Resume and Cover Letter FAQ
by Kevin Donlin
Here are four of the most frequently asked questions I'm hearing, with answers based on my 13 years of writing and hiring experience ...
Q. The job posting asks for a salary history. Should I send one?
A. No -- that's a job interview question.
This is a bit controversial, but I say "No." Reason? Salary is a job interview question. Employers will ask you for a salary to see if you're overqualified (making too much) or under-qualified (not making enough). So answering this question will only put you OUT of the running for some jobs. Although some employers may pitch your resume and cover letter if you don't answer their salary questions, those aren't companies you really want to work for, in my view.
If your resume paints a picture of you as someone who delivers tremendous value on the job, salary will become a secondary consideration to employers.
Q. How important is a cover letter? I normally don't include one when emailing resumes.
A. Some hiring professionals place great emphasis on the cover letter and some don't. To be safe, it's a good idea to include a cover letter, whether you're e-mailing, faxing or using traditional mail to deliver your documents.
Your cover letter should quickly make it clear that you have the right skills and experience for the job, especially you're coming from another industry.
(Side note: if you're really hot for a job, consider sending your resume and cover letter by FedEx -- it's the only envelope in the history of the world that is ALWAYS opened by its intended recipient.)
Q. How can I e-mail my resume correctly?
A. For best results, send your resume INSIDE and ATTACHED to your e-mail. That way, even if you have Windows and the employer has a Mac, for example, you're sure that your documents can be read.
Follow these steps before e-mailing your resume to employers:
1. Copy and paste the text of your resume and cover letter into the body of an e-mail.
2. Attach the document (in Word or WordPerfect) to the e-mail.
3. Send a test message to yourself and a friend, to see how the whole thing will look and print -- if it's a mess, adjust and test until it works.
Q. How long should my resume be? One page or two?
A. There's no law against two-page resumes, especially for folks with 10 or more years of experience, or those in highly technical careers. I've done two-page resumes for recent college grads who had to list computer languages, certifications and other details.
But if your resume is two pages long, it should be a compelling read. Put your most valuable selling points near the top of page one. Summarize as needed and remember that you can always elaborate during a job interview.
There you have it! Four of the most commonly asked questions on resumes and cover letters in today's job market.
Kevin Donlin owns and operates Guaranteed Resumes. Since 1995, he has provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients. He is the author of The Last Guide to Cover Letter & Resume Writing You'll Ever Need, a do-it-yourself manual with sample cover letters and resumes.