Applications can be a real pain - be it a university for higher studies, or a full-time job opportunity that you are seeking. Cover letters and resumes are looked over with great scrutiny by companies, and with the kind of competition out there, it is no unknown fact that companies will only consider the best.
Tips on How to Write a Cover Letter
The importance of an effective cover letter is highly underestimated. People often think that a person who evaluates the application considers it as a mere preface to the entire application material. However, you should know that there are many evaluators who are trained to judge the candidate on the basis of the cover letter alone. They are no more about preface and introductions; they are your first chance to make the right impression.
A cover letter has to be succinct and yet should convey all the important information about your application. Start your cover letter with a formal address to the person concerned, if you have no clue about the person who will be reading and evaluating your application it is better to address it as 'Respected Sir/Ma'am' or 'To whomsoever it may concern'.
The first thing that you should mention in a cover letter is the reason why you are sending the application, which implies that you need to mention the post or the course or the opportunity that you wish to apply for. It is always better to mention this in the subject line. For example, if you are applying for the post of a sub-editor, the subject line will read something like this: Subject - Application for the post of sub-editor.
Secondly, remember that there is nothing wrong in considering the cover letter, as a quick preview of your resume, however don't overdo it. Briefly mention your qualification in a line or two, so that the evaluator gets a rough idea about your candidature. Most importantly make a mention of all the documents that have been attached with it, so that the evaluator can acknowledge the receipt of all your documents and also find if something is missing.
Lastly, before ending the letter, add a line saying that you have attached along and sent all the required application material and request the evaluators to get back to you in case any other documents or additional information is required of you. I have often been tempted to end my cover letter or any other official letter with informal closing lines like 'Regards' or 'Cheers', however one thing that I have learned is that this practice might not be well received by all the people, hence preferably, end the letter with a formal closing line like 'Sincerely'.
Tips on How to Write a Resume
There are numerous ways or formats of writing your resume and no matter which one you pick, you will tend to think that there is a better one out there. Keep it as simple and straightforward as you can. Clearly mention your name, birth date, home/office address, and other contact details like your phone number, email address, and a fax number, if you have one.
Providing correct contact information is very crucial since that will be only way for your evaluators to communicate with you. Use common sense while preparing your resume, for example if you have mentioned your birth date along with the year, do not mention your age, since it is considered redundant.
Always make different categories in your resume to make it easy for the evaluator to scan through an area that is important from his/her point of view. For example, you can divide it into categories like, educational qualification, professional experience, academic projects and achievements, professional achievements, and other useful skills (computers, foreign languages, etc). Mentioning your other interests or hobbies might be a good idea if your resume hasn't crossed two pages.
The length of the resume has always been a subject of great debate and I've seen all sorts - those that barely manage to fill a page and those that make you feel like you are reading a lengthy brochure. Keep it brief and precise, but mention all the achievements and qualifications that you need to. The key is to mention all the necessary information briefly and while doing that, you have to be your own judge. Try and think about the qualities that your evaluator will be looking for and design your resume accordingly, if you think mentioning a particular project will improve your chances mention it - if you had a short stint in a rather unrelated and unimportant professional / academic area, do not mention it.
Although people endlessly harp on providing correct information, and refrain from embellishing, remember that we live in an era where people have to market themselves and be vocal about their achievements to get noticed. You can always choose to highlight the facts that you want to and 'not-mention' the ones that you think might work against you. Be honest, but also wise, while you prepare your resume. Modesty is one thing that you should refrain from while writing your resume, things works on a simple principle these days - if you've got it, you better flaunt it!