Saturday, February 07, 2004

Let's talk about resumes...

Being the contact person for my school's teacher recruitment process, I see all the cover letters and resumes before anyone else does. After reading so many applications, I should sell my services as a resume consultant - but I'm gonna give away my advice for free!

1. Length does matter. Single-page resumes really ARE best; 2 page resumes are okay; more than that shows a lack of ability to decide what's important. Whatever you do, don't go on to a second page for only a few extra lines or for your high school summer jobs!

2. Find the most anal person you know and have them copy edit your work. Then have the next most anal person you know do it again. I am the most anal person I know. Spelling and grammar errors stand out off the page for me; they are the first thing I see. (I know, I know: I've made my share of mistakes in this blog... but this is a hobby, not a job application). One little typo won't knock you out of consideration with me, but believe me, I will see it. More than one will start to reflect badly on your standards of work. Grammar errors are even worse than typos, because I don't want to hire anyone to teach my kids who doesn't have excellent written communication skills. Teaching is all about communication, after all!

3. Make your objective concise and precise, or excise it from your resume! And for heaven's sake, let me know what position you are interested in, even if only one position is open. Do not waste my time with "to obtain a position where I can use my skills, grow as a person, and help people" - that's what everyone wants! I'd much rather read "To obtain a position teaching Physical Science" - this tells me something I don't already know. Furthermore, it reflects on you: a vague objective makes you seem flaky, while a specific objective makes you seem goal-oriented. Best of all: "To obtain an Earth Science teaching position where I can share my passion for plate tectonics, astronomy, and climate science with middle school students."

4. Sell yourself. Do not apologize for anything in your cover letter or resume. Use a confident, but not over-confident, tone in your writing. Think about what I'm looking for (read the job posting closely!), think about what you have to offer (even if you're fresh out of college or new to the profession), and write a cover letter that emphasizes why I need what you have. Trust me, I will notice any gaps in experience without you pointing them out to me! I want to know why you think you should get this job. I will give you a chance to explain any problems in your interview, but only if you get an interview - and for that, you need to make a powerful case for yourself. But don't write fiction.

5. Customize your cover letter (and possibly your resume) for the position. That doesn't mean you have to write a brand new letter for every job, but make sure you don't send me a letter addressed to someone else, or seeking a babysitting or tutoring position when I'm looking for a teacher... Take an extra 10 minutes or hour to tailor your application to this particular job. That's really just another aspect of #4, selling yourself well.

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