CareerQuest Newsletter
Back-to-Basics: Cover Letter, Résumé, Thank-You Note

May 2009
My dear friends, colleagues, clients and students:

Many of you have asked me for checklists in developing cover letters, résumés and thank-you notes. We decided to provide a quick refresher in the basics, in this newsletter. Please share it with your friends and colleagues.

Our book, Career and Life Counseling From the Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!), has received excellent reviews from our readers. Sales are going well. It has been nicknamed as Chicken Soup for Your Career! Take a peek inside at!

Recently I was interviewed about my book by Bea Smith, whose regular feature On The Shelf, appears every week in the newspaper, the Union County Local Source, in New Jersey. We will share the excerpts of the book review with you in future newsletters.

We are currently discussing with Barnes & Noble in Springfield, NJ and the Union Township Public Library about various promotions, including a book signing and a job search seminar. We're looking forward to these exciting opportunities!

Our book is currently on display at Here's The Story bookstore in Union, NJ. Special thanks to owner/manager Joe Leo for his support.

In our desire to help as many people as we can, we have launched a new program called Career Stimulus Package. In essence, we have cut our fees for all services by 50%. You pay for one counseling hour and get the second hour FREE! This special offer has been extended to June 30, 2009, and may not be repeated again! To get your free hour of counseling, visit our Services page today!

CareerQuest was invited to present an evening seminar at the Institute of Industrial Engineers - Raritan Valley (Central NJ) Chapter, on April 15, 2009. The topic was Making Yourself Marketable in a Down Economy (How to Make Your Job Recession-Resistant). We enjoyed the spirited discussions during the question-and-answer period of the presentation.

Career Doctor Don Answers Your Questions appears as a regular feature in the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) - New Jersey Chapter newsletters. Visit to read more.

On a personal note, we are back from our two-week family vacation - full of vim and vigor. We visited the Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Lake Powell, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sedona, Monument Valley and Las Vegas. The scenery in the West is just spectacular!

Until we meet again, through the magic of email.

Peace! Love! Shalom!

Don Sutaria, MS, IE (Prof.)
Founder, President & Life-Work Coach

How to Enhance Your Cover Letter, Résumé and Thank-You Note for Maximum Effectiveness: A Back-to-Basics Refresher

The Cover Letter
A punchy cover letter is a "Gift Wrapping" for your painstakingly written résumé.

You have been invited to your friend's wedding. Would you dream of giving an expensive wedding gift without wrapping it? Why not?

There is a certain sense of anticipation for the recipient when a gift is beautifully wrapped. It is worth the extra trouble on your part. Isn't it true that you like to see your friend's eyes light up when the gift is opened?
...a good cover letter is personalized and, perhaps, even more important than a résumé.
Then why do you submit your well written résumé without gift wrapping it with a punchy cover letter?

A reader may never go to your résumé without an enticing cover letter. A good cover letter is personalized and, perhaps, even more important than a résumé. Sounds unbelievable? Let me explain.

Think of these seven (7) things when composing that perfect cover letter:
  • Limit it to one page of standard letter size white or ivory paper with standard type faces, matching the résumé, and error-free.
  • Write it to a specific person.
  • Limit the letter to four paragraphs.
  • The first paragraph should establish a connection between you and the company. The second and the third paragraphs should highlight two of your relevant experiences, in a Problem-Action-Result format, with numbers.
  • Do not repeat what is in your résumé.
  • The last paragraph should ask for an interview and end on a positive, optimistic note. Keep the ball in your court and mention that you will call them for a follow up within two weeks. Never say, hoping to hear from you, because you will be waiting to hear from them until the cows come home! You are not a beggar, begging for a job! You are offering your professional services for a reasonable salary. Keep your self-image and self-esteem high.
  • Do not fold the cover letter and the résumé. Send them flat in a 9" x 12" envelope. If the company scans them, ugly lines appear at the creases.
The Résumé
Let's get real!

A résumé alone will not get you a job!


What were you thinking?

A résumé is only a calling card, a door knocker, a door opener, a tool, an advertisement to buy your services.

You may be pained to hear that after all the hours you spent developing what you thought was a near-perfect résumé, all you can expect to get is a 5-10 second scan by the reader or reviewer. You need to make the most of that scan!

