks better the way they were before. Modifying their physical appearance may also in turn make them seem like someone they’re not.

I think the connections here are clear.

Don’t let fancy fonts or elaborate designs detract from the power of a simple, concise resume. Moreover, don’t say you have certain skills and passions in your resumes and cover letters if you don’t have said skills and passions. Use your grammar real good, use thta spell chekc, and use your teachers and strangers as a second pair of eyes on your writing.

Then click “Send.” Or, as the aforementioned ancient websites instruct, put them in these things called “mailboxes.” I don’t know what they are but they sure sound freaky!

May the force be with you.

  • http://Jaimehoerbelt.com Jaime

    One thing I’ve heard about the objective is that it is useful if you have just graduated and don’t have a lot of experience in the area to which you are applying or if you are making a career change and your resume contains experience more directly related to your old area. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kraig.adams Kraig Adams

    Thanks for the great advice, I too am a film student.  I’m currently looking into internships in NYC or LA in the industry and this will definitely help! – Kraig Adams

    • http://twitter.com/emilymiethner Emily Miethner

      Glad it was a help, Kraig. Jonathan is a great person for internship advice. He just landed another at Pixar in January! Touch base with him sometime.