The thought of writing a cover letter confuses many students who are writing one for the first time. You might wonder why a cover letter is necessary when all your key information is already covered in your resume. The cover letter is however, much more important than your resume. Having a strong resume is a given but getting it accompanied by an even stronger cover letter can mean the difference between landing a job and being ignored.

Why does this happen? To understand this, put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. If it is a promising opportunity, then there will be a lot of applications pouring in. The person responsible for shortlisting applicants will have to go through all of them in a limited amount of time. At this point, it helps to stand out in the crowd and make an impression. Resumes have somewhat of a set format and the only practical way to differentiate yourself would be to turn in a great cover letter.Here are some pointers that you will have to keep in mind.

1. Research about the company and use your learning

Before you write a cover letter, the first thing you should do is research about the position and the company at hand. Read their social media feeds, read news about their latest developments and if possible speak to their employees who happen to be in your network. Be updated on the kind of work that they do and what challenges they face. Understanding these things will help you write a cover letter which would end up being very relevant.

2. Strong opening

The first and foremost thing that you have to keep in mind is that you should have an opening line which really catches the attention of the hiring manager who is supposed to look at it. The opening should tick all the right boxes in his mind and get him to read the rest of your cover letter. An example of a cover letter opening for say, a software engineering position could be “I wrangle with bits and bytes and make them play well with people.” This is just an example of a creative opening for a cool tech startup/company. This could change when it comes to other fields and positions.

3. Minimal yet effective

Writing a cover letter should be an exercise in minimalism and at the same time should have enough content to be effective. Please do not go into details about your talking points. Write powerful point driven sentences and spend some time on editing them to be as short as possible. Being effective in this scenario is a challenge but yet this has to be done. The person that is responsible for going through your cover letter should be able to grasp the important points of your letter in a minute or so.

4. Direct yet personal

Being direct matters a lot because it shows that you are confident and not prone to waste time. You will come across as a no-nonsense kind of individual who will dedicate good amount of time towards productive work rather than beating around the bush. Do not use flowery and flattery language. Use simple English and be direct about what you want to do in the organization and how you can add value to the organization. There is also a balance you should strike here. Even while being direct, you need to make your cover letter personal so that it can help to differentiate you as a person. Write your cover letter from a first person perspective. Make sure that you mention why you are tailored for the job based on your interests and achievements. Show that you are excited about the opportunity at hand.

5. Showcase value

Whatever you write in your cover letter, just make sure that you showing how much a value add you are going to be to the organization. This has to be a logical explanation based on your interests and experience so far. Do not make claims that you cannot back up later in your interview. Show the company how you would fit in well at the company and strive to take it to higher places.

Negotiating your compensation/stipend is an art. As is usual, some people are superb at it and some are abysmal at negotiating. However, your compensation is an important component of your career. It matters because it is intricately linked with your happiness and self-worth. If you are doing the best work of your life and it is not valued properly, you will be disappointed.

While every fresher prepares to ace those interviews, the aspect of compensation negotiation is conveniently left behind. I agree that if you are a fresher, you do not have much of a bargaining point due to the lack of your experience. However, that doesn’t mean that you accept a job offer with a compensation/stipend which is underwhelming.

Here are 3 points that you should pay attention to while negotiating your first compensation

1. Know the industry standard

If you are a smart person, you will have already done this. Go ahead and find out the average compensations of freshers who work in the same function that you are applying for. There are many resources such as student portals, forums etc. where you can ask your queries. Compensations differ between industries and departments. Further differences crop up when you add different cities and countries to the mixture. The best thing would be to maintain a small excel sheet with this data. Have conversations with your employed friends and contacts and figure out the kind of compensation that you would want.

2. Let the company make the first offer

Now since you know the industry standard and your personal limit, you are in a better position to deal with compensation negotiations during or after an interview. Let them make you an offer. Do not put your expectations out there. Politely evade questions which ask you to put out your expectations. Counter this by saying that you are interested in the opportunities of working a world class organization and how you can add value. Once you get a compensation offer, you will know which step to take. If it is more than you expected, then that is great. You should go ahead and take that offer.

