How to Name Your Resume and Cover Letter
Tips for Naming and Saving Your Job Application Documents
When you are applying for jobs, it's important to give your resume a title that makes it clear that the resume is yours, not just that of any random candidate.
It is particularly important when you send employers your resume and cover letter as attachments (either via email or through an online job application system). When the employer opens your document, he or she will see what you have named your document.
You, therefore, want the title to be professional, and to state who you are clearly.
Read below for more advice on what to name your resume file and other job application documents, as well as what not to name them. Also read below for advice on how to save your documents.
Tips for Naming Your Resume
Avoid generic titles. Don't email or upload your resume with the name resume.doc, unless you want a harried human resources associate to save over your file with someone else’s. With a generic file name, there will be no way to distinguish it from all the other resumes with the same name.
Use your name. Choose a file name that includes your name. This way, hiring managers will know whose resume it is, and it will be easier for them to track and manage it. It’s also less likely that they’ll lose it, or get your materials confused with someone else’s.
If you name your resume janedoeresume.doc, Jane Doe Resume.doc, or Jane-Doe-Resume.pdf, the employer will know whose resume it is at a glance and be able to associate it with the rest of your materials and application.
If you can fit it; use both your first name and last name (or just your last name). That way your resume won't get confused with someone with the same first name.
Go beyond just your name (maybe). You might choose to provide a bit more detail in the title than simply your name. You can also include the title of the position in your document name for your resume and cover letter.
You can use spaces or dashes between words; capitalizing words may help make the document name easier to read.
Be professional. Remember that hiring managers and other people who will interview you are quite likely to see your cover letter and resume file names, so make sure those titles are professional and appropriate. Now is not the time to pull out your AIM screen names from middle school. Save the joke names for your private social media accounts and keep these file names professional and simple.
Be consistent. Consistency is important when naming your resume, cover letter, and other application documents, so use the same format for each. For example, if you simply use your last name and a description of the document for one title (“Smith Resume”), use the same format for all your other materials (“Smith Cover Letter”). Make sure any capitalization, spacing, use of dashes, and other style choices are consistent between documents.
Avoid version numbers. If you are applying for jobs frequently, it's possible that you have several versions of your resume saved on your computer. Avoid including version numbers (e.g., John-Smith-Resume-10.doc) in your file name and other cryptic codes.
Get rid of those numbers and codes when you submit your resume. An employer might get the impression that the job is halfway down a long list of potential opportunities. A hiring manager who sees “resume-10” as part of your file name will wonder what resumes 1 through 9 looked like and whether you’re just applying for every job in town.
Develop a filing system on your computer to keep track of the different versions of your resume, rather than using the file name for that purpose, and make sure that proofed, ready-to-go resumes are stored in a separate area from drafts.
Edit, edit, edit. Before submitting your resume or cover letter, proofread the document title. It sounds silly, but a typo in the title might make an employer think that you do not focus on details and that you are unprofessional.
Options for Saving Your Resume
It's important to send or upload your resume as a PDF or a Word document. This way the receiver will get a copy of your resume and cover letter in the original format.
To convert your Word documents to PDFs, depending on your word processing software, you may be able to do so by clicking “File,” then “Print,” then “Save as PDF” (from the list of menu options in the bottom left-hand corner). If not, there are free programs you can use to convert a file to a PDF. Saving your resume and cover letter as a PDF will ensure that the formatting stays the same, even if the employer uses a different word processing program or operating system.
However, if the job listing requires you to submit your documents in a different format, be sure to do so. Not following instructions could cost you an interview.
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Whether you love writing cover letters or view them as a chore, many hiring managers still rely on them to gauge an applicant’s personality, attention to detail, and communication skills. The key to writing effective cover letters, then, is to follow instructions and communicate succinctly but with a compelling voice.
Here are five guidelines to keep in mind as you craft your cover letters.
1. Customize your header based on the format of your application
If you’re writing your cover letter directly within an online job application, there’s no need to include your address or other contact information, as you’ve probably already typed that into other areas of the application form. If you’re including your cover letter as an attachment, you can use the same heading as your resume.
2. Use an appropriate greeting
If you know the name of the hiring manager for this job, begin your cover letter by addressing them directly (Example: Dear Jane Smith). If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager, you can begin your letter with a simple “Hello,” or “Dear Hiring Manager,”. Get a feel for the company’s culture when deciding how formal your greeting should be. More formal introductions such as “To Whom It May Concern:” or “Dear Sir or Madame,” can come across as too stuffy for some organizations, while greetings like “Hey!” and “Hi there,” are almost always too casual for a cover letter.
3. Avoid generic references to your abilities
Whenever possible, tell meaningful anecdotes that tie your skills to concrete problem-solving activities or tangible business results you’ve worked on in your career. Any candidate can say they possess a desirable skill. To make an impact, you need to show hiring managers examples of your skills in action. For example:
Too vague: “My skills would be a great fit for your organization.”
More specific: “In my role as a sales associate, I am frequently required to provide exceptional customer service on short notice. Exceeding customers’ expectations is a point of personal and professional pride for me, and this is a skill I’m eager to continue developing.
Too vague: “I’m a proactive team player.”
