When I was first beginning the application processes for graduate schools and full-time jobs, I was spending A LOT of time typing up the necessary documents, like CVs, resumes, and cover letters. At this point, I can find a job I am interested in and can have the application submitted in like 25-45 minutes depending on where the application is going. I used to spend a minimum of 2.5 hours on one. That is a lot of time. Especially if you have 4-5 places you want to complete in one day. Over the past few months, I have spent a lot of time developing several templates of cover letters and resumes that cover different aspects and job opportunities that fit MY needs.
Below is a sample of a template that you can use to develop your basic cover letter.
I have early childhood and counseling experience, so I developed cover letters (and resumes) to reflect the specific experiences and qualities that make me a great candidate for each application. Start basic and then individualize each one you send so that it truly emphasizes what you have to offer for this specific position. This first step into creating templates and then saving each new document you create will save loads of time. At this point, because my applications are very similar in nature, I find myself typing less and copying/pasting more. I am able to change key components because the hard work is already done.
The summary of qualifications section on a resume always seemed a bit daunting. It is often times the first thing they read (the average employer only looking at this document for 10-15 seconds) and so this is truly a key element. It needs to be short, sweet, and absolutely to the point. Sit down and ask yourself what are 4-5 qualities that you possess that help you qualify for this job. Here is an excerpt from one of my resumes:
Seven years experience working with children, providing a creative, outgoing atmosphere based on relationship building and trust. Strong interpersonal and communication skills with ample experience facilitating groups for many ages, with or without set curriculum.
Some of the qualities I wanted to capitalize on were specific amount of combined experience working with children, creative, outgoing, relationship building, communication skills, experience facilitating groups. Once you create a list, then it is much easier to insert those words into a sentence structure. Think of this section as the introduction to what is to come on your resume. Writing the list prior to the small paragraph will not only help you stay focused and concise, but will also save you time on each and every resume.
There are so many good and bad resources on the web that can help with this process. I have found that the best material comes from your own creation. When I am under pressure though, sometimes I can’t find the exact word I want to use. I will sit at the table staring blindly off into space looking for that perfect verb. To give you some idea boosters or eliminate redundancy in your writing, I have found that googling a thesaurus or “action verb list” will give you all of the words your little resume-writing heart will ever desire.
The last bit of advice is one that I need to follow myself: HAVE SOMEONE ELSE PROOFREAD YOUR WORK! I am so so so bad at following this one even though I know it will only benefit me. Once you have seen your own writing so many times, our eyes naturally start to skim the material. We stop seeing the mistakes, even if it is glaringly obvious. By having a peer or colleague read over your work, there will be less errors and it can shave off 20 minutes of your own time.
This post is about quality and efficiency. That is important in resume/cover letter writing. Nobody has time to spend 4 hours perfecting one document, especially when someone will probably only look at it for less than a minute. It needs to be perfect, yes, but I truly hope that these little tips will also help you achieve the same effect in less time.