However, if it less that what you expected then make it known that the compensation offered is does not match your expectations. This is the scariest thing for freshers to say, because of the uncertainty over how an employer would react to this. The truth is that if an employer really wants you to work at their company, then he or she will make it a point to give you a higher compensation offer the second time. If they are adamant about the amount they are offering, take some time to decide. In most cases, you should let that opportunity go unless there is something really specific about the company that excites you. Never ever compromise on a fair compensation under any other circumstance.

3. Be calm and confident

It is not wrong to ask what you think you deserve. There are always differences in opinion and expectations but that does not mean that you have to accept anything just because someone says so. If you have done your research, then you will be completely confident during the negotiation. Also, be super patient because these things might take time. I know that those among you who are doing this for the first time will be restless but don’t let your body and mind get the better of you. Stay calm and talk intelligently. Make sure that everyone involved sees sense in the arguments you make for a higher offer.

When you are looking for career opportunities, your resume is the most important asset that you have. Your resume gives an employer a brief and precise look at your personal details, educational details and your objectives. When it comes to short listing candidates for an interview, this is the only real data point that an employer or interviewer has before they make a decision to select you.

We know that capturing all your ambitions, your ideas, your skills and your achievements on a single page can be difficult feat, even more so if you are going about creating your resume for the first time. To help you build a perfect first resume, we have collated a couple of tips for you.

1. Graphical or text based resume?

Just because a resume has been traditionally done as one page text document does not mean that you should go only with that. Different jobs and professional fields do give you the choice to have creative resumes with graphical elements. If you are a designer, art director or a fashion designer, it makes complete sense for you to create a graphical resume. This also does mean that text based resumes are a bad option. You can also go ahead and convey your information in best way possible via text. It is just a call that you must take before you begin creating your resume. This should depend on what you want to express and how you want to express it. Decide this and then you can move on to the next part.

2. Planning the layout

Once you have decided upon the type of resume that you want to go ahead with, then the first thing you should do is go ahead and make a layout for your resume. This means that you should make a framework and decided upon what titles and sub-titles you will be adding in your resume.

An optimal resume has the following progression,

  1. Name and personal details (Address, phone number and email)
  2. Objective
  3. Educational background
  4. Skills obtained (rated from proficient to average)
  5. Education related activities undertaken
  6. Extra curricular activities undertaken
  7. Hobbies and interests

These points are generic ones. You can customize these fields to your liking. 

3. Filling up the details

Once you have finalized the layout, get to work on filling up the details in every section. Make use of tables and organize your data in a neat and clean way. Make sure that you are only adding to the point information. Do not go ahead and write a novel. Employers do not have time to read through everything. You should make sure that an employer reading your resume should be able to go through it in 1-2 minutes and obtain all the information that you need.

4. Be honest about your information

Be very honest about what you put out on your resume. Since the professional world is competitive, you will face a temptation to embellish your resume by adding stuff which might not be true. This is ethically wrong and can give you a wrong direction in the professional world. Employers can also catch this because they have tonnes of experience when it comes to reading resumes. Keep it simple and straightforward and we promise you that everything will end up well.

5. Make it beautiful

After you have added your details, go ahead and tweak your resume so that it look even more attractive. Add icons and graphics where they are needed. Use a nice and pleasing font. Go through the formatting options in your word processor and arrange your data in a minimal and aesthetic manner.

6. Share it with family and friends

After you have put finishing touches on your resume, go ahead and share it with your friends and family members. Ask them for their feedback and incorporate it into your resume if it makes sense to you. Nobody is perfect and resume building is an always on process. Whenever you get some relevant feedback about your resume, make sure that it reflects in your resume. It would also be great to share your resume with a professional in the same field. They could also give you some very good feedback based on their experiences.

7. Which formats do you use?

It is always good to use Microsoft Office or similar word processors to build your resume and to save them in a docx format. Also, keep a PDF version handy. You can easily create a PDF version of your resume by exporting it in Microsoft Word. You can also use Microsoft Powerpoint to make a resume and then export it as a PDF file. If you are creating a graphical resume then it makes sense to create it in a graphics program like Photoshop, GIMP etc. and to then export it to a PDF.

Here are a few examples of the types of resumes that can be created.

We hope you liked this tutorial on how to build your resume. If you have any suggestions please let us know.