Do what the employer instructs
- Check the organization website. This might instruct you to submit to an online system, or email or mail.
- If you are speaking with (listening to) a representative in person (career fair, information session, presentation to your club, chance meeting when traveling, etc.), do what s/he instructs. If s/he is not clear (e.g. "you can send me your resume"), ask for clarification (e.g. "Do you prefer resumes sent by email or hard copy?")
Why submitting online may be required
- This is the only way the organization can effectively and efficiently receive, process, manage and track the large volume it receives.
- Federal regulation requires that applicants be treated and defined the same way; thus all applicants may be required to apply in the same way.
- Large employers typically have Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that enable them to manage the volume of applicants.
- Email includes so much spam and virus potential in attachments. Receiving a large volume of resumes by email is impractical and risky.
What if there are no instructions, and you find both an email address and a mailing address for hard copy?
This is a judgment call. In making your decision, consider:
- Is there someone you can ask? Would a simple phone call solve the issue?
- Do you know something about the organization or person to help you decide? Have you received a job notice via email? If so, the sender may expect responses via email. Is the organization very formal? Perhaps a hard copy document on good quality paper might appeal to a formal organization.
- It is easier to receive, store and forward items sent via email. It is also easier to be overloaded by email and chose to ignore email that is from an unknown source. Email that looks like spam will be ignored and deleted unread.
- It takes more effort to print and mail hard copy documents, and suggests you care enough to take the effort. But hard copy is harder to store and share.
- Is the job really important to you? Is it worth your time to do both email and hard copy just to cover the bases? (If so, state in each sending that you are doing both; e.g. "I am also sending this by hard copy/email in case you prefer to receive this by that means.")
- This takes a lot of work. Obviously you cannot hand-deliver a resume in all situations.
- It can make a very positive impression to show up in person, well-dressed, and hand-deliver an envelope containing your resume and cover letter, using a friendly demeanor and excellent interpersonal skills with the employees you do encounter. This might be possible if you are visiting a location/city/town in which you want to work and/or have identified specific firms/businesses/organizations to target in your job search.
- Of course it's possible that you show up in person and the person with whom you should speak is not available or you are told to send email, hard copy or apply online. Do your research first, and determine if you want to go to this effort.
See the employer's instructions
Do your research before emailing your resume. Sending a resume that an employer is unable to open or read will put you out of the running. Employers are busy, often receive a large volume of resumes, and will not look at email that looks like spam. Applicants who don't follow instructions are not good job candidates and have screened themselves out.
Check the employer’s job ad / website for instructions.
- Subject line:
Particular subject line requested? Reference to a particular job?
- Resume in body of email or attached?
Some employers may want a plain text version of your resume in the body of the email to avoid having to open an attachment.
- Attachments accepted? Format? Naming attachments.
Employer might instruct applicants to submit your resume as a Microsoft Word document as an attachment to your email. Some employers may accept a PDF; PDFs are preferred by some senders in design fields because they preserve the exact layout and format of your document. But some employers may not be willing to accept PDFs. Some recipients highly dislike PDFs.
What if I can't find any instructions from the employer?
Cover all the bases: Send two versions with one email: attach an MS Word version of your resume, and include your resume text in your email. That gives the employer an option of looking at the version s/he chooses.
When you need hard copies, even if you submitted online or by email:
- When you attend a career fair. You may have submitted your resume online in advance; even so, bring print copies. Expect that employers will ask you to apply online directly to the employer's website. Even so, carry hard copies to facilitate conversation; the in-person opportunity is unique to a job fair; prepare.
- When you have an interview scheduled, even though someone has already seen and screened your resume, it's a good idea to show up with hard copies. (You might have updated, revised or improved your resume since you applied.) You can offer these to individuals who you meet as part of the interview process.
- When your content is final, use a laser printer to get the highest print quality and professional appearance. If your own printer won't do the job, use a computer lab or professional print service.
Paper stock selection for photocopying
- For the most formal appearance, choose resume bond paper available where office/school supplies are sold.
- The paper can have a textured or smooth finish but avoid flecks or heavy texture that will not produce a clear second generation photocopy. If recipients of your resume want to copy it, make it easy for them.
- Choose a conservative paper color such as white, ivory, beige or ecru.
- Don't use papers that are extremely dark, bright or pastel. They don't convey a professional appearance in addition to aside from interfering with photcopy quality.
- You may also wish to buy a matching paper stock for your cover letters, and matching envelopes.
Mailing your resume or vita
- It is permissible to fold your resume and mail it in a standard-sized business envelope; however, there are some reasons you might chose to mail your resume in a 9 x 12 inch envelope, unfolded.
- If you have used heavy resume paper to reproduce your resume, folding sometimes causes the print to crack on the fold line.
- An unfolded document is easier to photocopy. Make it easy for the employer to reproduce your resume in case that is what s/he wants to do.
- If you are mailing a lengthy vita, and/or have other enclosures when you mail your resume or vita, it simply makes sense to use a large envelope and mail the materials unfolded.
The cover letter
Never mail a hard copy resume or vita without a cover letter. Even if you just spoke directly with an employer on the phone, at a career fair, or otherwise, and put your resume in the mail that same day, a cover letter is essential for several reasons:
- Don't assume you are the only person to whom the employer has spoken. Busy people need a reminder of why your resume is arriving in the mail.
- Don't assume the person with whom you spoke is the one who will open your envelope. A cover letter explains why your resume is showing up in the mail.
- A cover letter is a basic professional courtesy. You are trying to present yourself as a person who is ready to enter the professional world. You will be evaluated on every detail of your behavior, conduct, presentation, and communication skills. A cover letter exhibits your communication skills and reflects your judgment and maturity.
- A cover letter is an opportunity to call attention to your strengths, interests and qualifications in a different manner than you do in your resume.
- A cover letter is personalized to the individual to whom you are writing and the job to which you are applying. The resume should be customized to the job, but it does not include communication about why you are sending the resume and what you know about the organization and your fit with the job.