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Career Connections: Resume & Cover Letter Q&A

Do I Need To Customize My Resume To The Job?

  • Your resume should showcase your key skills, experiences, and education.
  • If you are applying for multiple, similar jobs with different employers you may be able to do so with only making minor or no changes.
  • Ultimately, whether or not you are getting interviews should help you determine if you are doing enough to tailor your resume to the jobs you want.

What Is Applicant Tracking Software? What Does It Do?

  • Applicant Tracking Software or Applicant Tracking System(s) (ATS) serve a number of purposes for organizations throughout the lifecycle of the hiring process. For job applications, ATS can be used to sort information in your application materials and/or scan them for the presence of key words and phrases, determined by the employer.
  • Applications that meet the threshold of a determined number of those key words or phrases may then reviewed by an employee of the hiring organization to determine if you will be offered an interview.
  • Employers use ATS to automate and streamline the application hiring process.

What Are Ways I Can Optimize My Resume For Applicant Tracking Software?

How Much Work Experience Should I Include?

Generally speaking, approximately your last 10 years of work experience.

Should I Include My High School Education?

It depends on you and your education to this point.

  • If you are currently enrolled in high school, a high school equivalency diploma (HSED) program, or general education development (GED) program, or if this is the highest level of education your completed, it is acceptable to include this on your resume.
  • If you completed high school and are enrolled in post-secondary education (education or training after high school) or have already completed that, you do not need to list your high school education on your resume.
    • Instead, list your post-secondary education or training (College, University, Apprenticeship Program, etc.) in the Education section of your resume.
    • If you are enrolled in or completed post-secondary education, it is implied that you obtained your high school diploma, HSED, or GED.

Should I Include My GPA?

3.0 or above? Yes!

Should I Include A Picture On My Resume?

Unless you are applying for a job for which your appearance may be a factor, such as a model or actor, you should not include a picture of yourself on your resume. Doing so carries with it a number of potential obstacles, including bias concerns and issues for Applicant Tracking Software.

Where Should I List My References?

Your references should be on their own document separate from your resume.

  • There is no need to state "References Available Upon Request" on your resume either as it is assumed that you will submit them if requested.

How Do I Know If It Is Working?

Interviews!

  • If you are getting interviews, that is a good indicator that your application and professional documents are working. If you are not getting interviews, it may be an indicator that your resume, cover letter, application - or some combination of the three - need some reconfiguring.
    • Remember to make an appointment with the Career Connections Department to have us review and offer feedback on your professional documents.
    • Keep in mind that job applicants often do not know why they aren't offered an interview. Not getting an interview for one job doesn't necessarily mean you need to recreate your professional documents. Rather, consider making changes or getting assistance if your applications aren't yielding interviews over time.

What Do I Write About In A Cover Letter?

Share how your background relates to the job!

  • It helps a prospective employer understand your qualifications and background better if you identify where/how your experiences align with the job for which you are applying. Don’t expect them to “connect the dots” for you.
  • Do your research into the company. Your cover letter is a great place to showcase why you are interested in this specific job at this specific company. Generic cover letters that make no mention of the company or the position are obvious to the reader. Take care to write about why the company and job interest you, in addition to sharing how your background aligns with the position.

Tailor your cover letter to the job – be specific!

How Do I Write A Cover Letter?

Review the information and resources on the Writing Your Cover Letter page.

  • It is a good idea to have the job posting open in a separate window that you can view it as you type your cover letter draft.
    • This will help you keep your writing focused on the job for which you are applying.

How Long Should A Cover Letter Be?

Three to four paragraphs is common.

  • Cover letters generally do not exceed one page.
  • Your cover letter should be brief and to-the-point. The goal of this document is help you get an interview. In that forum, you will be able to share more about your background so don't feel like you need to say all of it in here.

To Whom Do I Address A Cover Letter?

Whenever possible, try to find a name to address your cover letter to.

  • Some job postings will state the name of the hiring manager or a Human Resources contact.
    • Consider doing some research via LinkedIn for this information if it is not contained within the job posting.
  • Keep your salutation simple yet formal - "Dear [Name of Hiring Manager],"
    • Avoid writing “To Whom It May Concern” as there are reasonable steps you can take to find the right name and more personal-sounding alternatives if you are unable to identify the right contact.
  • If you are unable to determine who to address the letter to, there are alternative approaches outlined in this article.

Is A Cover Letter Required?

It depends on the employer.

  • Be sure to carefully review the job posting for the documents they require as part of the application.
  • If the job posting says a cover letter is optional, it is a good idea to submit one. Going the extra step to do something that other candidates may not can help you positively stand out but only if it is well-written.
  • Do not submit a cover letter if the job posting says no cover letters.

Can I Copy Information From My Resume Onto My Cover Letter?

Yes and no.

  • You can only work with what you have in terms of your experience, skills, education, and other aspects of your background so it is appropriate to write about experiences that are are also mentioned on your resume. However...
  • Cover letters should not just restate your resume – this doesn’t add value or insight to your application. A well-written cover letter helps the reader understand how your background aligns with their needs. This is an opportunity to show you have put thought into how you can contribute.
  • As the applicant, your responsibility is to place your background into the context of the job for which you're applying. Go beyond telling the reader what you have done by explaining to them the value it would bring to the need they are looking to fill.
  • This is an early opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability and aptitude as a way to spark their interest in you.

How Do I Know If It Is Working?

Interviews!

  • If you are getting interviews, that is a good indicator that your application and professional documents are working. If you are not getting interviews, it may be an indicator that your resume, cover letter, application - or some combination of the three - need some re configuring.
    • Remember to make an appointment with the Career Connections Department to have us review and offer feedback on your professional documents.
    • Keep in mind that job applicants often do not know why they aren't offered an interview. Not getting an interview for one job doesn't necessarily mean you need to recreate your professional documents. Rather, consider making larger changes or getting assistance if, over time, your applications aren't yielding interviews.

Contact Us

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careers@wctc.edu - Main e-mail

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Friday
8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Location
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College Center, Room C-021
800 Main Street, Pewaukee, WI 53072

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