Tips for job-winning resumes, cover letters from MCC Career Services

Commencement is just days away (May 16), and some Metropolitan Community College students are already preparing their resumes for the job hunt.

It’s not as easy as it seems. You want to effectively translate your experience and abilities to fit the jobs you are applying for.

But there’s a valuable resource ready to help MCC students make their resumes shine. There’s a Career Services office on each of the five campuses.

Their job is to help prepare students for the workforce, and creating an impressive resume is one of the services they offer. Here are some tips from the MCC experts.

1. No experience? Create some

Starting out, many students don’t have much experience to share. But Maggie Garcia, Career Services coordinator at MCC-Longview, says how you use your time on campus can make a big difference. “Take a part-time job, find an internship or volunteer. Push yourself out of your comfort zone,” she suggests.

Garcia says lunch-and-learns, workshops and job fairs are just a few great ways to meet people and to find ways to get more experience for your resume. Students might also consider a job at MCC.  Campus jobs range from office assistant and IT positions to tutoring and being a lab assistant.

2. Show a match between you and the job
Maggie Garcia

Use the job description to determine which information is best for you to include, Garcia says.

“I suggest that students print the job description and go through and highlight all of the skills and qualifications the company is looking for” to see how that aligns with the student’s experience. That’s a good starting point for building a resume.

And back to experience — even if you don’t have work or volunteer experience in your chosen profession, you probably do have transferable skills.  The people in MCC’s Career Services offices can help you identify them.

3. Your resume makes an impression of its own

Garcia says to ask yourself, “What impression would someone get from reading my resume if they’d never met me?”

Spelling and grammatical errors may suggest you don’t pay attention to details. Also, make sure your email address and voicemail greeting are professional. Get a LinkedIn account. Career Services staff can help you create one.

A Career Services office can look over your resume for you. No need for a face-to-face appointment; you can email your resume for the staff to review.

4. Not every job has to go on your resume

If you have had a lot of jobs, take a close look at them. Identify on your resume which were temporary positions such as seasonal jobs, internships or volunteer opportunities, Garcia says. You can leave off jobs you held more than 10 years ago.

5. Include a cover letter even if it’s optional
Tatia Shelton

Not every application requires a cover letter. Still, Tatia Shelton, Career Service coordinator at MCC-Blue River and MCC-Business & Technology, always encourages students to include one.

“This shows the employer that you are willing to do more than just the bare minimum that is required,” Shelton says.

A cover letter can tell your story in more detail than your resume.

“The cover letter allows more of your personality to show through,” she says. “It allows you to differentiate yourself and focus on what you can provide to the company.”

6. Points to cover in that cover letter

There are three parts. The first paragraph should explain how you and the employer are connected, Shelton says. Mention the position you are applying for and how you heard about it. If someone referred you, mention that here. More companies are relying on referrals in the hiring process.

Which brings us to the second paragraph, the most critical part. “This is where the writer can talk about the relevant accomplishments they have as it relates to the position.”

Students need to address the employer’s specific needs and make direct references to points in the job posting. Shelton says a good cover letter can cause an employer to review a resume more closely or give the candidate more consideration during the hiring process.

Shelton says the third paragraph is a call to action.

“The goal is to suggest what is to happen next. Ask for a face-to-face interview. Make sure they know the best way to reach you. Even though this is on your resume, make it easy for them to access the information.”

A cover letter doesn’t repeat your resume. But it’s a chance to go into greater detail about your skills and experience. It’s also a place to address long gaps between jobs due to illness, parenting responsibilities or even a career transition.

7. One cover letter does not fit all

Craft a new one for each job application. “A good cover letter is targeted and sincere,” Shelton says. Pay attention to proper formatting, spacing, good grammar and punctuation. Proofread it! It’s obvious when someone takes the time to write a good letter.

8. Don’t forget to follow up

This is always a good idea, but even more so if you applied online — you can check to make sure your application was received. Sometimes you can talk with someone in the hiring department. “Anytime you can do that,” Shelton says, “you have an opportunity to make a good impression.”