But how?

By checking the résumé’s effectiveness. Not how pretty it looks on paper but what impact it makes on the reader! A résumé must be custom-tailored for each job. A buckshot approach does not work!
A résumé alone will not get you a job!
Many good books have been written on résumés. What I would like to highlight here are some proven tricks which will make the reader lean in your favor and continue to explore the entire résumé. It is the first step to being called in for an interview. Here are 19 sensible résumé tips:
  • Use standard letter size paper, white or ivory, and standard type faces.
  • One-page if you have less than five years experience and up to two pages if more than five years.
  • Bulleted format of your accomplishments, each consisting of the Problem-Action-Result (P-A-R) concept. Use dollar savings, percentage improvements, sales increases, and numbers.
  • Chronological résumés are preferred in 90% of the cases.
  • Functional résumés are acceptable in 10% of the cases when there is a dramatic career change or there are large gaps in one's working life. Most interviewers dislike the Functional format, which they jokingly refer to as the guess who résumé, or the résumé of a person who is trying to hide something!
  • The résumé should look uncluttered, with a lot of clear spaces around it, and error-free.
  • If you think a certain statement in your résumé will strengthen your case to get a particular job, keep it in. If not, eliminate it.
  • List appropriate activities and memberships in professional organizations, and awards.
  • Never give the following in a résumé: references, reasons for leaving, personal data, salary information, outright lies.
  • Education and training must be mentioned.
  • A summary of qualifications is necessary at the start of the résumé.
  • Job objective may be mentioned for a specific job you are applying for.
  • Your résumé should be written by you, not by some professional writer. The reason is that your personality should come through in the résumé. If not, during the interview the résumé will not sound like you, a dead giveaway!
  • A résumé is neither a job description nor an obituary!
  • A résumé is like a snowflake with a very short shelf life; it must be kept continually up-to-date.
  • Do not lie about college degrees in your resume. It is very easy for potential employers to verify them.
  • Period of employment can be stated in years; months are not necessary. Be truthful about these periods, since they are easily verifiable.
  • You may state your administrative title as shown on your business card. However, if you have stated your functional title in the resume, be prepared to explain it during the interview.
  • Your relevant experiences and accomplishments over the past 10-15 years really count. You can safely omit the jobs you had in the early part of your career, if you have been working for more than 15 years.
The Thank-You Note
You have just completed a job interview. You thanked the interviewer verbally for their time. Remember, though, a verbal thank-you only goes so far!

Most career counselors and books advise you to send a thank-you note immediately after the interview, within 24 hours. However, less than 10% of the candidates ever get around to sending one. Good old procrastination, I suppose!
Between two equally qualified candidates, it is proven that the candidate who writes the thank-you note gets the job offer.
Sending a written thank-you note shows your gratitude and fixes your candidacy in the mind of the interviewer. You become one of the chosen few who are called back for a second interview because of your note. It may also be your last chance to clinch the job! Your last chance to sell yourself! Your last chance to bring up a relevant achievement you may have forgotten in the heat of the interview! Between two equally qualified candidates, it is proven that the candidate who writes the thank-you note gets the job offer.

My clients frequently ask me the best way to send a thank-you note. Email may be acceptable, but there are other more effective ways. If the decision to hire someone is going to be made in a few hours, which is usually not the case, email may be a better choice, but as an exception rather than a rule. I suggest sending it at least a couple of different ways simultaneously. Limit the thank-you note to one page, possibly three or four paragraphs. Fax it to your interviewer but also send a clean original in the mail. It may appear redundant, but the person will get at least one of them on time and the second one will reinforce it.

A typewritten letter is just fine, but a neatly handwritten note gives a personal touch. Remember to write a separate note to each person who interviewed you. Let your personality and enthusiasm show through in the letter.

If I have convinced you of the importance of a thank-you note (an effective gratitude note) after an interview, just do it, and surprise yourself!

Recommended Books

Don Sutaria, also known a "Career Doctor Don", is Founder and President of CareerQuest. He has been quoted frequently in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on radio and television and has taught at various colleges. He is the author of Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!).