Having all of the documents you need updated and ready to go for when you are applying for a job can seem like a job in and of itself. True, the creation of certain documents can take some time, but so can not having them ready to go when needed. Here is a list of a few documents that should be created and perfected (as much as possible) before beginning the application process.
Having a resume, or resumes, ready to go is an obvious one, right? Going through the process of creating or updating, editing, and formatting usually is not an hour project (unless all you have to do is update a date on a position). Then, there is the creation/adjustment of multiple resumes. I recommend having a resume that speaks to each type of position you are applying for. I don’t mean a separate resume for each position, but for the different types of jobs. For example, you may be qualified for a few different positions, such as mechanic, welder, and operator. Each of these job descriptions will be slightly different and having a resume that is specifically tailored to each of these will increase your chances of being seen by the recruiter.
Some companies prefer a cover letter, some require one, and some don’t want to see one (or they don’t give the applicant the ability to send one). In any case, having one or two cover letters prepared in advance can help you save time when applying. Again, tailoring the cover letter to the specific position type is recommended. However, one general cover letter will do the trick – as long as you review the cover letter and edit it appropriately before sending. The first paragraph should outline your experience and education in relation to the position you are applying for, the rest of the body should explain who you are (i.e. dependable, responsible, works well independently and in a team, etc.), and the closing should give the recruiter your contact information (which should also be in the header when able). If the cover letter is well written enough you should only need to change the first paragraph to coincide with the job listing.
References / Education History
I lump these two together because I have them together in one document. The first page I list professional and personal references (some companies like to see personal references as well), and the second page includes my education history.
For my references, I have their names, how long I have known them, and their contact information.
For my education history, I have the degree, institution, graduation date, and GPA listed.
I have a PDF’d document saved on my computer so I can upload it during the application process, and I have copies printed for the interview process. I offer this during the interview, even if I’m not asked for them.
Letter of Recommendation
I didn’t have a letter of recommendation (LOR) from anyone for many years, but I decided that this would be good to have for profiles that give a place to upload it. I actually have two – one from each of my last two supervisors. A couple things to keep in mind when requesting a recommendation from someone: 1: make sure it is not dated (some employers won’t accept a LOR if it’s over so many years old), 2: ensure it is signed (a LOR isn’t any good if it’s not signed by the person writing it), and 3: PDF it (this makes for easy upload to a company’s site).
Some employers, not many in my experience, will ask for your transcripts. Some colleges start charging after they issue so many official transcripts, so offering unofficial transcripts and promising official transcripts if offered the position will show a sign of good faith on your part and will keep your official transcript costs to a minimum.
Examples of Work
Some positions, especially in the marketing field, will ask for examples of your work. Having these ready in a format that is accessible by most anyone (i.e. PDF or jpeg) will allow you to easily access, upload, and offer these examples to a potential employer. For positions where it is common to show the type and quality of your work I recommend having a professional portfolio of your work put together to show during an interview.
Pulling all documents together prior to applying will save you time and frustration. Almost every employer will ask for a resume, but not all employers will ask for the rest of the listed documents, but it can’t hurt to have them ready just in case. And keeping a few hard copies on-hand when you interview with a company can be helpful and will show that you are organized and prepared.