Here are a few quick answers to some of the most common questions we receive about cover letters, resumes, and the job-application process.
"I really don't want potential employers to contact my most recent previous employer. I left on bad terms, and I just can't see my former manager saying anything positive about me. But I still need to list this place on my resume, right? So what should I do?"
Include the company on your resume. But make sure you have a list of professional references to provide to potential employers if they ask, and make sure your former manager's name is not on this list. For the most part, if you don't give your last employer explicit permission to do so, the company won't release any information about you except your dates of employment and the title of your position. They won't provide opinions about you, they won't comment on your performance, they won't share your salary , and they won't stand in the way of your future prospects. Most employers would rather avoid the legal, ethical, and social hassles that come from badmouthing previous workers.
"I'm looking for work while still employed, and I don't want my bosses to know that I'm searching. But if I list my current company on my resume, potential employers may try to contact them, right? And that could blow my cover. Help?"
As in the above answer, list your current company on your resume. Just don't use your boss as a reference.
"Some of the positions I'm applying for ask for both a resume and cover letter, and some ask for just a resume. Some online applications say that cover letters are optional. Should I send a letter to these places anyway? Or will that just prove that I don't know how to follow directions?"
Send a cover letter anyway. Upload your letter as an "additional file" or "supporting material" if that's your only option. If you can, submit your letter and resume together by email.
"I sent my former boss an email asking if I could use her as a reference, and she didn't respond. What does this mean? Is it a passive-aggressive way of saying she doesn't want to vouch for me? I need to submit my resume by the end of the day, or the end of the week at the latest, and I can't wait around forever."
Your former boss is not trying to brush you off—she just doesn't realize how urgent your deadline is. First, give her a polite, gentle nudge by phone or email. And second, clarify what you're asking her to do and make this task as easy as possible. Will she simply have to answer the phone and say nice things about you? Do you want her to write you a long, glowing letter of recommendation? In the second case, you can simplify this process for her by writing the letter yourself and asking her to send it under her own name, or you can offer to provide her with a bulleted list of the most important things you accomplished under her direction.
Create a Professional Resume & Cover Letter
For more answers to common job search questions, check out the resources on LiveCareer. While you're on the site, use LiveCareer's cover letter builder and resume builder to create fast, professional application materials the easy way.