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The Career Coach: Cover Letter and Resume Tips

Don't let your cover letter and resume become another piece of "junk mail." The cover letter is a sales tool - use itto sell your knowledge, skill and experience. Make it clear that you understandthe needs and goals of the company and that you can hit the ground runningwhen you are hired...

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am a hardworking, fast learner and want to get an entry level job in the computer animation or visual effects industry. I have taken classes in computer graphics and am ready to start at any position. I'm sure I can be an asset to your company.

I look forward to working with you soon."

This cover letter is like junk mail. It says nothing about you and will not help you get the job. Many people think they need to include cover letters with their resumes. Cover letters like this one get tossed aside. The only good thing about this cover letter is that it is brief and has no spelling errors.

Cover letter tips:

1. Cover letters should be addressed to a specific person in the company.

It should be original (not a form letter) and demonstrate some knowledge of the company. It should indicate that you have researched the company to some degree. Since few applicants do any research, this will make you stand apart from the crowd.

2. Cover letters should be concise.

Don't be vague or general--express interest in a particular position, not "a job in the computer industry." You must know what job you are applying for and what specific skills or experience you can bring to that job.

The cover letter should impress the recipient with your focus and reasons for wanting the job. It should be well organized and have correct spelling and grammar. Ask a friend to proofread it for you. Make sure the phone number is correct.

The cover letter is a sales tool--you are selling your knowledge, skill and experience to the company. Explain, in one paragraph, what you can do for the company. Make it clear that you understand the needs and goals of the company and that you can hit the ground running when you are hired.

3. Cover letters can be used to highlight:

  • a personal connection or some common ground with the recipient
  • a referral by someone in the company or the industry
  • special skills or expertise--the advantage the company will gain if they hire you

4. Cover letters should be:

  • specific and clear
  • brief
  • easy to read

5. Cover letters are:

  • sales tools, part of your marketing package
  • usually not read or kept with the resume, especially if they are too long

6. Use cover letters to:

  • clarify what you are offering the company, if it isn't clear from your resume
  • explain a career change or to clarify special circumstances

If you have a one page resume, copy double sided with cover letter--"See my resume on back of this cover letter"

Back in August I wrote about resumes. There are a few more resume tips I'd like you to know:

List your experience in reverse chronological order--most recent job first (at the top) and work backwards from there. I recently got a resume from someone whose work experience started with his experience as a delivery person for a florist. On the second page, he finally mentioned his most recent job--an animator at a major studio. When you first see this resume, you think it is someone fresh out of school, with an interest in getting an entertainment job, not a veteran in the industry.

Resumes are marketing tools. Their purpose is to help you get an interview. You should not put your entire life history on it. Emphasize your accomplishments. Try to keep it to one page but if it is multiple pages, make sure your name and phone number is on every page.

When applying for a job, don't email your web address and expect anyone to go there to look up your resume. They usually won't. If you are emailing someone your web site address, be courteous and at least email them a copy of your resume. Don't expect someone else to do work to help you get work.

If you want to be sure someone gets your emailed resume, send it as a message rather than as a an attachment that must be downloaded. Not everyone has the same software as you, and many people don't download attachments. Sure you might lose formatting, but the chances are they received it. The best way to submit a resume is by fax or mail. Do not include graphics on your resume. They don't fax or copy well and can obscure important information.

Don't include personal information on your resume or in your cover letter, including a photo, marital status, sexual orientation, age, health, religion, ethnic background, race, or disabilities. In the United States, employers are forbidden by law to ask questions about them in advance of offering a job and they have nothing to do with your qualifications for the job.

Be sure your name and current phone number (with correct area code) is on your resume. Include your email address too, if you have one. It's pointless to send a resume to someone if they can't reach you. I've received many emailed resumes with no phone number.

Make sure your resume and cover letter do the job to get you work.

If you have a question you would like answered in this column, let us know.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter and career coach who has rewritten many resumes and cover letters. She is currently recruiting for Big Idea Productions, Stan Lee Media and She will be moderating a panel on resumes, demo reels and portfolios at ASIFA's Animation Expo on March 4. For more info on that event see