More specific: “In my current job, I proactively jumped in to help launch an internal recycling and waste reduction initiative. Together, our team contributed to a 25% reduction in solid waste production within the company.”
4. Keep it short and to the point
Unless specified in the job description, there is no required length for a cover letter, so focus on the details that are most important for the job. Read the job description closely to identify the best opportunities to illustrate your qualifications. What professional achievements are you the most proud of? Choose one or two and map them directly to the desired experience or qualifications the hiring manager is looking for, using just a few detailed but concise sentences. What attributes is the job description calling for in a candidate? Consider using the cover letter itself as a way of demonstrating those traits.
Don’t reiterate everything that’s on your resume. You want to focus on one or two anecdotes, expanding on how you achieved something specific.
[Read more: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing]
Here are two examples of cover letters, a traditional version and a less traditional version. First, read the job description on the left, then read the cover letter. In the first example, you’ll see how the writer uses specific phrases from the job description and includes them in the letter. The second example takes a more creative approach. The author tells a personal story and appeals more abstractly to the attributes called for in the job posting. Both are less than 300 words long.
Example 1: Administrative Assistant
In this role, you will be supporting managers and other senior level personnel by managing their calendars, arranging travel, filing expense reports, and performing other administrative tasks.
Strong interpersonal skills, attention to detail, and problem solving skills will be critical to success.
- 5+ years of experience providing high-level admin support to diverse teams in a fast-paced environment
- High school diploma or equivalent work experience
- Excellent Microsoft Office Skills with an emphasis on Outlook and Excel
- Self-motivated and highly organized
- Team players who works well with minimal supervision
Dear Hiring Manager,
I am writing to express my interest in the opening for an administrative assistant at ***.
I am drawn to this opportunity for several reasons. First, I have a proven track record of success in administrative roles, most recently in my current job as an administrative coordinator. A highlight from my time here was when I proactively stepped in to coordinate a summit for our senior leaders last year. I arranged travel and accommodation for a group of 15 executives from across the company, organized meals and activities, collaborated with our internal events team, and ensured that everything ran according to schedule over the two-day summit. Due to the positive feedback I received afterwards, I have been given the responsibility of doubling the number of attendees for the event this year and leading an internal team to get the job done.
I am also attracted to this role because of the the growth opportunities that *** provides. The research that I’ve done on your company culture has shown me that there are ample opportunities for self-motivated individuals like me. A high level of organization and attention to detail are second nature to me, and I’m eager to apply these skills in new and challenging environments.
I look forward to sharing more details of my experience and motivations with you. Thank you for your consideration.
Example 2: Brand Copywriter
We are looking for an experienced copywriter to join our team. If you have a great eye for balance, a quick wit, and can adapt a brand voice for any medium, then this role is right for you.
- Write for branded communications including ads, emails, events, landing pages, video, product marketing, and more.
- Maintain and develop the voice of our brand in collaboration with others.
- Develop copy for internal communications that generate excitement about our company culture
- Work independently and manage your time well.
- Strong copyediting skills: for your own work and for others.
- A portfolio of your work
- Minimum 5 years of copywriting, ideally within an agency
- Strong attention to detail
There are least two less-than-obvious ways to improve your vocabulary (and by extension, your copywriting skills): studying for the GRE and becoming a crossword puzzle enthusiast. I’ve done both but for the purposes of this job application, I’d like to focus on the latter.
My grandmother was the best writer I’ve ever known. She wasn’t a professional writer, but she had a gift and a love of writing was something we shared. It wasn’t until last year that I also took up her love of crossword puzzles, and immediately saw how the two went hand in hand. Before long, I was solving Monday through Wednesday puzzles in the New York Times, needing to look up words less and less frequently as time passed. Soon, I was able to complete Thursday to Saturday, too. Throughout this process, I could feel my stock of quips, rejoinders, and turns of phrase steadily growing. Eventually, I worked up the courage to attempt the Sunday puzzles.
It was this courage that was the real turning point for me. In my current agency, I was already known as a hard worker and creative spirit; my peer and manager evaluations had made this clear. But while I felt confident in my abilities, I had never seen myself as particularly daring. Considering new challenges and mastering each one along the way had given me a renewed sense of myself and clarity about my chosen profession.
I began a career as a copywriter because I was skilled at finding combinations of words to fit a thought or feeling. I’m continuing down that path because I’ve realized how I can shape and hone that skill to reach new heights. I’d like copywriting at *** to be the next step in my journey.
All the best,
5. Always proofread before you submit
Reread your cover letter several times before submitting and keep an eye out for errors of spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Reading the letter aloud can help you pick out awkward phrasing or too-long sentences. There are certain common errors that we all have a tendency to gloss over, so make sure to do a slow, deliberate reading that examines each word. If your salutation includes the hiring manager’s name, triple-check the spelling.
[Read more: Cover Letter Checklist: What to Review Before You Submit]
For jobs that require submitting a cover letter, remember that you’re getting a valuable chance to illustrate your capabilities and share a glimpse of authentic personality. Take advantage of the opportunity to let your greatest strengths shine, while also showing that you respect the hiring manager’s time and attention.
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