The Cover Letter Mystery

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

What do I need to include in my cover letter or is it no longer necessary to have a cover letter?

While a cover letter is not required, it definitely is a nice thing to have.  Think of it like the bow on top of a present.  It’s not something that is required, but it brings everything together and makes it look good.  The same can be said for a cover letter, it pulls together your resume, the position you are applying for and why you are interested in the position.

Now that it’s decided a cover letter is a good idea, what all needs to be included?  First and foremost you are going to want to individualize each cover letter for each position that you apply for.  Remember a few posts back when I talked about key words in resumes?  Well, key words are also important in cover letters.  You will want to make sure that you read, read and re-read the job description of the position that you are applying for, highlighting the key skills that are listed.  Once you have the skills highlighted, you will want to incorporate them into your cover letter and how they match up with your experience. 

Another tip with cover letters is to use the same or similar verbiage in your cover letter that was used in the job description.  Often times when recruiters are searching their database of past applicants, they will use verbiage or phrases used in the job description in their search.  Using their verbiage will help to ensure that your resume comes up in their search.

In addition to skills and keywords taken from the job description, be sure to include why you feel you would be a good fit for the position. If the position would require relocation, state why you’re open to relocation.

Now that you know what needs to be included in your cover letter, time to get busy!

To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: or on twitter: resumesurvisldy


Incomplete degree….list it???

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

I’m working on updating my resume since I went back to school and will be completing my Master’s degree within a few months.  My current job was fine while I was going to school, but now I want to find a position more suitable to what I’m going to school for.  How can I add my new education to my degree without “lying” and saying I have a Masters”? 

You definitely want to “get what you paid for” so to speak and let potential employers know about your intentions to graduate shortly with your Master’s degree.  It’s no easy feat to go back to school at any age, especially if you’re working at the same time.

More times than I can count I have come across resumes that state:  “Bachelor degree candidate” leading me to believe the candidate is a few credits short of a degree.  Most times I am disappointed (although I really should no longer be surprised when it happens) to find out the candidate is far from completing their degree with no intention to complete their degree.  I have always felt it best to be completely honest on your resume.  I don’t believe in “smoke and mirrors” as the truth eventually will come out anyways.  You’re looking to build relationships with potential employers and you do not want to give them any reason to not trust you, so be honest.  How you will want to address your soon-to-be Masters degree is as follows:  MBA (anticipated graduation May 2011).  By listing your education in this fashion you are letting your employer know two things.  The first is that you do not yet have your Masters degree, the second is that you are currently pursuing it and plan to graduate shortly.

I cannot stress enough the importance of open and honest communication with any potential employer.  Anything on your resume, in this case the example of how to list education, that could be seen by a potential employer as trying to hide something or as something that might not be entirely truthful will only hurt you in the end.

Online Application Portal or Black Hole?

Did you ever wonder what happens to your resume once you apply to a job?  You finally find the perfect job posting, you’ve read the job description a hundred times and KNOW you can do the job; it’s the dream job you’ve always wanted.  So, you sit down and write a carefully crafted cover letter outlining your skills and how you would be the perfect fit for the job.  You edit your resume to better showcase your skills as they relate to the position.  Finally, after spell and grammar check, a last-minute once over; you submit your resume through the online application portal.  You did it!  You applied!  You just know as soon as the recruiter reads your resume you’re going to get a phone call.  In fact it’s been 15 minutes since you submitted your resume, you should be getting a call any minute….

So, did your resume really go through the application portal or did it enter the proverbial black hole?  More often than not I find that people applying for jobs are not qualified for the position they are applying for.   On average I would say that two-thirds of applicants for any given position are not a fit.  While they may state a good case in their cover letter as to why they would like the job and think they are a good fit for the position; in reality based upon the experience listed on their resume they have no relevant experience and it is really a “dream job.”   As a both a resume writer and a recruiter, I view hundreds of resumes a day and my biggest “pet peeve” is when someone applies to a job that they are not qualified for.  If I specifically state in my job description that the successful candidate MUST HAVE PLC programming experience or a CPA certification, I will only consider candidates that have that experience listed on their resume. 

So, what can you do to increase your chances of making it through the initial screening and getting your resume in front of the hiring manager? Make sure you play close attention the job description of the position you are applying for and have a “real” handle on what your skills and experience are.  Make sure you edit your resume and create a new cover letter for each position.  Utilize key words found in the job description and work them in to your resume.  If the job description states that a requirement is to have PLC programming and troubleshooting experience, detail that not only in your cover letter, but also in your resume giving specifics as to what types of PLC’s and what your responsibilities were.  If the position requires a CPA certification and an MBA, again, list it.

Lastly, never be afraid to seek out and contact the company for follow-up if you haven’t heard anything about your application after a week.  It is perfectly acceptable to call or email to verify that your application has been received and to ask what the process is for resumes to be reviewed.

Good luck!

Send questions regarding resumes and job hunting to: