Knowing how to write a resume and a cover letter are basic skills for anyone trying to look for a job. However, given that there is no universally accepted writing format, things can get confusing. We could all use a little help when it comes to writing a good resume. Interestingly, Harvard University, one of the top institutes in the world, has free online resources explaining the nuts and bolts of writing a great resume and cover letter.

It even has multiple samples to give users a better idea of what to do. One particular document provided by Harvard starts by stating guidelines regarding the language of the resume. Candidates must make their resumes specific and write in an active tone rather than a passive one. You must keep in mind that you are writing for someone who will scan your resume quickly. Applicants have to be articulate and make their resume fact-based to obtain the best results.

Personal pronouns, slang words, writing in a narrative style, and including your picture, age or gender are all strict no-nos. Ensure that all spelling and grammatical errors are removed and essential information such as email address and phone number is not missed. Your resume must not be too long or unorganised, it added.

The resume must be consistent in format, italics, underlining, capitalisation, and font. It must also look pleasing with an adequate amount of white space. Applicants are advised to use headings in order of importance and list things under headings in reverse chronological order. Try to avoid information gaps if possible, the university stated.

The document also lists action words to use in your resume. Using a sample resume, the document illustrates that one should mention coursework relevant to the position one is applying for. Under work experience, there should be some variety in the words used. It also demonstrates that you can use the volunteer and previous employment experience to show that you possess the relevant skills needed for the job, states Harvard.

For the cover letter, Harvard suggests that you write your full address. Use the first paragraph to clearly state your reason for writing the letter. Mention the post you are applying for, too. It is a good idea to briefly state three reasons why you would be an ideal fit for the job in the first paragraph.

You must use the second paragraph to briefly discuss why you are interested in the position, what experience you have had that makes you fit for it, and to confidently emphasise the skills that make you perfect for the job. In the closing paragraph, reiterate your interest and motivation and thank the reader for their consideration. Ensure that your cover letter in no more than one page long, and is tailored to the organisation.

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