Standout Cover Letter Gets Your Resume Noticed

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Have you ever wondered why cover letter with resume is particularly important? Should it be sent with the resume even when it is not asked by company?  Do you really need a cover letter while applying for a job? These are few questions which come to mind while sending an application for a job opening.  If you are still unsure about it, learn here the importance of cover letter and how to write an effective one.

First of all, what is a cover letter? Cover letter is a document which you send with your resume to provide additional information on your skills and experience. It basically provides detailed information on why you are fit for the particular job and reasons for your interest in specific organization. It is an opportunity to prove how your skills and experience match with the potential employer’s requirement. Mostly employer receives hundreds of application in response for an open position and a well-written cover letter with resume will distinguish your application.

Your cover letter should be concise but say enough to make a good impression on a prospective employer. It should be one page containing three or four paragraphs. State clearly in your opening sentence the reason for writing the letter. Then use the rest of the letter to support your candidacy. It’s an opportunity to showcase to potential employer why you are a strong candidate and how they can benefit from hiring you by mentioning about your qualifications and achievements, giving examples of work experiences to support your claims and mentioning knowledge of the organization. You should always try to write to a specific individual and include their job title. Do not address your letter to “Dear Sir or Madam.”

It is important to ask somebody to check your grammar, spelling and style as reader will view your letter as a sample of your writing skills.

Here is the general guideline for a cover letter

Your Name
Complete Address
Date
 
Ms Employer’s Name
Vice President
XYZ Company
Complete Address
 

Dear Ms Employer (Address it to a specific Individual)

First Paragraph: Tell why you are writing, name the position or field, in which you are interested, and how you heard of the open position or organization. In a sentence or two express how this position fits with your current career goals or how your unique skills or experience can be beneficial for this open position.

Second Paragraph:  Explain why you are interested in the company (mention some facts about the company) and mention reasons for your interest in this particular job profile. If you have related experience, education or specialized training make sure to highlight it. If you are applying to an ad, it is recommended to use key words (skills, abilities) mentioned in the job description. Emphasize on specific skills, abilities you have with examples that relate to the job. Refer the reader to the enclosed resume, which will give additional information of your qualifications and achievements.

Last Paragraph: Make sure your closing is not passive. Mention about your desire for an interview and you may write that you will follow up in a week or so to request an appointment. Pave the way for a specific action from the reader likely.

Sincerely

Your Name

It is important to do some research on the company before you start writing your cover letter. Many companies on their website have a section ‘Our employees’ or a similar one. In this section they demonstrate the values their employees have and the culture of the company. Among those values, look for the ones that you have and try to demonstrate them in your cover letter. It’s important to personalize your cover letter specific to the job and company you’re applying to and try to make the best use of cover letter by describing additional details which have not been mentioned into single page of your resume.

Reference: Career Development Handbook- MIT

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Aishwarya’s story

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Aish

Having never moved out of South India till 2012, I had an opportunity to come to US in September 2012 as a newly wedded wife on F2 Visa (Dependent of Student). My husband was doing his Post- doctoral program in MIT.  Qualified as a Chartered Accountant (CA) in May 2012 in India, I had an idea of doing CPA in USA which is similar to Indian CA.

Soon as I landed in US, I had to face lots of challenges in the well developed hi-tech country both in terms of my social and personal life. Adding to it, my plan of clearing CPA also had lots of issues. The course of Chartered Accountancy is one of the most prestigious courses in India but it not recognized here in US and like every other commerce graduate I had to go through the pain of evaluating my foreign education with the agencies identified by states. The procedure for enrolling in CPA exam is itself difficult. Every state has different education criterion and before enrolling you have to meet the requirements otherwise you will not be eligible to take the CPA exam.  The first and foremost step is to identify the state that suits you the best according to your education qualifications. Every state has different criterion for eligibility, so you have to decide on the basis of your own research. The following link has the eligibility criterion for every state. http://nasba.org/exams/cpaexam/.

