Best Careers for Teachers: Creating a Winning Resume and Cover Letter

Updated on Aug 12, 2011

There is little doubt that a well done, professional resume or CV and cover letter are important. In most instances, they act as your first contact with an employer and provide your first impression. For that reason alone, you want to make sure that they are well done and represent you at your very best—as well as most hireable!

There are entire books out there that are about nothing other than how to write a great resume. Leafing through a few of them could be quite helpful, as well as searching online for examples. It is helpful to concentrate on resumes that are specifically written by people who are changing careers.

What Makes a Winning Cover Letter?

A cover letter is like a handshake: It says hello, this is who I am, and then briefly conveys a little about you. Just as you don't want your handshake to be weak or clammy, you don't want your cover letter to be unimpressive and forgettable. Cover letters are more powerful than most people may give them credit for. For many busy employers, it is easier to scan the resume quickly but read the cover letter from beginning to end because of its brevity. So make the most out of that single page.

    "Your letter should be not only fairly short, but also concise and pithy. Edit your letter mercilessly. Follow the journalist's credo: Write tight! Cut out all unnecessary words and jargon. Then go back and do it again."

— Katharine Hansen, PhD, author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates

Here are some of the best tips for creating a strong cover letter:

  1. "To Whom It May Concern" is not the way to start your letter. It is far better for you to address it to the person who will be doing the hiring. You may have to call ahead or do some research to locate the right name, but it is worth the effort.
  2. The shorter, the better. Make sure your cover letter is not more than one page long. Be precise, concise, and focused.
  3. Choose wisely what words (especially verbs) you use in your letter. You want specific words that clearly paint a portrait of who you are and what you are capable of. Take note—this is what you want to do on your resume, as well. So when you choose those words, pick the ones for the resume as well. Check out the list of power verbs. How many of them can you apply to things you have accomplished?
  4. Speak positively. End your letter on an up beat with something along the lines of, "I look forward to hearing from you" or "I hope that we can arrange an interview soon."
  5. Ask not what the employer can do for you. Demonstrate what you can do to help the company rather than what they could or should do for you.
  6. Maintain perfection to the greatest possible extent. There is absolutely no room in your letter for typos, misspellings, or incorrect grammar or punctuation. Have someone proofread it for you before you send it so you know it's completely error-free.
  7. Only originals, please. Never make a copy of your last cover letter and use it again. An original should be sent to each potential employer.
  8. Be as interesting as possible. A boring cover letter is certain to make the wrong impression, so do your best to make yours unique and interesting so the employers will remember it. Don't take this idea to mean, however, that you should use neon colored paper, an odd font, or smiley faces all over your letter and/or resume. Stay professional.
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