Professional documents: When do I share them?

A question I’ve been getting a lot lately is when do I know when to share my professional documents (i.e., resume, cover letter, references, portfolio) with potential employers? Frustratingly, the best answer is…it depends! Here are some highlights to help you navigate.

The Resume

The resume is the number one document needed to apply for a job. Whether you are applying online, at a fair, or through email, you will need a resume to give the employer. This document should have all of your highlights (and then some) and should clearly display your certification(s), teaching internship, and other experiences that make you unique and memorable as a teacher.

The style and layout of your resume should be considered before applying. For example, a booklet style resume (one that is usually 4 pages and printed on a large piece of paper) is really only best for career fairs or another instance when you are giving your resume directly to an employer. A two-page resume is best when applying or sending online. It’s easier to review on a computer screen or print off quickly for a committee to review.

Consider sending all document in PDF if applying online to ensure that the look and layout remain intact! 

Cover Letter

Cover letters are often asked for as part of the application package. If a cover letter is not asked for then you do not need to supply one. FYI – many HR coordinators indicate that they often avoid asking for cover letters or do not read them; however, school leaders often do read them thoroughly and will make decisions about your success as a teacher and their interest in interviewing you based on what they read in this document.

If you do need a cover letter, make sure it is well written and tailored to the job/school you’re applying to. If you haven’t communicated your sincere interest and how you’re a good fit for the role using examples from your previous experiences, they may not see you as a valuable candidate.

Typically you do not need a cover letter for a career fair, but if you think it helps communicate your message or brand, then please, by all means, write one!

References

Nowadays we do not communicate references on our resume (unless we have a booklet style resume which again is best suited for career fairs or face-to-face interactions with employers). And we do not share a line on our resumes that says “references available upon request.” The reason is simply because it’s expected that we’re going to supply them. If they are asked for in the online application, then add them. If they are not asked for during the application process, bring a copy of your references to your first-round interview. If you ever forget them, simply offer to email your references page to your contact as soon as your interaction is over.

Portfolio

If you have an online portfolio it’s great to have that link on your resume (usually in the header), but don’t ever assume someone is going to take the time to review it.

Where you can use your portfolio is during the interview or sometimes at a career fair if you’re given the right opportunity. Although you can use an iPad or another electronic device to display your website, it might be a good idea to supply the employer with a few printed “artifacts”. This may be a sample lesson plan, a letter of recommendation, a positive note from a student or parent, or a picture or two of a project you’ve lead. Any of these documents can enhance your interview and provide tangible proof of your successful experience(s).

For questions on any of these documents or how to use them, feel free to connect with your career consultant at carls173@msu.edu. If you’ve had a different experience using your documents and you’d like to share it with your peers, feel free to send an email about it! We may feature you on the blog!

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