“Packaging” for Resumes and Cover Letters


This posting is a guest entry from the Career Doctor, Randall S. Hansen, PhD: Mike writes: I would appreciate your help with a couple of questions. Is gray granite paper acceptable for a resume and cover letter? As well, is it necessary to send the resume in a large envelope so the resume doesn’t need to be folded? I have heard conflicting opinions on whether or not to print a cover letter on personal letterhead. What is your professional opinion on this?
The Career Doctor responds: Resumes are one of the fundamental tools of job-hunting, and while most of your time and effort should be focused on the content, it’s also important to discuss format issues. Remember that the entire goal of a resume is to generate enough interest from the employer to grant you a job interview. But before I get to the format issues, let’s just hit the highlights of resume content.
  • Resumes should be specifically focused to the job you are seeking; there is no such thing as a “general purpose” resume.
  • Resumes need to focus on your key accomplishments, not on duties and responsibilities; employers want to see that you can produce results.
  • Resumes must have zero errors; one typo or misspelling can easily be the difference between getting an interview and having the resume tossed in the trash.
  • Resumes are statements of fact; do not lie or stretch the truth when writing your resume.
Back to your question about resume format. Here are some general rules for “print” resumes — those you use for networking, interviews, and the rare occasions when you still send a resume and cover letter via postal mail:
  • Paper: plain white is perfectly acceptable. If you want to go with a color, choose muted colors, such as gray, beige, slate, etc.
  • Printing: ideal is still a laser printer, but ink jets are fine — as long as you let the ink dry so that the ink does not smear.
  • Mailing: sending your resume in a standard size business envelope is fine, though more and more job-seekers are using larger envelopes so that the resume does not need to be folded.
  • Style: your resume and cover letter should match — in letterhead, in type style (font), and in paper color. And never, ever send a cover letter on company letterhead.
One final comment about resumes: Whenever possible, it’s always best to see if the employer has a preferred resume style. Some elements of resume design are very subjective. Many employers now list these requirements on the corporate career Websites. I have a client who has an amazing functional resume (organized around skills clusters), but a recent prospective employer asked her to totally rewrite and reformat her resume into a standard chronological resume because that format was preferred. Looking for more resume help? Quintessential Careers has resume quizzes and an article on creating Web-ready resumes. Go to: Quintessential Careers.