Even the best résumé and cover letter writers can overlook a mistake, which is why it is essential to have your materials proofread before sending to an employer. Start proofing the résumé and cover letter yourself by using the computer’s grammar and spell check. Remember that your computer cannot find each mistake, so pay particular attention to commonly misused English words (listed below).
Next, you should slowly and carefully read your résumé aloud so you can hear any errors that your eyes may have missed. To get additional perspectives, you should ask a few friends or faculty members to proofread your résumé and cover letter.
Finally, we recommend that you visit your college’s career service office or the MU Career Center (located in the lower level of the Student Success Center) to have an experienced career specialist proofread your résumé.
|Their vs. There vs. They’re||Possessive of they vs. A place vs. Contraction of they are|
|Effect vs. Affect||Noun vs. Verb meaning to influence|
|Accept vs. Except||Verb meaning to receive or to admit to a group vs. Preposition meaning but or only|
|Who’s vs. Whose||Contraction of who is or who has vs. Possessive form of who|
|Its vs. It’s||Possessive form of it vs. Contraction of it is or it has|
|Your vs. You’re||Possessive form of you vs. Contraction of you are|
|Than vs. Then||Used in comparison vs. Referring to a time in the past|
|Were vs. We’re||Form of the verb to be vs. Contraction of we are|
|Used with permission and modified from: Indiana University Writing Tutorial Services|
Check for Consistency
Aside from checking for typos, grammar, and spelling, you should check for consistency in your: verb tenses, abbreviations (or lack of), use of words rather than numbers (e.g. “Two” v. “2”), formatting, punctuation (periods, commas), date types, and font styles.
Tailor your Résumé to the Position
Most employers spend less than a minute reviewing an applicant’s résumé; therefore you need to make sure the résumé you submit is concise and highlights what is relevant to the position. It is a good idea to have a “master résumé” which includes everything you have ever done. Rather than sending your “master résumé” to an employer you should tailor your résumé to highlight the experience, education, and skills that will assist you in carrying out the job tasks associated with the position for which you are applying.
A quick yet effective method of evaluating the effectiveness of your résumé is to scan the document with your eyes to make sure that by reading down the page an employer can quickly see that you have experience and skills vital the position. A good strategy is to review the job description and make sure that you have addressed all the requirements of the position within your résumé. Your résumé sections such as Education, Skills, Experience, or Research should always appear in order of importance/relevance from greatest to least. For example, if you have an impressive academic background but little professional experience, you would list your Education and coursework first. If you have been highly involved or have held a demanding job while in school but have only average academic credentials, you would list your activities or experience first.
Always include a cover letter with your résumé so that you can introduce yourself and explain your purpose for writing the employer. Your cover letter should address three major points: the position for which you are applying, how you are uniquely qualified for the position, and what steps you will take to follow-up with the employer.
If sending a hard copy, print your cover letters on the same type of paper and letterhead as your résumé. Generally, your cover letter should be a single page. If you have second page, it should not have a header at the top of the page. If you wish you may print your name on the top of the page. Make sure to type “Enclosure” or “Enclosures” beneath your signature to indicate that you have also attached additional material to your letter. If sending electronically, you may attach your cover letter or paste it into the body of your email.
For more information on cover letters please read our Guide to Cover Letters.
When sending out résumés, be sure to keep a record of which companies/contacts have received your materials and when. Typically, in a cover letter, you will let the employer know your intentions to follow-up within a certain time period. But what do you say in a follow-up communication, whether it be by phone, mail, or e-mail? You may have questions to ask about the interview process, timeline for hiring or other questions about the position; but many candidates follow-up with the employer to express their keen interest and enthusiasm for the job vacancy.
Methods of follow-up include:
First, ask if the employer has a moment to talk, introduce yourself to the employer (“I recently applied for the Statistician position in your department”), who you are (“I am a recent Mizzou grad”) and why you are calling (“I wondered if you could share more information about the type of candidate you are seeking”), and when you sent in your application materials (“I submitted my résumé online last Thursday”). Let them know that you are calling to follow-up to make sure they received your materials and explain your interest in the job. This is also a good time to casually ask them if they have had a chance to review your résumé and to see if they will soon be interviewing. Thank the employer for their time and reiterate that they can contact you either by phone or e-mail for follow-up.
If you feel more comfortable contacting the employer through e-mail, or if you feel this is the best way to get in contact with them, the format of your follow-up will be slightly different but should read like a business letter. In the subject, indicate the job title or vacancy number (Statistician Vacancy #34509). Address the person with a formal salutation Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. (for women, when it doubt, use Ms.). Introduce yourself and explain your interest in a career opportunity and when you submitted your materials. Express your enthusiasm for the position and indicate your interest in interviewing. Reiterate your contact information and thank them for their consideration.
A sample of an appropriate follow-up letter is linked above. The format is business formal. The rest of the letter follows the format of the e-mail follow-up. At the end of the letter, a closing such as “Sincerely” or “Warmest Regards” is appropriate, and then you sign your name.
To make a professional first impression, print your résumé on paper especially designed for résumés. Visit an office supply or stationary store and ask for résumé paper. You should choose a traditional color such as white, ivory, off-white, or a very light gray. Other colors may be available but they may not be as universally appropriate. Your paper sheets should be the traditional dimensions of a sheet of paper (8 1/2” x 11”), be between 16 and 25 lbs.(heaviness & thickness), and contain at least 25% cotton. Here is an example of résumé paper that would be appropriate given the guidelines above: Southworth -Connoisseur Collection, Exceptional Business Paper, 8 1/2” x 11”, 20 Lb. White.
Many résumé papers have matching envelope sets that you can use to keep your professional image. You should also consider sending your résumé in a large envelope (9”x12”) rather than tri-folding your résumé in a smaller envelope (4 1/8” x 9 1/2”). Using large envelopes for your résumé and cover letter means they will not be creased and therefore more readable.