Monday, February 20, 2017

Your resume needs its buddies! Learn more about Cover letters & Reference Letters

            The last few blogs geared you up to build an impactful resume with the right format. In this edition, we get into complementary documents that go with your resume - Cover Letters & Reference Sheets, with which your application will be well-rounded! After all, your resume needs its buddies ;)


Providing the recruiter with your resume alone is like skipping the "Details" section on your online profile in terms of background context! Though it’s not mandatory for many companies, including a cover letter provides the recruiter with the right context, your network, and reasons to join the firm, helping your chances of getting an interview.

How can I create an effective cover letter?
A cover letter is a great way to provide your hiring manager with insights on your additional information as to why you are a great match for the open position and the efforts you have taken to get to know the position (e.g. networked with their employees). It is a fluent way of communicating information usually shared in the interview, ahead of time. Thoughts about:
  • Why are you interested in the position? Have you taken efforts to learn more about the role?
  • How does the company fit into your current career path?
  • Any company values that resonate with you, your views and ideals?
  • What specific values have you learnt and how does that add to the company?

How is a cover letter different from a resume?
There are some key differences between a cover letter and your resume. The resume states facts - about you, your achievements, details of positions and qualifications held, experience timeline etc. A cover letter, on the other hand, helps communicate information that is more subjective in nature with actions you may have taken to go above and beyond for this specific role. It’s an opportunity to explain why you are a fit for the role at hand. The information in the cover letter goes hand in hand with facts from your resume, in a way the documents complement each other and strengthen your brand.

Note that while the information on both corroborates each other, it does not mean duplication. While we strongly encourage you to weave a consistent story across your resume & cover letter, it does not reflect well to simply restate accomplishments, qualifications or any other facts from your resume verbatim, one is not a backup or substitute for another. The best practice is to create tailored content for the document you are creating. Keep in mind, resumes are the primary document that the recruiter will absolutely expect to see, followed by the cover letter.

Cover Letter Format (Spacing is key):

Pre-Cover letter Homework: Please do your due diligence and research about the company, the recruiter/hiring manager you are writing to and the role to help you draft a customized, relatable letter!


Para 1: Briefly introduce yourself and explain the purpose of this letter. Make it interesting & unique so it will capture their attention! Showcase your awareness of the reader's company & mention any touchpoints that have led you to this application
Para 2 (and 3 if needed): Briefly describe the top reasons you’d be uniquely qualified and fit for the role. Consider your relatability to the company’s culture etc. 
Para 4: What’s next? Based on what you are looking for next, request for a catch-up, a call, pre-screening or an interview. Appreciate their time and consideration and express your excitement in moving forward.

Full Name

Sending it over an email: There are several ways in which a cover letter can be shared- In person (a long lost method), send it over a post, including it in an online application form, attached to your email, include it in your email body?  While sharing physical copies in-person or over a post is no longer practiced, it ultimately depends on several aspects. When it comes down to it, I recommend adding it in the body of the email. It cuts down on the need for the recruiter to download the attachment to open & read another document, especially given the flood of applicants they usually sift through. You can attach the cover letter mirroring the email body in pdf format onto the email for their convenience (some companies may need to save a copy of all your documents offline). If you do this, please convey the reasoning to keep them informed.

However, they may request you to attach the cover letter. In this case, do not include the same content from the letter on the body of the email. Keep the email short, with a few lines including who you are, the position you have applied for, attachments enclosed (i.e. your resume, cover letter etc.) and a line conveying your excitement and appreciation for their time (taken to review your email & related contents).

Further crucial points:
  • Ultimately, the hiring company's specifications trump all best practices. If they specifically request you to attach your Cover Letter, attach it. If they instruct you to share only a resume, do so accordingly. If a cover letter is optional, it’s always best to include one to err on the side of caution, covering all your basis.
  • To address your cover letter: Make a valiant effort to search for the most relevant recruiter/hiring manager to include. If you cannot, your last resort can be 'Dear Hiring Manager'. Avoid generic phrases like 'Dear sir' or 'to whom it may concern'.
  • The cover letter is not about 'me', 'me', 'me'. It's about skills that you bring to the table that can add to the company and make an impact to the organization. While you can mention what you may want to gain out of your employment experience, don’t make it your focus.
  • Keep it to less than a standard A4 page.

Adhere to the above and you are golden. Now moving on to the other supporting document: Letter of references. 


References go without saying, are an important part of your application. But including them as a part of your resume eats up valuable space and lengthens the resume. Moreover, it disrespects the implied privacy of the referrer as you invariably share your resume with several companies, and have it accessible to anyone on job portals. For this and many other reasons as mentioned in our previous blogs, it is best to share a dedicated document listing your references.

