Resumes, References & Cover Letters

Build that Resume 

This is your marketing tool and your gateway to an interview.  Your resume sells you.  The person you send your resume to doesn't know you but reading your resume will give them a good idea who you are and what you can bring to the job.  Your resume will only be as good as what you make it to be.  Put a lot of thought into how you want to advertise yourself.  Prepare the following information:


      Contact information:  This includes your name (first, middle initial and last), complete home address (don't abbreviate anything), City, State and Zip code.  Include your home phone number, cell phone number and email address.  (Make sure your email address is appropriate and not crazy or nasty sounding.)  Sample

      Objective:  For young people starting out, it is appropriate to add an objective at the top of the resume so the prospective employer knows exactly what you want and you've carefully thought about your resume's purpose.  Sample

       Education:  Since you're not in college yet, you'll list Merrillville High School.  Don't list any schools earlier than high school.  You'll want to add your anticipated graduation date, GPA (if over 2.8) and academic accomplishments here.  If you have a Work Keys certificate, list it.  If you've taken AP and/or CTE classes, state that also.  If you've completed an internship or received industry certifications, list those, too.  Sample

      Experience:  This is where you'll list all the work experience you've had.  If you've had a part time already, great!  If not, what have you done this far in your life?  Babysitting?  Mowing lawns?  Painting? Tutoring?  Any work experience, paid or not, is valuable.  Sample 

      Skills:  These are things you've learned to do successfully.   They include:  time management, prioritizing, computer skills, problem solving, etc.  Only list the things in which you are strong because if you get an interview, they will ask you for examples of those skills. Sample

      Volunteer/Community Service:  List those charitable activities/eents where you have volunteered for at school or in your community.  Employers always like to see candidates who see the value in giving back. Sample

     References:  NEVER, EVER put references on an application OR on your resume.  Your resume could be passed around several people and you don't want those precious people to have their personal information exposed to just anyone.  (Remember the identity fraud issue we talked about in filling out an application?)   Instead, just add at the bottom of the resume "References available upon request".  Sample



Choose a simple template to use for your resume or create one yourself.  Don't use designs or multi-colors because they're distracting and frivolous.  The hiring manager reviewing your resume just wants the facts, only the facts. At most, maybe a simple thin color bar should decorate your resume.

- Carefully type your resume.  There should be no punctuation, spelling or alignment errors.  This document makes the first impression and you don't want the person reading it to think less of you because it's not perfect.  Have someone proofread it.  Little things like having one space after a comma and two spaces after the state abbreviation or colons can make or break your resume.  Remember, this first written expression of yourself needs to make an great impression on the person who is considering hiring you.

- Make it perfect!  If you don't care enough to make sure it's perfect, someone else will and first impressions can mean everything!

- Be 100% honest.  Do not fudge information or lie on your resume.  Find creative words and phrases that highlight your abilities and accomplishments instead.  Again, if you lie on your resume, you can be fired even if you've been in that job for a long time.

-What are you using your resume for?  For a job at McDonald's?  A job in the fast food industry?  Any job at all?  Like marketing products, the advertisement must be geared toward that product.  If you are applying for a job in a restaurant, make sure your resume is made for a restaurant job.  These means that you will probably make several different resumes - just make sure you keep a copy of each one so you can remember what company has which resume you sent.   


Reference Sheet  


Your reference sheet is powerful and needs to be protected.  It has personal information on it from some of the most important people in your life.  Never put their names and contact information on an application or a resume.  Make a separate document and ONLY give it to the person who asks for it during the job interview.  It's easier if you use the same form you used for your resume so you don't have to re-type all of your contact information at the top again.  And, when your reference sheet matches your resume, it looks nicer and can easily be kept together.


     References:   Who do you add here?  Down the line, about 10 years from now, you'll want to have a total of six (6) references:  Two superiors, two subordinates and two peers.  Students starting out in the employment world need to have at least three (3) references.  NONE of them should be relatives or your friends, unless your relative actually owned a business and paid you to work there.  Instead, use teachers, counselors, friends of the family, your pastor, neighbor or other people in the professional sector.  But always ask them first if you can use them as a resume.  They may not want you to put their name on your reference sheet.

     Personal Information:  You'll want to put their full name (and title, if they have one), their current occupation, address (no abbreviations), city, state and zip code.  Add phone numbers (home and cell) and email address.  Providing as much contact information for each of your references will make it easier for the hiring manager to easily reach them.  If that hiring manager gets frustrated in not being able to contact your references, he/she may decide to look at your competition instead.   See sample

    What references should say:  Of course, you want to add people who will only say nice things about you and the hiring manager obviously knows this, too.  But the hiring manager isn't looking for someone who dresses fashionably and smiles all the time.  The hiring manager is looking for someone who has good work ethics and can bring something to the company.  They're looking for people who can...1)  show up on time 2) dress and speak appropriately and 3) pass a drug test.  Most companies prefer to train you but need to make sure that you can be trained.     


Cover Letter


When sending your resume either by snail mail or online, prepare a professional cover letter to introduce yourself and pique curiosity of the person who gets to read it.  Remember, this is your first impression so the cover letter needs to be perfect!  

- Using either block or modified block style (see samples below), write a letter that has seven (7) parts:  Date, Inside Address (theirs, not yours), Salutation, Content, Closing, Signature and Attachment/Enclosure.  

- Every word must be spelled correctly and correct punctuation is a necessity.  Try not to abbreviate anything except Mr. or Mrs.  

- Also call the business ahead of time and ask to whom you send your resume to and make sure that person's name is spelled correctly on the letter.  

- Remember that others are trying to get this job too and if you don't care enough to make sure your work is absolutely perfect, someone else will care and that person is the one who will be hired because they put more effort into it and will be recognized for that.




The first paragraph should explain what position you are applying for and how you heard about it.   The second paragraph should tell the business what you know about them (because you did some research on them BEFOREHAND) and why you want to work there.  The third paragraph should be just a little something about yourself (don't repeat what's in the attached resume) that will make them want to turn the page and actually look at your resume.  You need to be clever because these are your personal Marketing tools.  You need to market yourself in a professional manner.


Lastly, don't copy the wording in these samples and use as your own - that's plagiarism.  Use the formats but let your resume, reference sheet and cover letter be exclusively YOUR work.   






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