Once the state is identified, the next procedure of evaluating the foreign educational transcript begins. These agencies evaluate whether you have completed the required coursework for the state you are applying. These agencies will directly send evaluation report to the state you applied. If found eligible, you are ready to take the exam, otherwise you have to take accounting courses in the community college. The process for enrolling for CPA is time consuming; it will take on an average of 3-5 months. Sometimes it becomes frustrating as states keep on changing the requirements. Though it was depressing, I still applied for evaluation to NASBA evaluation agency for the state of Massachusetts to find out my eligibility to sit for the exam since I also had a bachelor’s degree in commerce. The response from the evaluation center was also affirmative as they asked me to proceed for my exam application. It was a motivation for me to start my serious preparation for the exams. At the fag end of my preparation, I applied for the exams but my application got rejected. The reason for the negative reply was the requirement of four years bachelor’s degree whereas I had a three years bachelor’s degree in India. That response made me very nervous and discouraging especially after having done two months preparation for my exams. Still, without losing heart, I have applied for another state through FACS (Foreign Academic Credential Service) for the state of Montana where there is no bachelor’s degree requirement. I am waiting for a positive reply from them while keeping my fingers crossed.

 Apart from the urge to do CPA, as a non work-permit holder, I also had an interest in volunteering and freelancing. Very recently my spouse has incorporated a start-up on his own and hence without doing much of research work in freelancing, I voluntarily started exploring my skills and knowledge in his company. It is a mutual benefit for both the company and me since they were also in need of an accountant. With a new and different environment, I find my work to be very interesting and challenging. As of now my life is filled with lot of uncertainties but I hope I am flexible enough for the upcoming changes and challenges so as to utilise my skill and knowledge to the fullest extent.

 Few learning for the spouses on dependent visa:

 1. Have multiple options regarding your career and education before landing US and don’t stick onto only one.

2. “Patience produces roses”. This is true especially if you are in a situation as mentioned above. Being aggressive and in a hurry may not help.

3. Finally enjoy many firsts in US. Relish exciting experiences till your career life gets settled and before it becomes a routine and mechanised life.

Best wishes

Aishwarya

Prerna Dublish’s story

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Prerna

“I will prepare and someday my chance will come”- Abrahim Lincoln

United States of America, the land of opportunities as people call it and how true that is. But one does not tend to feel so when one is in a state of transit and shock. I was one of the many women who had a successful independent livelihood in India. I was working as a Senior Software Engineer in Larsen and Toubro with almost six years of work experience. I had to leave all of it to get the family united as my spouse was doing a Post Doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I was in a state of mixed feelings – on one hand getting to US ushered excitement in me but on the other hand, the very thought of being a “dependent” (Well that’s the name for H4 visa!) shook my confidence.

It’s been almost five months since I have moved to US and I gathered myself very quickly. I wanted to constructively exploit the time I was getting, so got involved in many activities. I started learning Italian language as being multilingual is always beneficial for you and your resume. I also joined Yoga classes and have plans to join dance classes too. As I knew driving is an essential requirement to feel independent in US so I started preparing for my driving license, which requires passing two tests in Massachusetts. These things kept me occupied.

Apart from inculcating my hobbies, I focused on building my technical skills too. There are excellent free courses on sites like edx and coursera. They comprise of lectures, assignments and major projects. Some of them are also certificate courses. I joined a few courses on these portals and soon was so busy that I had my mind occupied all the time and all the negative thoughts started wading away.

Being connected to universities like MIT, Harvard gave me a plethora of opportunities. I accompanied my husband for talks from few of the eminent professors and went for a couple of meets. The next best thing that came to me was the group called MIT Spouses and Partners. I went on day tours with some of the groups there which not only gave me the opportunity to explore Boston but also helped me to gain confidence of traveling alone in this new city. I went for their weekly meetings and gradually started to eagerly wait for these meetings. Meeting people from all across the globe is a wonderful experience in itself and is something I did not do in India. Through these meeting I also made wonderful friends, like Shruti, who guided and shared their experiences of being in USA. Shruti also connected me to some of her contacts. This helped in growing my circle of acquaintance.

