Writing A Winning Cover Letter


A cover letter serves two important functions, says recruiter Emy Unger. It introduces and sells you. Putting your best foot forward means sending a thoughtful, distinct letter, so consider these nine tips:

1. KEEP IT SHORT. The ideal cover letter is about half a page long, and never exceeds one page. A concise letter demonstrates that you are focused and have strong communication skills. Aim for two to four brief paragraphs.

2. STATE THE POSITION. The recruiter who reads your letter may be hiring for several posts. While candidates who e-mail their resumes often include the job title in the subject line of their e-mails, if the recruiter prints a letter out before reading it, such information may be lost. Clearly state the job title in the first paragraph of the letter, preferably in the first sentence.

3. EXPLAIN WHY YOU WANT THE JOB. “Candidates should always answer the question ‘Why do I want to do this work?’” says Unger. Ask yourself how the position fits into your overall career plans and what you find exciting about the particular sector. A genuine show of enthusiasm and knowledge will set you apart from those sending generic form letters.

4. CLEARLY DESCRIBE WAYS YOU WILL CONTRIBUTE. According to Andrew Posner, a career counselor and website consultant in San Francisco, this is the most important element of a cover letter. After carefully reading the job description, write a paragraph outlining one or two specific examples of how your skills and experiences will fit the company’s needs.

5. MATCH, BUT DON’T REITERATE, YOUR RESUME. This is one point many job seekers find tricky. You should never claim experience in your cover letter that isn’t reflected on your resume. Doing so makes you look like a liar. At the same time, your cover letter shouldn’t simply restate your resume. When you explain the ways you will contribute, refer to an experience or skill on your resume to show how you will add value to the company.

6. DON’T SAY YOU’RE NOT QUALIFIED. Even if you think the position is out of your reach, your job is to convince the recruiter you are qualified. If the recruiter thinks you’re unqualified, a confessional letter is not going to get you an interview. Keep the letter positive by focusing on your transferable skills and unusual accomplishments.

7. KEEP THE TONE AND CONTENT PROFESSIONAL. “Don’t be a comedian, don’t get really personal, and don’t beg for the job,” says Unger. Recruiters are more likely than not to think your attempts at humor or stories about your personal life are just plain weird.

8. TELL THE READER WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO NEXT. Too many job seekers never follow up after sending a resume. “Saying what you’re going to do next is the second-most important thing to do in your letter,” says Posner. “It forces you to make a commitment to action.” If the job post lists a phone number, indicate you will call within a specified time to arrange an interview. If not, consider calling anyway, unless the post specifically requests “no calls.” You may also consider a follow-up e-mail if you sent your resume electronically.

9. PROOFREAD. AGAIN. Using a spell checker is not enough. Many recruiters will dismiss even the most qualified candidate if there’s one typo in the cover letter or resume. Reread your letter two or three times, then give it to someone else who knows a thing or two about good writing. Even if your letter is free of typos, poor grammar also makes a bad impression.

5 Things To Do Before Writing Your Resume

When applying for a new job, a great resume is extremely important in order to get your foot in the door. It is especially important when you think about the fact that on average, about 250 resumes are submitted per each corporate job opening.

While this number obviously fluctuates depending on the industry and company, it still showcases the importance of a strong resume to get you noticed. However, you can’t just dive into writing your resume without any preparation.

So for your convenience, I have compiled a list of 5 things to do before writing your resume that will help you not only with the writing process, but also help to land you an interview.

1. Make a List Of All Your Jobs

Depending on your age, the number of jobs that you have held can vary drastically. Nevertheless, you should make a complete list of every job that you have ever held and list them in reverse chronological order (from most recent moving backward).

If you have worked in a large collection of positions, then you probably won’t list all of them, but you will have a good pool to choose from.

2. Write Down All Of Your Job Responsibilities 

You may think that you can remember every aspect of your job without writing it down, but chances are that you are wrong. You often do much more than you think, so write down all of your job responsibilities for each position in order to get a thorough list to include on your resume.

3. Look Over The Job Requirements Thoroughly

Say you are applying to an open position at a manufacturing company. Well, the job requirements and skills needed for their sales position are going to be much different than that of the mechanic position.

Do your homework! Thoroughly look over the requirements and skills the position needs. Then, include all of the skills that you have that they are looking for. The matching keywords will show that your skills align with what the company needs.

4. Consult Your Performance Reviews

Your manager took the time to let you know what you excelled at and what needed work, so use these critiques to your advantage. Pull key points from your past performance reviews such as your impact on increased sales numbers or what you excelled at. You can then use this information as a key point for a particular position you have held.