Key best practices:
  • Number of referees: A best practice is to have one or two referees for each stage of your professional life- be it college, a project (fests, dissertations), team (cabinet, editorial, camp) or professional experience (one or two for each role held). Keep it to 1 page
  • Type of Referees: List relevant people who have worked closely with you who can genuinely vouch for your skills. Avoid extremely high-level contacts (included just for their title) and personal contacts (uncle or parents). Remember, quantity does not trump quality.
  • Permission: Request your referees for permission to include them and discuss your job search, resume & skills with your prospective referees in advance. This is to ensure they are comfortable with you disclosing their contact details as well as endorsing you.
  • Carry a few copies of the list to your interviews for good measure and provide it if asked for during the interview process.

Reference Sheet format: Include basic details of your potential referees on a sheet of A4 -

Your Name (Bigger Font)
Your Address, Phone No. E Mail ID

References (Bigger font/Bold)

Contact 1, Title of Contact 1
Company where Contact 1 works now
Relationship with Contact 1 e.g. Manager, Peer, Customer, Supplier etc.
Phone Number
Email ID
Notes: e.g. Best way (phone/email etc.) and time (after 6pm etc.) to reach them.
… and so on for a few more contacts!  

With this blog, we come to the end of the resume series. Congrats on getting through! You have armed yourself with information and best practices on resumes & their buddies!! Stay tuned for our next set of blogs on practical use cases of Microsoft tools and business-related computing to make your life easy. In the meanwhile:

Leverage this blog and build your cover letter & references sheet! Feel like procrastinating? Snap back & just do it by knowing that you can truly set yourself apart from the rest with a well-crafted cover letter and genuine references. Share the completed sheets with us at to have it evaluated and get additional suggestions. And now, take a breather, because you’re indeed prepared with the complete package to score an interview!

Still stuck at the resume? Not to worry! Please visit and get your complete resume scanned, all for a nominal price!

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” - Albert Einstein

Manish N Gaba
(Pic Courtesy – Unsplash)

Corporate Ready Test, Corpversity and its Related Ventures are Copyright © 2016-to date by Career Ready Consultants LLP, All Rights Reserved. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Time to stick a bow on it!

              The last few blogs geared you up to build the required sections for your resume. In this edition, we will add crucial visual and formatting best practices that will help you add that finishing touch.

Think of content sections as Christmas goodies for your loved one & think of your page as the gifting box. You have skillfully chosen & ordered the special goodies in the box, and it is now time to add the final touches and have the box all wrapped up! While it's the thought that counts, presentation matters, especially for a recruiter :) The good news? Simpler the better ;)

Consider the following to polish up your resume:

Length: Please keep the content to a single page A4 portrait form. If you find it difficult, please refer to our previous blogs for guidance on placing summarized, relevant content. In the few seconds they get, a recruiter flipping pages for you is highly unlikely.

Fonts: The main objective here is to keep it easy on the eye and avoid obnoxious styles that make your resume stand out for all the wrong reasons. The font you choose can tell a lot about your personality.

Based on Weemss infographic on the psychology of fonts:
  • Serif (Bell MT, Cambria, etc.) typefaces are associated with being reliable, impressive, respectable, authoritative and traditional
  • Sans-serif fonts (Arial, Calibri, etc.) are seen as universal, clean, modern, objective and stable

While there are several fonts to choose from, pick your font family based on either:
  • What you want to convey about yourself (or)
  • How traditional/modern the company you are applying to is.

Font Sizes, Colors and Typographical emphasis:
Let’s start with the 5 kinds of text formats that make up your resume:
  1. Title (Your name)
  2. Aids to Title (Contact/Link)
  3. Headings (Section headers)
  4. Sub Section Headers
  5. Content (Text inside the section headers)

The rule of thumb is to distinguish between these texts by creating a beautiful symmetry of font sizes, colors and typographical emphasis. The right font size along with the right use of bold/italics/underline and color will do wonders to the existing flow of your resume.

  • Ideally your Title i.e. your name is to be at a bold font size, right around 16
  • It can be in bold or not, depending on the strength of your font
  • Using a darker color than black for the title is my personal preference. I prefer a deep navy blue to keep this section distinguished.

For content coming in right behind your Title and aids such as your contact information/links to profiles etc.:
  • The font can be stepped down a size to 14 (or 12 if you have a lot to contribute & would like to save some precious space)
  • I prefer using the same font colors as my title, but the choice is a matter of your personal preference.

The Headings i.e. your section headers like Work Experience, Education etc.:
  • A common set size 12 would suffice.
  • As with the above, It can be in bold or not, depending on the strength of your font and your personal preference.

Sub Section Headers: These act as mini-titles for each sub-detail. Example: With you work experience, start with the name of your company, your position and the dates you were employed there.
  • Here, take it a notch down to size 11 (or size 10 if you really need the space)
  • You can distinguish this section by either using the same font color as your title/header or by using a typographical emphasis (bold, italics or underline). I personally prefer making it bold. Using more than one form can over-emphasize it, not what you are looking for.

  • I use the sub section header text size here as well (11 or 10),
  • Use a standard color for the contents such as black.
  • I would use typographical emphasis very sparingly here if at all, only for crucial highlights i.e. achievement numbers etc.

