Resumes & Cover Letters

Cover Letters

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is submitted along with your resume to an employer when you are searching for a job. The cover letter provides you with an opportunity to make a good first impression. It should catch the employer’s attention and convince him or her to read your resume. It personalizes your application and shows the employer what you can offer the organization. A cover letter is written in standard business format and is no more than 1 page long.

What Do You Include in a Cover Letter?

A cover letter clearly states the position you are applying for and how you learned about it. Tell the employer why you are best qualified for the position, why you want the position, what you can do for the company once they give you the position, and what you like about the organization. The cover letter does not repeat what is in your resume but highlights the skills, accomplishments and experience that connect your qualifications with the needs of the employer. Your cover letter should then close with a request for an interview, a phone number where you can be reached, and a note of thanks for the employer’s time and consideration.

Some of the things an employer can conclude from your cover letter are whether or not you:

  • Have done your research on the organization
  • Have thought about what you can offer the company
  • Pay attention to details
  • Are organized
  • Take initiative

Each cover letter takes preparation. To start a Cover Letter:

  1. How did you hear about the opportunity? If through a personal contact, write down the name. If through an advertisement, write down where and when you saw it.
  2. List the specific requirements the advertisement says you should have and think about whether or not you can meet all of those requirements.
  3. Think about yourself and your experiences. How can you relate your experience to the organization and job you are applying for? Which of your talents, skills, personality traits, and accomplishments does the organization need to know about?


  • Use the same 10-12 point font style as in your resume (e.g. Times New Roman or Arial)
  • Print your cover letter on the same type of paper you used for your resume (8 ½ X 11, white or neutral paper)
  • Use a standard business style format
  • Address the letter to the specific person in authority. E.g. Dear Mr. Smith
  • Always include the position you are applying for because the company may have more than one position they are hiring for. If there is a competition number include this as well
  • Make sure you have no spelling, punctuation or grammar mistakes (spell the employers name and company name correctly!)
  • Use simple and direct language
  • Make your cover letter brief and to the point
  • Write a different cover letter for each job you are applying for so that each letter responds to the specific requirements of the job
  • State clearly how the employer will benefit from hiring you, highlighting your achievements and special qualities
  • Show that you have an understanding of the position you are applying for and that you are aware of the types of things the company is doing, their values, and/or their objectives. Let them know you are aware of attributes such as their quality service or great reputation in the community
  • Show enthusiasm for the job opportunity without being too aggressive
  • Include a phone number where you can be reached (and where they can leave messages)
  • Include an email address so that they may contact you.
  • Indicate that you can meet with the employer at their convenience
  • Sign your name in blue or black ink
  • Keep a copy of your cover letters and resumes—if you get called for an interview it will be helpful to refer to what you wrote
  • Ask someone to check your cover letter for mistakes
  • And, proofread, proofread, proofread


  • Hand-write your cover letter
  • Use brightly colored paper or a hard to read font
  • Use italics and underlining
  • Use “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam”, “To Whom it May Concern,” Use slang expressions or humour
  • Use photocopies of form letters
  • Use more than 1 page

Action Words

Some words to describe things you've done:

Cut (costs)
Reduced (costs)
Was Promoted


What is a Resume?

A resume is a “selling device” that summarizes your education, skills, experience, and accomplishments. It is a picture of you—a personal advertisement. It gives the employer a quick glance at how you may be able to contribute to their organization.

Why is a Resume Important?

A resume is important because employers use resumes to decide whether or not you have what their organization needs. It is important to have a good resume because it provides the employer with a first impression of you. It only takes a few seconds for your resume to land on either the “rejected” pile or the “to be considered” pile, so it should be written carefully. An effective resume will get you an interview and a successful interview will get you the job.

Where Do I Begin?

Gather information about yourself. Write down all of your education, work, and volunteer experience. Think about the skills you have developed through these experiences. What kinds of work or school projects have you completed that you are very proud of? What kinds of awards have you received and why? What kind of training have you participated in? What can you offer an employer?