5. Find a List of Strong Action Verbs

Do not use boring verbs when listing your responsibilities and accomplishments on your resume. It will sound dull to the hiring manager, and even unimpressive.

Instead, find and compile a great list of strong action verbs that you can use. Words such as “orchestrated” sound much better than “led”, and the incorporation of these terms will expand your vocabulary.

The plus of already having this list put together is that you will save yourself time when you actually begin to write your resume, which allows you to focus on the facts.

Now You’re Ready

So, you’ve followed these 5 steps and have written your resume. Great! What’s next you ask?

Well, once your resume is ready to go you will need to draw up a well-tailored cover letter to accompany it. Then, it’s time to clean up your social media profiles to make them employer friendly. You can alter your LinkedIn account to reflect the resume that you just wrote, as well, which will make your information more consistent.

Once you have all of these things done, it’s time to actually send your application and hope for the best.

About the Author: Leah Rutherford is a freelance blogger specializing in career development, especially resumes, cover letters, and job search. She also writes about small businesses startups and social media, which you can find on her blog, JetFeeds.

For this post, TopResume thanks our friends at Doostang. 

Cover Letter Must-Haves



In your cover letter, include information that truly tailors the application to a particular employer and specific job opening.  Complement and reinforce the qualifications presented in your resume, using words and phrases from the employer’s job listing and/or website.

Here are some points about content you’ll want to keep in mind as you write your cover letter:

  • How you learned of the job or company is important to recruiters and hiring managers, especially if there is a mutual connection that can speak of your qualifications.
  • Demonstrate a good fit with the employer’s corporate or organization culture.  Be sure to back up any assertions of personal characteristics by describing the resulting achievement either on your resume or in your cover letter.  Ideally, the cover letter refers to information found on your resume without being repetitive or redundant.
  •  Go beyond the resume in explaining your situation and career direction.  For example: “My career goals include gaining leadership experience in the delivery of financial advising services in a private business setting.  I am open to relocation for the appropriate opportunity.”
  • Avoid discussing weakness or making excuses; instead, concentrate on what you have to offer.  The cover letter is not the place to confess your mistakes or problems.  For example, if you’ve been laid off, don’t mention that fact.  Instead, discuss what you have done recently to be productive or better prepared for this job (e.g. I have recently completed training in….or I have gained valuable marketing experience volunteering with….).
  • If salary requirements are requested in a job posting, discuss them in your cover letter.  It’s best not to trap yourself by naming a specific amount.  Instead, say something like “my salary requirements are in step with the responsibilities of the position and the expertise I would offer your company.”  If an ad or job posting absolutely requires a salary figure, state a range, such as “seeking a compensation package to include benefits and a salary in the low-to mid-$30s.”


 For this post, TopResume thanks our friends at Doostang.

When Should You List Your GPA On Your Resume?

What's the Point? When to List Your GPA On Your Resume

Your grade point average alone won’t get you hired, but a stellar one can help you shine a bit brighter. Here’s how—and when—to list your academic score on your resume.


A GPA of 3.0 or above is worth listing under “Education,” next to your major. Anything below a 3 you should leave off. Another option is to calculate the GPA for classes completed as part of your major, says career coach Julie Cohen. “Maybe a biology major didn’t do well in Spanish or history, so his overall GPA is a 2.9, but his major GPA much higher.” In this case, list your academic score like this: Major GPA: 3.7


Graduation distinctions, such as summa cum laude, magna cum laude, or cum laude, add a touch of class to the 4.0 scale by showing your school has recognized your academic excellence. Since Latin honors and what it takes to earn them differ—3.6 for magna cum laude at one school, 3.8 at another—list your numerical figure, too.


Once you have 2–3 years of full-time work experience under your belt, a GPA doesn’t say much about your potential and is a waste of resume real estate. “Some people are married to their 4.0,” says Cohen. “It’s a pride thing—but it doesn’t actually add to who they are as a candidate.” Instead of appearing stuck in the past, fill that line with another detail from your most recent position.

7 Must-Haves of a Wall Street Resume

7 Must Haves of a Wall Street Resume

If you’re priming yourself to score a dream job on Wall Street after graduation, creating a resume that stands out should be on the top of your to-do list. Competition for finance jobs in the Big Apple is stiff today, even if you attended one of the premier Ivy League finance schools.

In fact there are 13.5 percent fewer jobs in the securities industry today than there were prior to the financial crisis, according to a recent report from the Office of New York State Comptroller.1 So what can you do to ensure that your resume makes it to the top of the pile?

