10 Resume & Cover Letter Tips
Sample Cover Letter
1. Make sure you include this info in your cover letter:
- Who you are and why you’re writing to them (be sure to mention you’re participating in the Boston University LA Internship Program in the first paragraph and that you’re looking for a SPRING, SUMMER, or FALL semester internship).
- The specific position you’re applying for. “Any opening at Lionsgate would rock my world” doesn’t work. Pick one spot and make a case for why you’d be the best at it.
- Why you are writing to them and what you specifically like about their company.
- How your unique experience and skill set are going to make their lives easier every day. Be specific and consider this approach from several angles. It’s more about them than you.
- When you will be available for an interview. (i.e. “I will arrive in Los Angeles on [insert BULA Check-In date here] and can be available for an in-person meeting that week. Until then, I am available to answer questions via phone, Skype or email.”)
- Include your phone number and email address in your cover letter.
2. Keep it short! At this stage in your career, your resume should not be more than one page. Prospective employers often review as many as 2,000 applications each semester and will simply toss a resume that’s too long. Limit your cover letter to 3 paragraphs.
3. Make sure your resume and cover letter look nice. Don’t get too snazzy, but pay attention to font size (no smaller than 10 Point), make it easy to read, and keep spaces, dashes, commas, and periods consistent.
4. Research the do’s and don’ts of resume writing. The BULA program will help you secure an internship(s), but you’ve got to do the legwork in professionally marketing yourself. Check out www.bu.edu/careers, http://newgradlife.info, yourindustryinsider.com, and careerbuilder.com.
5. Unless directed otherwise, put your cover letter in the body of your email. The only attachment should be your resume, and it should be in PDF form to preserve formatting. Send a test resume to a friend to make sure it looks the way you intended on the receiving end!
6. Remove your physical address from both your resume and cover letter. Why?
- Safety: You never know who is going to have access to that document.
- Location: If you continuously highlight that you’re not in LA yet, your resume might be put on the back burner.
- Commute: Even once you get an LA-based address, you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity because your potential employer assumed you wouldn’t be willing to commute.
7. Include your LinkedIn URL in the signature of your cover letter email. Make absolutely certain your LinkedIn profile matches the resumes you’re sending out. If you have a website that looks AMAZING, also include that URL in the signature of your cover letter email. Be careful NOT to be viewed as “self-promoting”.
8. Unless you directed a film that got 100,000 hits on YouTube or you wrote a script that won awards, do not list your student work.
9. Write like a human. Hollywood is full of personality, so be professional, but also friendly and unique. You’re likely to get your internship based on your skill set AND how fun you are to be around.
10. Say “thank you” for taking the time to read your submission!
Many students say that study abroad was the most significant part of their college career. Employers agree – graduates with a study abroad experience under their belt are often more competitive in the job market than their colleagues who did not study abroad. We have put together resources to ensure that AMIDEAST alumni are able to effectively showcase everything that they've learned from their experiences in the Arab world.
How to Highlight your Study Abroad Experience in your Resume
Your resume introduces you to an employer. This is often your one and only chance to make an impression, so this document should be as refined and perfect as possible. A resume should highlight your education, work experience, and special skills which relate to the job you are applying for.
We recommend that you try to identify and highlight your study abroad experience and briefly explain what you learned while abroad. First, recount what you did while abroad:
- Internship? Volunteer placement? Taught English? Did specific research?
- Learned a new language? Reached new proficiency in a previously studied language?
- Obtained new personal traits/strengths (adaptability, problem-solving, cross-cultural understanding, critical thinking, communication skills, etc.)?
- Studied where and what? A language, new subjects, in an institute or a university?
Once you have gathered this information, you must compact everything to fit on your resume. It is a general rule that resumes should fit onto one page. While this rule may not apply in every situation, you should think hard on whether every piece of information on the resume is necessary or relevant before expanding to two pages. In some cases a longer curriculum vitae (CV) may be more appropriate. The below examples show different places that you can showcase your study abroad experience on your resume:
Under this section, you can place your study abroad program under your college education. For example:
|The George Washington University|
Bachelor of Arts
Majors in International Affairs and Middle East Studies
|AMIDEAST, Education Abroad in the Arab World|
Program Concentration: Area & Arabic Language Studies
This allows employers to see where and when you studied abroad. You can also add something like "program concentration" or "research" in order to give employers a sense of what you studied during your time abroad.
