Getting in the Door


No matter what direction your plan takes you, you can’t get your foot in the door without an up-to-date resume that shows off your skills. On average, job recruiters spend just six seconds looking at a resume. You need to prepare yours so it gets seen and gets you to the next step in the hiring process.

These tips can help show potential employers that you deserve a chance. Your resume should be submitted with a cover letter that tells the employer which job you are applying for and why you are a good fit for that job.

10 Ways to Prepare a Great Resume and Cover Letter


Keep your resume simple and on one page.

There is no need for fancy graphics and complicated formatting. Busy hiring managers will appreciate that you can get to the point. Less is often more.



Choose the right resume format for the job you seek.

If you want to stay in retail, then try a chronological resume. Starting with your current job, list your job history in reverse order. If you’re applying for jobs in other fields, try a functional resume that lets you highlight your jobs by skill areas. Take a look at free Microsoft Word resume and cover letter templates.



Mention specific results and accomplishments.

Show that you’re a dependable go-getter by including concrete achievements (e.g., hitting a sales goal, getting a promotion, or receiving Employee-of-the-Month recognition).



Include “keywords” that match your skills and the job you seek.

Many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems to automatically sort through online applications. This software looks for the keywords that match a job’s requirements. In other words, be sure to include all relevant skills or your resume may never be seen.



Add other relevant information.

Employers want to see your education history, including relevant coursework, if it demonstrates that you’re a self-starter and building relevant skills. Volunteer work counts too!



Customize every cover letter.

Your cover letter, submitted with your resume, tells the employer why you are the right person for this particular job. They should know from reading your letter that you have read the job posting for which you’re applying. Share an example of how you, in your retail job, have done something that the new job requires.



Make sure your cover letter and resume have the same “look.”

Anyone glancing at these should easily be able to tell that they belong together. Use the same font, the same contact information, and (if mailing), the same paper.



Be prepared to provide references, either with your resume or during an interview.

The best references are from past supervisors—people who can talk first-hand about your great work. You probably don’t want to list your current boss, however! Other options? Co-workers, teachers, ministers—anyone who can speak well about you.



Proofread your resume and cover letter before you hit “send.”

Double-check—and triple-check—your spelling. Better yet, ask someone else to read your resume and cover letter for typos and grammatical errors.



Find help where you live, if you need it.

Job centers in Baltimore and Chicago offer help with resume and interview prep. Find other local job centers.


One more tip…

Consider establishing a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a social media platform for professionals. You don’t need to check your page regularly, but having a LinkedIn profile demonstrates that you’re taking one more step to present yourself professionally. Additionally, LinkedIn has hundreds of articles on career development and job searches.

LinkedIn illustration


Winning the Job graphicWinning the Job

Has that new resume and cover letter landed you an interview? Here’s how to walk in the door with confidence and poise so you can land your next great job.

Win the Job