1. Follow one of today’s key resume best practices – include keywords.Regardless of your field, if you want your resume to make it to the hiring manager’s or decision maker’s desk, it needs to get through applicant tracking systems and/or be easily found in search engines.

This means you should include keywords that pertain specifically to the finance position for which you are applying. Pull keywords from the job description and include those in your resume and cover letter, then highlight your skills pertaining to these keywords as well.2

Yes, you should customize your resume for each individual job. That’s one way that successful job applicants get to the interview phase.

2. Keep it professional. For graduates who are seeking careers in finance, you shouldn’t be using your resume to show your cute or funny side. You’re going into finance, not art direction or web design. Wall Street is steeped in tradition and professionalism, and finance recruiters want to see resumes that are presented in a traditional fashion.3

This means no pretty paper or wacky fonts. Clean, black and white, period. Consider these financial analyst and investment banking sample resumes from Monster and Street of Walls respectively.3,4

Professional also means no typos or grammatical errors. If you’re not a wordsmith, hire a professional who specializes in finance careers to help write your resume or trade favors with your friend who is majoring in journalism.

3. Start with a bang (albeit a professional one). Once you’ve made it past the applicant tracking systems (or if you have had the luxury of emailing your resume directly to a person), your resume needs to make an impression FAST.

Along with a compelling cover letter, you need to highlight those skills and accomplishments that matter most to the employer (not you) in a summary at the top of the page. The person reading your resume has hundreds more to look at after yours, so if he or she makes it past the top quarter of your resume, consider yourself lucky.

Human resources pros and managers who hire finance professionals will scan your resume to see if you meet the specific job qualifications required, such as an MBA or experience managing a specific type of project. For recent grads with minimal real world experience, highlighting case study or classwork experience that pertains specifically to the job can help keep you in the mix.

This is also the place to show why you’re special. Any significant accomplishments you have achieved, that could impact how you would perform at the finance job in question should be worked into the introductory summary.

4. Include examples of your quantitative and analytical abilities. Wall Street firms want to hire people who know how to handle and analyze large amounts of data. They are looking for problem solvers. Include specific examples from your past jobs, internships or classwork that show how you excelled in these two areas.3

Generalizations have no place in a Wall Street resume. Spell it out.

5. Highlight quantifiable accomplishments. If you have real world job or internship experience in the finance world (or elsewhere), and can show how you contributed to reducing costs, increasing profits, etc. spell out these quantifiable accomplishments specifically.5

Show them the numbers if you want to separate yourself from the pack.

6. Show your passion for the finance industry. Along with your educational accomplishments, how else have you immersed yourself in the financial world? Have you competed in finance case study contests? Do you belong to any finance clubs? Have you helped others with their finances? Have you given presentations or written about finance topics for a paper at school or on your own blog?

7. Education, GPA and the like. This is a no-brainer, but it is a must-have. The school you attended does matter to some firms and hiring managers, as does how well you performed. This is especially true if you’re coming up light in the quantifiable accomplishments section.

Once you’ve created your stellar Wall Street resume, check out the finance jobs available through Doostang. We cater to recent college graduates and MBAs seeking finance careers with the best finance and investment firms on the planet. Visit our website to find your Wall Street dream job today!

Photo Source: Shutterstock


1. DiNapoli T.P., Bleiwas K.B. “The Securities Industry in New York City.” Office of the State Comptroller, State of New York, Report 7-2014. October 2013. Available athttp://osc.state.ny.us/osdc/rpt7-2014.pdf. Accessed October 22, 2013.

2. Isaacs, K. “Cover Letter Tips for Finance Professionals.” Monster.com. Available at: http://career-advice.monster.com/resumes-cover-letters/cover-letter-tips/finance-cover-letter-tips/article.aspx. Accessed October 24, 2013.

3. “Investment Banking Resume;” “Private Equity Resume;” “Hedge Fund Resume.” Street of Walls website. Available at: http://www.streetofwalls.com/. Accessed Oct. 25, 2013.

4. Sample Resume for a Financial Analyst. Monster website. www.monster.com. Available at http://career-advice.monster.com/resumes-cover-letters/resume-samples/sample-resume-financial-analyst/article.aspx. Accessed October 25, 2013.

5. Meade, B. “Five Top Resume Turnoffs.” Forbes website, Feb. 19 2013. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2013/02/19/five-top-resume-turnoffs/


The Unemployment Playbook: Stay Relevant

The Unemployment Playbook: Stay Relevant

If you’ve recently joined the growing number of unemployed Americans, you’re entitled to a few days of moping. But don’t dither away too long. Soon you’ll need to brush the dirt off your shoulders and put some fresh shine on your personal brand.