If you interned, volunteered, taught English, or did specific research while abroad, be sure to discuss it in the work experience section of your resume. For example:
|The Jordanian Women's Union|
- Researched Jordanian social and environmental issues in order to contribute to the development of the United Nations Development Program Social Watch website.
- Led an online social networking seminar for employees in addition to creating, and updating Facebook and Twitter accounts for the organization
In this section, state the organization, the dates worked there, and your position. In 2 bullet points or less, explain what your position entailed and how you interacted with your international work environment. It is important not to say too much in this section. In the position's cover letter or interview, you can relate specific experiences and skills obtains in a more personal, yet professional manner.
If you have enough community service experience to make it worthwhile, you may wish to instead include a "community service" section in your resume. For example:
|St. Andrews Refugee Services|
Legal Volunteer, Iraqi and Sudanese Refugees
|Friends of Congresswoman Lois Capps |
Campaign Volunteer, Get Out the Vote
|Santa Barbara, CA|
|Abraham Lincoln High School |
English Language Learners Tutor/Mentor
Studying with AMIDEAST, students learn Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Arabic of the host country. How proficient did you become in Arabic and what dialects do you know? We recommend using a widely-recognized language proficiency scale, such as the ILR or the ACTFL.
- Modern Standard Arabic (Advanced)
- Omani Arabic (High-Intermediate)
- Moroccan Arabic (Novice)
Your cover letter must catch the eye of your potential employers, yet explain your qualifications as briefly and as concisely as possible. Depending on the position you're applying for, it can be useful to briefly mention the experience you've gained while abroad in your cover letter. However, be careful to not repeat what is already apparent from your resume.
The interview is your main opportunity to express your qualifications and experiences in relation to the organization's needs. While it may be difficult to predict what exactly an interviewer will ask, it is best to prepare generic answers and later adapt them to the interviewer's questions. Here are some questions about study abroad which may be helpful to prepare for your interview.
1. You studied abroad in Amman, Jordan. Why did you decide to study there?
Answer Strategy: Think back to why you originally wanted to go abroad. Did you want to understand another culture, improve upon language skills, or challenge yourself academically? While exploring Petra or meeting new people may have been initial motivators, be sure to highlight your professional reasons for studying in the Arab world.
2. Describe an occurrence in a previous job or while abroad where you faced a difficult or awkward situation and how it was overcome.
Answer Strategy: In this question, an employer may want to gauge the applicant's adaptability, flexibility, and willingness to work in a diverse environment. Think of a moment of culture shock for you while abroad. Was there ever a cultural misunderstanding with your host family or a process of adaptation with your new classes? Select an instance which exemplifies how you overcame this obstacle professionally and grew into a more adaptable or flexible person as an outcome.
3. What do you feel you achieved by studying abroad? Were your initial expectations met? If not, explain.
Answer Strategy: This question drives at an applicant's cross-cultural understanding and adaptability. Briefly describe what you learned overall from your experience, including the language capabilities and volunteer or work experience you gained.
Once you've gotten the job or internship, it is possible to consistently utilize your study abroad experience to both you and your organization's advantage. Even if you are not directly using the Arabic language skills developed from your AMIDEAST program, it is still possible to utilize the other skills you cultivated while abroad. Please note: it is also important to mention these skills during the interview stage.
· Language: ability which allows one to communicate with Arabic-speakers or translate from Arabic to English and vice versa
· Adaptability: to changing or difficult projects
· Flexibility: with deadlines, workload, and last-minute meetings
· Patience: when receiving constructive criticism or helping others
· Cross-cultural openness/respect: towards all employees in the workplace and all customers/clients served
· Ability to travel: and willingness to negotiate the challenges of travel abroad
We've compiled some additional resources that we hope you might find useful in developing the perfect resume, cover letter, and interview strategy.
Study Abroad and Career Development – An in-depth explanation of how to make the most of your study abroad experience. This article includes information on every part of the job search process, including specific instructions on how you can improve your cover letter and resume. Martin Tillman, author of the article, also hosts a continuously updated blog with additional tips.
Unpacking Your Study Abroad Experience: Critical Reflection for Workplace Competencies - This article from Michigan State University highlights specific competencies employers look for in study abroad alumni, as well as strategies for students to articulate or demonstrate these competencies.