Be warned:
  1. Avoid the overuse bold/italics/underline/CAPS, it comes across more as a directive, less polite.
  2. Keep the sizing (and coloring) consistent

Coloring Combinations: While it’s okay to use more than one color- usually a monochrome black is the primary choice, keeping it to two colors will give your resume a subtle, smart look. My favorite combination is Black and + shade of Navy Blue. Other combinations I’ve seen work well are dark grey + black, dark grey + slightly dark grey, black alone etc. I’d warn against venturing into colors like red as it’s associated with danger and light shades that might make it hard to read. The objective here is to help distinguish rather than capture attention obnoxiously.

Spacing and Partitions: It’s all about balance. While too much white space can and will backfire, subtle yet sufficient amounts of white space keeps your resume breathable, and easier to ingest. Use the spacing options on Microsoft Word and ensure the line spacing is a comfortable 1.15 or 1.2, making blocks of text less intimidating. For the additional touch, add an extra spacing line between  sequence/paragraphs inside a section

To provide better distinction between sections, similar to using a line of space to within a section, distinguish the different sections using section partitions in the form of a full line (can be black or same as the title color). This better compartmentalizes the resume to give an organized look. You can refer to the images in the previous blogs to see what is looks like visually.

Alignment: Stick to the traditional left alignment or justify your test as a best practice. At times, justifying can leave noticeable gaps in your sentences, if this occurs you can opt for the traditional left align. Centre or right alignment is best left out of a resume.

Aligning dates to the right, on the first line of the section, helps create a visible column for timelines and provides the required white space. Either use a tab or use the space bar repeatedly until your dates are at the far right corner of your sentence :)

Digits vs. long form: When you add in numbers, use digits (25% vs. twenty five percent) to optimize space and for an easier read. IF the numbers are low (four partners, two teams), feel free to spell them out.

Margins: For page margins, maintain a breathable 0.75 to 1 inch space on all four sides to form a white border. If you really need more space, you can drop your top and bottom border further to 0.6 inches at the most, but no less.

Spelling and Grammar: Imagine this. You have professionally gift wrapped your present to your loved one. All’s right with the world, you are excited to give it, they are extremely excited to receive it. But… you accidently spelt his/her name wrong. Yikes! Not an ideal situation.

In this case, your recruiters are the receivers. Spelling and grammar errors are an absolute No-No on your resume. Not only does it reflect badly on you, the recruiters may not have time to decipher what you mean to convey.

Follow these pointers to avoid the cardinal mistake, and thank me later ;)
  • Read and re-read the resume yourself a few times
  • Use free online tools such as Grammarly, I use it myself and am not paid to say this! (It can be used as an integration on word and it helps with both spelling and grammar. The best part? Their free version is pretty good!)
  • Make your professor/TPO/HOD/Senior read it for you. Sometimes a set of fresh eyes help catch something you’ve been missing without meaning to.
  • Before you convert your resume into a pdf, check for those ever-trusty red underlines on MS Word/Google Docs.

Bullets: Bullets are a great way to organize a block of text and help the reader follow along. Use them especially for:
  • Skills (list them in multiple columns using spaces, if you have many)
  • Situation, Action and Results (as 3 bullets)
  • Numerical accomplishments.

One more thing, a simple dot or a squared dot bullet (as used above) spells classy. Your resume is not where you experiment with pyramids, 3D or other elaborate bullets.

Formatting Don’ts: You know why not:
  • Fancy Tables and Layouts. Straight lines segments in a shorter, classier way. 
  • Any kind of borders, designed borders are a death-knell!
  • Pictures, including yours!
  • Icons, emoji's and Logos
  • Graphs

Final, Final Touches:
  • Fit your resume in an A4 page, so it’s easily printable.
  • Keep hyperlinked URL's short and customized so it can be remembered by the recruiter to check it out later if needed.
  • Convert your resume into a PDF format if you are emailing it out. PDF works well with any version on the receiver’s device, even on mobile and showcases professionalism.
  • To convert the doc into a PDF, simply Save as > PDF (Word) or File > Download as PDF (Google Docs).
  • Make sure you name the file in an efficient format: Name_Resume_Date (to easily identify the latest one)

Aannddd…..You’re done!! You have your wrapping paper, and additionally- ribbons, bows and a gift card so you are all set :)

Stay tuned for our next blog. As promised, we delve into professional references and their inclusion.

In the meanwhile, it's time for a quick EXERCISE!
Now that your content is ready to go, leverage the blog referred to above to wrap up your resume! Share the completed resume with us at to have it evaluated with additional suggestions. Take a breather, because you’re indeed ready with an impactful resume! For further services, please visit and get your complete resume scanned, all for a nominal price!

Stay Tuned!

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” - George Bernard Shaw

Manish N Gaba
(Pic Courtesy – Unsplash)

Corporate Ready Test, Corpversity and its Related Ventures are Copyright © 2016-to date by Career Ready Consultants LLP, All Rights Reserved.