Since I have been a part of IT sector for so long, I always yearned to go back to work. However, the time was not right when I came to US as no company was willing to sponsor H1B visa and hence, I had no choice but to wait till next year. At the same time, I was bewildered that not many calls came my way from the job portals where I had uploaded my resume. I knew one of the reasons could be my visa limitation. But, I realized that the other one was the format of my resume itself only after attending one of the sessions conducted by MIT Spouses & Partners. I learned that the protocols followed in US are very different from that in India. And believe me, the moment I made changes to my resume, I started getting lot of calls from employers. This was a big boost in itself. I also worked on my Linkedin profile, an important professional networking site. I would advise all those who are in similar position as I am in, that networking is a very important constituent in US professional world and should be pursued actively.

I am also planning to join a certificate course relevant to my qualification in the coming fall in a University. This will help me bridge my career gap as well as hone my technical skills. Definitely it will be an add-on to my resume too. I also intend to volunteer since it will give me an opportunity to network with people. There are many sites as already discussed by Shruti and Ankita where one can look for volunteer opportunities.

So, I believe, at the end what matters is your attitude. Don’t lose hope and keep yourself focused and patient. Thrive for your ultimate goal of getting a job or higher studies whatever it maybe but don’t waste this break. Enjoy every bit of it. Give time to your hobbies and grow as an individual. Being prepared before coming to US is definitely better but even if you are not, as I was, you can do plenty of things over here. And it’s just a matter of time and commitment when you will start climbing your career ladder again and become an independent professional woman.

Prerna Dublish

Why your resume isn’t helping you to get interview calls?

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Resume Tips

Your resume is the first step to a successful job search and may also be your first chance to make an impression on any recruiter. Hence, it is important to work on your resume format first before looking for a job. Different countries have different resume styles. If you are planning to secure a job in the US, it is important to customize your resume accordingly. Your resume should entail a concise summary of the high points in your education, work experience, skills and other qualifications.

Resume Format

Your resume should not exceed the page limit of one page, single sided.  You can extend the length to two pages only if you have extensive experience (10+ years). Make your resume on 8.5”x 11” paper with 0.5- 1 inch margins on all sides and font size should be 10-12 points. It is safe to use a conservative font, such as Arial or Times New Roman. Usually a recruiter will take between 10-15 seconds to scan your resume so make sure you leave sufficient space to make the page easy to scan.

Resume Content

At the top of the page, put your name, address and phone number. Do not include personal information such as age, gender, marital and health status. It is illegal for recruiters to seek this information in the US. Avoid writing, ‘references are available upon request’. Employers assume that you will provide the information when needed. Back your experience and how you contributed to your organizational goals by citing numbers for example, size and/or scale of projects, budgeting, staff etc. Education and work experience should be ordered chronologically with the most recent at the top. Education should include information about all post secondary institutions attended, degree received along with the dates attended. Work experience should include information about organization name, location, title and duration. At the end of your resume, you are encouraged to add a section about your accomplishments such as honors, awards, foreign languages and relevant skills.

Resume Style

It is strongly recommended not to use first person, I, or any pronouns. Instead use action verbs and strong adjectives to catch the attention of the recruiter. For e.g., Developed and conducted stay and exit interview for 300 shop floor employees. Few examples of action verbs are; analyzed, coordinated, supervised, designed, programmed etc. Try to leave out unnecessary words, sentences, and phrases such as “Responsibilities included/Roles/Hired to. Proofread to eliminate all spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors and also use an English (United States) spell check program.

Tailor Your Resume

Tailor your resume according to the job description. Different jobs have different requirements therefore it is imperative to customize your resume according to the position you are looking for. Try to emphasize on the specific skills required for that particular job. Nowadays, some companies select candidates through online resume scanning technology. They use specific keywords to identify candidates so try and use as many of those necessary words. You can speculate keywords through job requirements and responsibilities.

Reference: Career Development Handbook- MIT