With a shortage of jobs and an abundance of hiring freezes, finding a new gig might require some patience. So once you’ve run some plays from the standard job-search playbook-a quick resume update and some initial applications-it’s wise to use your surplus free time to shape up for when hiring picks up.

  • ALERT YOUR NETWORK. Networking could be your lifeline back into the job market, but only if they know you need a hand. Update any online profiles, then make a contact list and correspondence plan. Keep in mind that it’s better to break the ice with another topic and then ease into your unemployment woes.
  • PUT TOGETHER A PORTFOLIO. Gather material supporting your past accomplishments-products you’ve created, projects managed, positive feedback, or public accolades. It’ll help you stand out during interviews, boost your confidence, and give you perspective on your skill-set.
  •  VOLUNTEER FOR A GOOD CAUSE OR NONPROFIT-OR CREATE YOUR OWN.Volunteering is good for the community, but it’s also a great networking tool and resume builder. Pick projects that align your personal and professional passions. Consider organizing a charity event or leading a volunteer group. If you’re super-ambitious, show it by initiating your own project or group.
  • FIND UNPAID WORK OR INTERNSHIPS. When paying jobs are hard to come by, unpaid work is an ideal way to keep your skills current and make professional connections. Plus, when hiring starts back up, you’ll be top of mind.
  • GET SMART.There’s a class for almost everything, from computer certification or business basics to a foray into photography or graphic design. Enrolling in a class shows you’re open to learning new tricks and developing your old ones.
  • TRY FREELANCING OR CONSULTING. Many companies can’t afford as many full-time employees as before the Dow dropped, but there’s still work to be done. While freelancing isn’t always a steady source of income, it’s a great way to keep your chops up and build your brand.
  •  BECOME AN EXPERT AND START YOUR OWN BLOG. Keep up on industry news with trade magazines, newspapers, and message boards. Then share what you know in a daily blog to show you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the industry. A strong following could lead to job offers.
  • GO TO GRAD SCHOOL.It’s a big investment, but one that’s worth it for getting a useful degree that may help you earn more or change career paths. Also, being on a campus puts invaluable job leads and career resources right at your fingertips.

Cover Letter Mistakes That Will Send Your Application Straight to the Trash


Your cover letter is one of the most important factors in determining whether or not you will be offered the chance to interview for a job. Don’t skip this step or take it lightly.

This is your opportunity to introduce yourself to an employer and make yourself stand out among a competitive applicant pool. Your cover letter lets the employer know you are a good match for both the company and the position — or not.

Avoid the following mistakes to get your application noticed — in a good way!

1. You didn’t follow instructions

What were the instructions in the job listing? Many employers will request a specific subject line, salary requirements or additional documents, such as a writing sample.

Not following instructions will immediately eliminate you from the applicant pool. Double check your cover letter against the job listing, and have a friend proofread before you submit.

This is your chance to show off your written communication skills, so avoid making costly mistakes. You shouldn’t have to explain in your letter that you’re detail-oriented; a good cover letter that follows the instructions will demonstrate that.

2. You used a canned message

You won’t get an interview if you submit the same generic cover letter with every application. Tailor your cover letter to the job you’re applying for to prove you’re not only a qualified candidate, but also serious about this job in particular.

A great cover letter will express enthusiasm for the company and demonstrate you have the relevant skills and experience the position requires. Your cover letter should directly relate to the role and industry you’re applying for; don’t discuss unrelated career goals or experiences.

Cheryl E. Palmer, M.Ed., CECC, CPRW and Career Development Expert, warns against using form letters: “Recruiters can spot a form letter a mile away. Form letters send the message to employers that the job seeker is not interested in the specific position that the employer has available, but rather that the job seeker is sending out resumes to everyone without giving any thought to what the employer is looking for.”

3. You regurgitated your resume

Your cover letter should enhance your resume, not repeat or summarize it. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Instead of rehashing the skills and experience listed in your resume, expand on why that experience makes you a great candidate for the job you want.

Keep your cover letter short (one page or less), but include details that aren’t provided in your resume. Offer specific, relevant examples from your previous experience to make your application shine.

4. You weren’t professional

Don’t include personal details unless the information directly relates to the position you are applying for. You need to keep your tone professional. Though most applications are submitted online, this isn’t an excuse to be casual. Use a formal greeting and signature. Use professional stationery if you mail in your application.