Types of Resumes

There is no perfect resume style or format. The best resume for you is one that clearly markets your skills effectively for the type of work you are seeking.

There are 3 basic types of resumes:

  1. Chronological: lists your employment history in order from most recent to least recent
  2. Functional: lists your skills but does not state when or where you used them
  3. Combination: lists both your employment history and your skills

The combination resume is recommended for high school students because it offers the best picture of what you have to offer an employer—even if you feel like you do not have related work experience or higher education.


  • Keep your resume current and accurate
  • Make your resume look as professional as possible—well organized, attractive and easy to read
  • Keep it brief—no more than 2 pages—a summary of your skills, education and experience
  • Use standard professional 10-12 point fonts (e.g. Times New Roman or Arial)
  • Print your resume on good quality, size 8 ½ X 11, white or neutral paper
  • Print on only one side of the page
  • Headings should be bold and capitalized
  • Make sure there is adequate “white space” on the page by leaving at least 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Type your first and last name in full on each page of your resume (bold, capitalized and 2 points larger than the body of your resume)
  • Provide a brief objective statement describing the type of work you are seeking—specific and relevant to the job you are applying for
  • List a minimum of 5 skills (technical skills required to do the job (e.g. operate a cash register, experience with computer technology) and transferable skills which are valuable in many work settings (e.g. problem solving, team work, responsibility, positive attitude, interpersonal skills, etc.))
  • Highlight your accomplishments-- describe how your work benefited former employers (e.g. you improved sales by a certain percentage, made procedures more efficient or developed an innovative program)
  • Include a cover letter
  • Keep a copy of your cover letters and resumes—if you get called for an interview it will be helpful to refer to what you wrote
  • Ask someone to check your resume for mistakes. Make sure you have no spelling, punctuation or grammar mistakes
  • And proofread, proofread, proofread


  • Use brightly colored paper, unusual fonts or graphics (graphics only necessary if applying for a “graphics” position)—it is distracting and makes your resume difficult to read
  • Use italics or underlining—this clutters your resume
  • Use acronyms or short forms (e.g. CHHS)
  • Use a period at the end of any statement—use point form, not full sentence structure
  • Handwrite your resume
  • Fold your resume—store it in a folder or large envelope
  • Use a phone number where the employer cannot leave a message for you
  • Sign or date your resume
  • Use an outdated resume
  • Include too much or too little information
  • Have any spelling or grammar mistakes
  • Lie—employers will check!
  • Say anything negative
  • Include your age, race, physical information, birthdate, Social Insurance Number, or photo
  • Exceed 2 pages—it is a summary of your skills and qualifications—not your life story
  • Include your references—provide these at the interview (you don’t want to give your references phone numbers out to just anybody)


What are References?

References are people with whom the employer can contact and ask about their experience with you. Usually, after an interview and before hiring you, employers will want to check your references. Employers may ask questions about what kind of employee or student you have been. Employers may want to know how dependable and reliable you are. Employers may want to know if you are a good team player and what your strengths and weaknesses are. They also may want to know if your past employers or supervisors would hire you again.

What Do I Need to Know About References?

  • Provide employers with 3 or 4 references. Do not attach your references to your resume or application. Provide your references to an employer at the end of your interview.
  • Do not assume that anybody will be a reference for you. Ask people who you think will say positive things about you to be references for you. You may even want to ask your reference what they would say about you.
  • Every time you are giving your references names out to employers, give your references a quick call to let them know where you have applied, what you might be doing and that they may be getting a call from an employer.
  • Do not give your references out with all of your applications. Respect your references privacy—you do not want to give their names and phone numbers out to everybody and anybody.
  • Do not use family members as references unless you have worked for them. Talk to past employers and supervisors, teachers, coaches, instructors, adult family friends you have done work for, etc.
  • Writing a blurb on how or why your references know you is optional. If you decide to include this kind of information, keep it professional and short. This is an opportunity for you to introduce your references to an employer and also gives the employer an opportunity to prepare specific questions that he or she may want to ask.
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