Workshop teaches students skills in writing résumés, cover letters

BY ELIZABTEH MCMAHON ’13
Senior Staff Writer

The Office of Student & Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD) held an in-person résumé and cover letter workshop in Booth Ferris, Thursday. A wide variety of students from all grade levels attended the event, which featured a talk by Joe Gebbie, director of employment partnerships, and Stephanie Kessler, student development advisor.

Gebbie and Kessler described in detail how to write both a résumé and a cover letter. One of the first things Gebbie pointed out was the difference between graduate school résumés and job résumés.

“Grad school résumés tend to tell absolutely everything you’ve done…everything,” Gebbie said.

This includes any clubs the student participated in, conferences attended, and anything and everything the student did while in college. Job résumés are more about the more relevant information that relates specifically to the job for which one is applying.

The first half of the presentation focused on résumés and how to create them.

“[Hiring managers] only have about 20 seconds to look at your résumé,” Gebbie said. “To tell you the truth, it’s only about five.”

This means a candidate’s résumé needs to stand out from the very first second. There are several steps one can take to make this true, according to Gebbie.

The first thing is to take a good look at the job description.

“You’re going to print it out, the job description, and you’re going to use a highlighter and highlight the main points in the description,” Gebbie said.

Doing this allows the candidate to see the types of words the employer is using and to use these on his or her own resumé. For example, if “leadership” is mentioned frequently in the description, make sure it is also all over the resumé.

“There are some companies that use actual programs that scan resumés and look for key words,” Kessler said.

Therefore, a person might never even look at a student’s resumé if he or she does not tailor it to the specific job opening.

After reading the job description, it is time to start formatting and creating the resumé for that job. One of the most important rules is to not use a template; according to Gebbie, these are problematic. Instead, use a blank word processing document and come up with a unique format.

“Your name should be a different size, but other than that the whole resumé has to be the same font and size,” Gebbie said. “Make sure you order the sections in interest to your reader and create relevant section titles.”
There is also no reason for a student’s resumé to be longer than one page, and he or she should always use action verbs and leave out the words “my” or “I.”

“[Do not include] high school on your resumé,” Gebbie said. “The only few reasons you might put high school on your resumé are if the person you are [submitting your resumé] to went to the same high school or if you are applying for a job in, say, New York, and you went to a very prestigious high school in New York that everyone knows — then you can put it on your resumé.”

Kessler added that first or second-year students could also put high school on their resumés since they do not have a lot of college material yet.

Another thing to consider putting on a resumé is study abroad. Half of F&M students study abroad, and this sets F&M apart from other colleges where the percentages are much lower.

“Study abroad tells the reader that you are adaptable, that you are willing to take some risks, and that you’re willing to put yourself in a situation where you may be uncomfortable,” Kessler said.

The final discussion for the resumé portion of the lecture was about the STAR system. This assists in the forming of bullet points. S is for situation (what society, school, etc. and when), T is for task, A is for action, and R is for result. Gebbie and Kessler insist on using this method to form bullet points on a resumé.

Next was an abbreviated cover letter portion of the lecture. The cover letter gives the applicant the opportunity to talk in his or her own voice and link his or herself on a personal level to the job. Even if the description does not ask for a cover letter, it is still a good idea to put in the extra effort.

“If there’s a space for the cover letter, put it in,” Gebbie said.

An important thing to note is when applying to a job via email, the email essentially acts as a cover letter with the resumé as the email attachment.

A cover letter should address a specific person and should not say “To Whom it May Concern.” There is always a way to find the name of a person in the company. Gebbie suggests calling and asking for the name of the head of Human Resources. The letter should also have a beginning, middle, and end, and it should be used to tell a story with specific examples. Do not be overly arrogant, and focus on action verbs.

It is important to proofread both the cover letter and the resumé. Take it to the Writing Center and have the tutors look it over or ask a friend to read through it, Gebbie and Kessler suggest. One can also try reading it out aloud or reading it backwards to focus on the grammar.

The OSPGD aims to help students prepare both their cover letters and their resumés. Students should use this office for assistance in whatever they need.

On Tuesday, March 5 the office is sponsoring a job fair in the College Center and the Roschel Lobby from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Many companies will be there looking for eager F&M students to work for them or to be interns.

A bit of advice from Gebbie: “For the job fair itself, bring a general resumé. But only a couple — these days people don’t say ‘I’ll take your resumé,’ they’ll say ‘here’s my card, email it to me.’”

Questions? Email Elizabeth at emcmahon@fandm.edu.

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