Monday, December 12, 2005

Employment Application Process, Phase 3: Write

In the third phase of the employment application process—write—you compose your résumé and application letter (also known as cover letter), as well as set the framework for reference letters written on your behalf. Many Internet and text resources are available on these subjects, so be sure to supplement what you read here with additional reading.

The Résumé

The two most common types of résumés are the chronological and functional:
  • Use the chronological résumé to focus on your work experience, which should indicate that you are qualified for the job and that your work experience is directly related to your career goal.
  • Use the functional résumé to focus on your skills and accomplishments, and when your work experience is not directly related to your career goal, you are entering the job market for the first time or after a hiatus, or you are making a career change.
Since the difference between the two types of résumés has less to do with content and more to do with structure, it’s easy enough—and a good idea—to have both for your records.

The chronological résumé focuses on work experience and generally follows the pattern listed below:
  • contact data (name, address, phone numbers, e-mail)
  • objective
  • employment (employer, title, responsibilities, accomplishments)
  • education (institutions, degrees, academic distinctions)
  • skills (professional licenses, technical skills, languages)
  • references
The functional résumé focuses on skills and accomplishments. It may list the applicant’s three key strengths (e.g., managerial, communication, technical) and reorganize the bullet points listed under the experience section of the chronological résumé around the headings of those three strengths. Of course, those three strengths should be highly valued by the prospective employer.

Regardless of the résumé type you choose, consider the following additional tips:
When planning ...
  • target your résumé to the prospective employer
  • create a one-page version of the résumé if your standard one is longer
  • update your information regularly
  • use a clear, concise objective that guides the reader through the résumé
  • express accomplishments honestly--do not exaggerate or understate them
When formatting ...
  • design the résumé for easy scanning
  • use conventional titles for headings
When articulating ...
  • use industry-specific language
  • use action verbs to describe responsibilities and accomplishments
  • avoid lengthy sentence-and-paragraph style
  • quantify your experience wherever possible.
When checking ...
  • make the résumé visually appealing (e.g., consistently headed, aligned, and spaced)
  • proofread carefully and have zero tolerance for the slightest flaw
When printing ...
  • use a white or light-colored 8½" X 11" paper stock
  • use laser-printed originals, not photocopies
When sending ...
  • use a neatly typed matching envelope
  • include the résumé, application letter, and letters of recommendation
The Application Letter
The application letter serves the following purposes:
  • introduces you to the prospective employer
  • illustrates your organization, creative, persuasive, and language skills
  • indicates how confident, positive, and self-directed you are
  • shows your enthusiasm about the company and familiarity with the position
  • explains how your unique skills and interests relate to the company’s goals
  • suggests a method for reading the résumé
Many employers believe that a main difference between the résumé and the application letter is that the application letter shows your writing skills better than a résumé. Résumé reviewers may believe that you have had professional help in designing your résumé, but they see the application letter as a demonstration of your creativity and audience awareness. Shrewd personnel associates will read your application letter asking the following questions:
  • Does the applicant possess a strong command of language?
  • Is the applicant informed about the standards of a letter?
  • Did the applicant tailor the letter with the company’s needs in mind?
  • Does the applicant have the strategic skills to explain how acquired skills and experiences would benefit the company?
The goal of the application letter should be to expand—not repeat—the information in your résumé; therefore, you should tailor it to the position you are seeking and the company to which you are applying.
The Recommendation Letter

On the surface, the recommendation letter may seem to be more the responsibility of the referrer than the applicant—but don’t fool yourself. The more guidance that you give the referrer in writing the letter, the better the recommendation will reflect what you want it to.

Start by requesting the recommendation letter of someone whose credentials, accomplishments, intelligence, and personality you highly regard. Be certain that the person holds a high opinion of you as well. Let the referrer know what you want included in the letter. While you’re at it, develop an outline for the recommendation.

The elements of a recommendation letter are as follows:
  • applicant’s full name and relationship to the writer
  • length of time applicant and writer were associated
  • applicant’s work ethic
  • applicant’s interpersonal skills
  • applicant’s accomplishments
  • applicant’s goals
  • applicant’s potential contributions to the employer
The next installment of WORDS ON THE LINE will cover Phase 4 of the employment application process: Interview.
To purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by Philip Vassallo, click here: