Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #747 - Five Important Things About Résumé and Cover Letter Writing

funny visual but the sign should read résumé not resume.
Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #745 - Five Important Things About Résumé and Cover Letter Writing

Hi Mom,

So, Mom, first, a disclaimer. I have written this blog entry for my students at Park University in the business communications course I teach. However, I am likely to recommend it to students in other classes as all of them, at some point, will look for a job.

This entry is also a means for me to do research, bot to update what I research for teaching this subject, but also for my own job search, which is about to go into over drive.

I researched this subject extensively in the late 1980s to write an instructive software program. But a lot has changed since the '80s.


Another caveat/disclaimer: when we (any of us in the world) write about résumés and cover letters, we have to be aware that there's no universal truth here. There are no consistent "rules" for creating one's résumé or drafting a strong cover letter. The government, specifically the military, wants to to see the antiquated and quite dysfunctional chronological style résumé. I just had some students tell me that they have always sorted résumés with color into the "no" pile when reviewing applicants. Likewise, I have just had professionals in the industry tell me that my own résumé is too 1980s and that I should use the best techniques available if I am going to apply for work in the computer science field. If I am going to claim I know how to work the tools, then I need to show that I can work the tools. Walk the walk, you know?

I had some students just tell me that not only do they not write cover letters in jobs for which they apply, but that when they get to select candidates they also sort out those with cover letters. They feel only the résumé is necessary. Furthermore, many people feel that a résumé must be one page and one page only, despite the overwhelming school of thought among professionals that two pages is both standard and necessary, and after an illustrious career of even ten years, probably, two pages is too short for a complete résumé with nice design so it does not feel cramped and too full. Obviously, this logic about pages does not apply CVs for which there are fewer rules and more tolerance for length.


One of the most important documents you will ever write is your résumé.

Your résumé is a lot of work.

If done right, a résumé is a constantly evolving process, a series of documents, and a huge time investment to study, refine, and create multiple versions. If only I had world enough and time for everything I want to do with my résumé......
[ref: link: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44688/to-his-coy-mistress]

And yet, the résumé is one of the documents that people often slap together in a few minutes, often when sitting with a recruiter in a job placement office. More people spend minimal time on résumés than people who spend the recommended oodles of hours.

And let's be clear: résumé.

See those accent marks?

Not resume. The word "resume" means to begin again. The word résumé represents your job application document. Unless you're in a profession that expects a CV (curriculum vitae), and then aren't you just the Fancy Pants?


Take that in. I am not even punctuating around it.

Just save the word in a text document and copy it as needed. That's what I do. I can never remember how to make those super script marks.

**These only work if you have a keyboard with the number pad.**
Hold down alt key and type number on number keypad on right of key board. It does not work with numbers at top of keyboard!

Here’s some nifty codes.

á = Alt + 0225

é = Alt + 0233

But who remembers that?

Partly, this post serves my own purposes to get a new career in coding, so there's links like this one - http://www.infoworld.com/article/2919150/it-careers/6-examples-of-effective-it-resumes.html.

But both in teaching the subject of résumés and cover letters.

The IT Makeover article for résumés pretty much sums up what I was trying to teach, and the samples to be found on OVERLEAF  – some CVs, some letters, and some résumés – shows the rest.

Here's a quick list of ratings:

Cover Letters = okay. (some say required)
Color in résumé = very okay.
résumé Design = VERY OKAY.
White space in résumé = essential.

I strongly urge you to explore OVERLEAF


And how to use LaTex to make résumés and other documents.

3. What is LaTex?

LaTeX – A document preparation system

LaTeX is a high-quality typesetting system; it includes features designed for the production of technical and scientific documentation. LaTeX is the de facto standard for the communication and publication of scientific documents. LaTeX is available as free software.


LaTeX online services like PapeeriaOverleafShareLaTeX, and Datazar offer the ability to edit, view and download LaTeX files and resulting PDFs.
LaTeX, which is pronounced «Lah-tech» or «Lay-tech» (to rhyme with «blech» or «Bertolt Brecht»), is a document preparation system for high-quality typesetting. It is most often used for medium-to-large technical or scientific documents but it can be used for almost any form of publishing.

LaTeX is not a word processor! Instead, LaTeX encourages authors not to worry too much about the appearance of their documents but to concentrate on getting the right content

This is what a résumé looks like with LaTex (forgive the double entry between image #1 and #2. I wouldn't get a perfect match.)

I found this sample on OVERLEAF. Technically, it could be considered a CV.


For years, I have taught the DAMN GOOD method for résumés and cover letters. But I was recently told it's too 1980s. Still, many of the lessons can be extracted and updated for more modern looking résumés. More of this in the next entry I devote to this subject. But first the most important thing of all: THE SCAN FACTOR.

There is a wide variety of advice out there and much of it conflicts.

Some people have told me not to use ALL CAPS for emphasis and others (as seen below) have told me to use it. I always recommended bold, underlining, and italics for emphasis, but according to the image below (from Résumés For Dummies), bold and other font effects muddled OCR. But machine scanning will not be an issue for everyone.

4. Résumé  - SCAN FACTOR

Okay, so, first of all, there appears to be a company called SCAN FACTOR who is working to streamline career fair experiences with an app that allows people to scan a badge to collect or share résumés and business cards rather than dealing with so much paper. The system works with LINKED IN, too, which is a nice integration.