When in doubt, it’s best to use a standard cover letter format. Sandy Malone, a professional wedding planner and the star of TLC’s Wedding Island, confirms that most hiring managers aren’t impressed by gimmicks: “Just stop with the ridiculous-looking and colorful resumes. Unless you’re a graphic designer, keep it simple and follow a standard format. I don’t want to hunt for your credentials. That just annoys me.”

5. You didn’t proofread

This is one of the most important steps: Proofread, proofread, proofread!

In addition to correcting any spelling or grammatical mistakes, you have to get the details right. You don’t want to start your cover letter with “Dear Sir” if the hiring manager is a woman.

Also, double check the company name and position title so you don’t send the wrong template from a previous cover letter. Lastly, be sure to back up your skills and experience. If you claim to be extremely organized and have strong writing skills, your cover letter should reflect that.

What else would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments!

This post first appeared on Brazen Life, a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals.


7 Cover Letter Mistakes Entry-Level Candidates Make


Recent graduate? Ready to transition out of your first job? If you want your entry-level application to stand out, you need a solid cover letter.

At this stage in your career, many resumes look the same.  You will have the same level of experience and skills as most of the competition. You need a great cover letter to make your application shine.

Take this step seriously, and don’t make the same mistakes as everyone else. Check out these 7 cover letter mistakes entry-level candidates make, and tips on how to fix them.

Tailoring Your Resume and Cover Letter to Fit Employers

Tailoring Resumes and Cover Letters to Fit Employers

You’re ready to begin the job hunt. You know what types of positions and companies you’d like to apply to. Now you just need to whip together a resume and proceed, right? Sounds simple-but writing a resume that raises you above the pack and conveys your perfect fit to an employer is a handsome challenge indeed, especially if you take into account that most recruiters spend an average of 30 seconds scanning a resume before sending it to the “yes” or “no” pile. You’ve got the goods: experience, education, personality. But how do you sum up a lifetime’s worth of hard work and accomplishments in one or two pages of text?

The first step to creating killer cover letters and resumes is understanding what they really are and how they should be used in a successful job search. Many people think of cover letters as mere formalities accompanying a resume, full of inflated, impersonal language, and rife with business-speak. The more syllables, the better. Resumes are generally considered documents tracing one’s work history and skills. To some degree, this is true. Cover letters are formal accompaniments to resumes, intended to introduce a job candidate, while resumes do indeed explain a portion of one’s work history and skills.

But cover letters and resumes are also much more than that. They are an advertisement for a quality product: you. They’re marketing tools to get the attention of your desired audience-potential employers-and interest them in learning more about the product-you. How do consumer products companies get us to buy their products? Marketing. How do financial services companies attract more customers? Marketing. How do political candidates move their campaigns forward? That’s right, marketing.

In this light, it’s easy to see how important a killer cover letter and resume are to a job search-and how much potential these marketing tools have. But any successful marketing campaign requires a carefully crafted message that speaks directly to the needs of its audience. Your resume should make recruiters say, “Yes! This is exactly what we need. I want to meet this candidate to learn more.”

Many job seekers make the fundamental mistake of viewing the job search in terms of their own needs and desires. While these are certainly important factors in finding a fulfilling job and career path, it is not the most effective way of approaching employers. Rather than viewing your target employers from the outside in, look at them from the inside out, and place yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. You need to understand what employers look for in the initial review of applications, and what qualities will lead you to the next stage in the hiring process.

To get some sense of the employers’ perspective, check out this bit of information: Recently, ResumeDoctor.com contacted more than 5,000 recruiters and hiring managers throughout the United States and Canada regarding the success of using online job postings. More than 92 percent of those surveyed reported being inundated with irrelevant responses to their job postings. Most participants indicated that they receive hundreds of responses per online job posting.Additional complaints included:
.   A majority of resumes do not match the job description. [71%]

.   Job seekers “blasting out” unsolicited resumes. [63%]

.   Job seekers fail to follow specific resume submission instructions found in job post. [34%]

.   Mike Worthington of ResumeDoctor.com says, “Most online job postings bury recruiters with literally hundreds of resumes…. The ease that job seekers can respond to postings online is now their greatest obstacle.”

Did you hear that? The number-one complaint from employers is that most resumes they receive don’t match the posted job description-most applicants are not fulfilling the employers’ needs, or even trying to. While the high number of responses to job postings may be an obstacle, the lack of preparation (not to mention customization) by most job seekers presents a grand opportunity to the savvy resume writer.

For this post, TopResume thanks our friends at WetFeet.

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