Ask a Coach

Q: What verb tenses should I use in my resume?

A: First off, if you're writing about your current position, make sure you use present tense. For all past positions, use past tense. This is important. Using the correct verb tense will show the resume reader that you pay attention to detail.

Additionally, when it comes to writing your resume, make sure you start your sentences with an action verb. There is no need to use "I" or "We" because it is assumed you're writing about your accomplishments.

I recommend using simple present and simple past tense for your action verbs. For simple present, you would say, "Manage" and for simple past you would say, "Managed." Think about it this way: imagine that you are describing what you do to a friend. What verb tense would you use? You would use the simple present or simple past verb tense, so make sure you use that tense in your resume.

Writing an Effective Cover Letter

One of the things you can do to set yourself apart from other job seekers is to include an effective cover letter with your resume. If you've never written one before, though, you might be confused about its importance.

A cover letter is an opportunity for you to sell yourself to the employer. Of course, that's also the purpose of a resume, but the cover letter is the first thing about you that they'll see. Instead of repeating what they'll read in the resume, you want to set yourself apart from other candidates and compel the employer to read your resume.

There are four components of a cover letter: the Introduction, the Relevant Reason for the Cover Letter, the Request for Action, and the Respectful Sign Off. All these parts are important for crafting an impactful cover letter.

Introduction

In the Introduction, you'll want to identify a particular person to address the letter to. Although it's easy to write, "To Whom It May Concern," you'll make more of an impact on the reader if you address it directly to them. If you're not sure who to address the letter to, your best bets are to either call the company directly or search LinkedIn to see if you can find the hiring manager's name.

In the Introduction, you'll also want to let the reader know why you're writing to them. Keep it simple and to the point.

Relevant Reason

The next section, the Relevant Reason for the Cover Letter, is where you let the reader know why your resume is in their hands and why you should be considered for the position. You'll want to show why you will be a "value add" to the company. There are several ways to do this. If you have a connection to the company or if you were referred by the company by someone, mention their name. That name will be a link to the company you have that others may not.

If you've done research on the company or read an interesting article about the company, you can mention this in the letter. It shows your interest in the company over someone who didn't bother to do any research. If you can't do either of the above, then show how a skill of yours matches with the job opening or the company. This still shows a link you have that others may not.

Request for Action

The next section, the Request for Action, is where you make a specific request of the person reading your letter so they'll take the next step and read your resume. It's ok to highlight up to three skills you have that show you'll be a good fit for the company, and don't forget to ask the reader to actually proceed with reading your resume.

Respectful Sign Off

The last section is the Respectful Sign Off. You want to leave the cover letter reader with the impression that you are a professional. Thank them for their time, their consideration and express your interest in speaking with them soon about the position.

Crafting a well-written cover letter can go a long way in showing why you should be the one considered for a position. If you spend the time on writing your cover letter, you have a much better chance of receiving that interview.