So, the Google search for "résumé scan factor" turns up that company first.

Though there are many differing opinions on how to construct a résumé in terms of style, organization, and design much of which varies by industry or by personal preference of those who think they know best, one truth is universal: a résumé must scan and scan quickly. Hence, my term SCAN FACTOR.

Give your résumé a SCAN FACTOR.

The bottom line of résumé writing is that IF an actual person looks at your résumé, you have 4-10 seconds to make an impression and get sorted into the "yes" pile (or a "maybe" pile if that person uses a "maybe" pile for résumés that deserve a second look). The articles I found in my first search estimated either six or ten seconds for a look and a decision.

What you will find if you follow this same thread of research is that there are wildly varying opinions on résumé design, organization, and content. But regardless of what approach you choose to take with your résumé, a universal concept is that when a human looks at it, it's not going to be read: it's going to be scanned. So if you have fewer then ten seconds to make an impression, your résumé must scan easily, efficiently, and provocatively.

A warning about reading on the Internet: though this concept may be obvious, just because one finds something in an article on the web does not make it legitimate, valid, or even true. Come on, it's the Internet. I may at some point source all these articles, but for now, I simply remind myself that I don't know most of these source or writers.

The first link recommends the Harvard format, which I will explore in a future post, but the post does emphasize use of sections well differentiated, which aids scanability.

The article on the MUSE, which is a well known resource, makes many good recommendations to help humans scan the page from selective use of bold to a separate skills section and smart use of white space. Career one stop repeats much of this same advice: white space, selective use of bold, bullets, headings - easy to scan. The ladders recommends the summary of skills that I promtoe as well, though I prefer the HIGHLIGHTS OF QUALIFICATIONS section at the top as a master summary.

The hloom. com site has a nice write up with advice and some decent templates, though not as rich, innovative, and well-designed as those on OVERLEAF.

Spherion shares the idea of "WOW factors," which I like. But Brad Remillard's article from impacthiringsolutions.com dismisses "functional" résumés -- he doesn't read them -- but then he can't spell résumé and writes resume throughout his article, so we can dismiss him as a moron.

Lastly, insights.dice.com does a "heat" analysis of hot zones for the eyes when a human scans a page. This is a good idea to ponder when making the résumé scanably friendly.

However, you interpret all this advice, however you decide to organize, there's going to be people who do not like your résumé simply because of arbitrary and stupid biases. But if you put yourself in the reader's shoes and think about a reader skimming over your résumé, make it give the impression you want it to give, make it so your key attributes stand out in some way, make it easy to digest so that it saves the reader's time, because time is money and saving time always builds goodwill.











The first sentence of your cover letter is critical to whether the rest of it gets read or even skimmed.

If you start with the standard "I am applying to the job #### from your posting on Monster..." if a human tries to read that, it's likely that the human will not be impressed.

All the choices you make when applying for jobs are gambles. It's impossible to predict biases. In some industries, you may not even need a letter. In others, the opening is not going to matter. But if you need an attention-getting opener, the "I am applying for" type starter is not going to work and is not going to be your best foot forward.

So, I found this article - https://www.themuse.com/advice/31-attentiongrabbing-cover-letter-examples.

It shares exactly what I was trying to tell my students about cover letters.

The opening is the most important part of the letter.

It's your chance to get that job. It's the first impression, your introduction.

Often hiring managers skim the résumé, and then start to read the letter.

This article steers applicants away from the cookie cutter openings.

Try these ideas!! (There's more examples in the article if you click the link.)

Start With a Passion

If truly loving data is wrong, I don’t want to be right. It seems like the rest of the team at Chartbeat feels the same way—and that’s just one of the reasons why I think I’d be the perfect next hire for your sales team.

Start With Your Love for the Company

It was Rudy, my Golden Retriever, who first found the operations assistant opening (he’s really excited about the prospect of coming to work with me every day). But as I learned more about Zoosk and what it is doing to transform the mobile dating space, I couldn’t help but get excited to be part of the team, too.

Start With an Attribute or Accomplishment

Over the last 10 years, I’ve built my career on one simple principle: Work smarter. I’m the person who looks for inefficient procedures, finds ways to streamline them, and consistently strives to boost the productivity of everyone around me. It’s what’s earned me three promotions in the supply chain department at my current company, and it’s what I know I can do as the new operations analyst for SevOne.

Start With Humor or Creativity

Have you ever had your mom call five times a day asking for a status update on how your job search is going, and then sounding incredulous that not more progress has been made since the last phone call? That’s my life right now. But I’m hoping that soon my life will revolve around being your full-time social media manager. The good news is, I bring more to the table than just an overbearing mom. Let me tell you more.


If I could get students to internalize these two main ideas then I would count my work in teaching
résumés and cover letters as a success: create a well designed résumé with a scan factor and start your letter with an attention-grabbing, value-driven, smart opener that wins you the job in that first sentence or three.

When I started writing this entry, I had five other things to say about résumés and cover letters and then this post evolved. I stashed away some of the other remarks in another post to continue this discussion later.

For now, here's my emphasis:

- résumé with a scan factor

- attention grabbing letter opener

Thanks for reading.


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 749 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1707.23 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.
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