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Making yourself stick: writing memorable resumes and cover letters

A model for writing memorable resumes and cover letters
A model for writing memorable resumes and cover letters
Chip and Dan Heath

Writing your cover letter

Think of your cover letter as a sales pitch, which means you'll need to explain why you are sending the cover letter and what response you'll expect. Be sure to do some self-reflection so you can talk about as well as researching facts about the job you want. As a writer, your job is to get the reader's attention, create interest, and convince the reader that offering you an interview would be a smart move. In the body of the letter, describe yourself in terms of benefiting your future employer. Foster credibility by maintaining a consistent tone and by highlighting a connection on your resume. Use repetition and rhythm to emphasize your main point and create a memorable style. At the end of the letter, encourage the reader to take action and contact you.

Words to use in your cover letter: summarize, outline, acquaint, enclosed, industrious, imaginative, enthusiastic, capable, responsible, efficient, versatile, innovation, effective

Writing your resume

The resume can be organized in reverse chronological order, skills-oriented order, or a combination of the two. Headings such as skills, education, and experience are highly recommended. Resume formats are typically dependent on the industry, so specific advice on what experience include and how to arrange it on the page are difficult to supply. Contact your college's career center or ask one of your networking contacts to look over your resume and offer feedback.

Words to use in your resume: administered, contributed, coordinated, created, developed, directed, guided, organized, oversaw, reclassified, restructured, supervised, trained

Making yourself memorable

Malcom Gladwell's Tipping Point: How little things can make a big difference and Dan and Chip Heath's Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die take a look at the concept of "sticky ideas." Sticky ideas are so memorable and powerful they change people's behavior and are triggered by an overall feeling of pleasure at the initial encounter. The best way to describe a sticky idea is an incredibly effective slogan. Sticky ideas are a kind of word of mouth epidemic that is as catchy as Paul Revere's "The redcoats are coming!" It was the right message delivered at the right time to the right people by packaging it in a relevant, contagious, and irresistible way.

Gladwell describes a tipping point as a sudden and radical change brought on by a critical moment of absolute certainty that it will stick. The Heath brothers define a sticky idea as being a simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional story. Sticky ideas are understood, remembered, and retold because they leave a lasting impact. Strip down (not dumb down) to the core. The essence of your main message should have a clear purpose to prevent the reader from suffering decision paralysis--the inability to move forward because excessive ambiguity produces irrational anxiety.

To construct an effective sticky idea consider the following questions:

  1. Find the message's essential core. What selling point do you want people to remember?
  2. Make the audience to pay attention and maintain their interest
  3. Get the audience to believe what you say. How can you build credibility?
  4. How can you get people to care about your selling point?
  5. Stay away from statistics. What story will make the audience take action?
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