It’s a given that your references will include your current and most recent employers. Did you know, however, that you can also include individuals who have known you outside the context of employment; i.e., clergy, officers of clubs and organizations, teachers, etc. Although few employers will ever admit to it, the inclusion of people who hold the same or higher rank than the person doing the actual hiring invariably makes for a positive impression. What it suggests is that your strength of character has attracted the favorable notice of those who are successful, well established, and conceivably could be in the position of offering you a job themselves or referring you to one of their associates.
Don’t go for cheesy gimmicks when you’re doing your resume. Flashy neon paper, unusual fonts or an envelope full of sparkle confetti will not score any points. In fact, they will have the opposite effect of what you thought you were going to accomplish by being “different”. Nor should you enclose a photograph unless you’re applying for a job as an actor or model and a photograph has specifically been requested as part of the submission package. Invest in some good quality paper with matching envelopes. Stick to white, ivory, cream, light gray or light blue. The most readable fonts are Courier, Times New Roman, Bookman and Palatino. Your font size should be no less than 12 pt, keeping in mind that you want the text to be as easy on the eyes as possible.
Don’t rely on the spell-check function of your computer to catch everything. Solicit instead a couple of live readers to give your resume (and accompanying cover letter) a once-over before you submit it. Be aware as well that the most frequent typing mistakes ironically occur in the two portions of these materials that are rarely reviewed; specifically, the recipient’s address block and the sender’s own name.
If you were applying for a job at NBC Studios, would you address your letter “To Whom It May Concern”? Of course not. While your correspondence could eventually find its way to the right desk, it will not only have been handled and mangled by everyone along the food chain but also take a lot longer to reach its destination than if you had addressed it properly to begin with. If you are responding to a classified ad in the newspaper or job posting on the Internet, instructions will be given on how to address your submission and where to send it. If, however, you are making the equivalent of a cold call, it will behoove you to find out the name and correct title of the person who manages your targeted department or who makes the hiring decisions for the agency. Look at it this way: if you receive two envelopes at your home address and one is addressed “Occupant” and the other is addressed to your actual name, which one will you open first? Even if you’re doing a mass mailing in your employment search, it should never look as if you are. It’s the personal touch that people remember and that will get you in the door to shine in person!
If it’s feasible to hand-deliver your resume, do it! In the first place, it gives you a psychological advantage of already being familiar with the office environment prior to the interview. Secondly, you don’t have to worry about the postal service losing it. The third reason is that the odds are high of encountering the actual people with whom you will later be interviewing. This could be in an elevator, in a corridor, or in the reception area. If you’re someone who strikes their interest or curiosity, they may casually ask who you are or ask the receptionist about you. Even if they don’t, your second appearance in the office as a candidate will tweak a faint chord of remembrance. And being remembered out of a big herd of hopefuls could make all the difference in getting the job.