Career Planning – Job Application Tips

In General

  • When submitting material electronically, documents should be in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. You can create the resume in Microsoft Word, but make sure to convert it to PDF form before submitting your application, as this is the only way to guarantee that your fonts and formatting are preserved.
  • Title your documents in a way that is helpful for the recipient. “OrchestraCoverLetter.pdf” is not as good as using your last name, e.g.: “Wingert letter.pdf.”
  • Do not use color, borders, or clip art on either your resume or cover letter.
  • Do not paste a headshot or other photo on your resume or letter.
  • Use a typeface that is large enough to be read easily.
  • Consider creating a common letterhead on each document. If you use a nice font and layout for your name, address, phone number(s), and email, you can use this as your header on your letter, resume, references, salary history, etc.
  • Even if submitting materials electronically, print a copy to see what the document really looks like on paper.

Cover Letter

  • Keep the letter to a reasonable length. A page or less should generally suffice.
  • Write a unique letter for each application. It is obvious when a form letter is used.
  • Include the organization’s name and the title of the position for which you are applying in the opening paragraph.
  • Find a balance between discussing yourself and the organization. Show the reader that you have done some research and have a genuine interest the organization and their mission.
  • Talk about results. Include specific accomplishments with data, e.g. XX% growth in ticket sales over X years, etc. But if you use percentages, give some base numbers for context.
  • Explain what makes the position appealing to you.
  • When the letter is finished, count how many times the word “I” is used. Too many applicants use “I” to start most sentences and/or paragraphs which results in clunky, redundant writing with an ego.
  • Address letters to a specific name, if possible, or to “Members of the Search Committee.”
  • Scan your signature and save it as a small .jpg to paste into your letter. Your signature will also convert if you turn your .doc into a .pdf.


  • Resumes need not be limited to one page. In general, two to three pages is fine.
  • The keys to a great looking resume are consistency and organization. For example, if you indent one job title, be sure to indent them all throughout. Note small differences like “2015-2016” and “2015 – 2016” and use one or the other consistently.
  • Resumes are easiest to read and navigate when they have a good amount of “white space.” Leave a blank line between job listings, etc.
  • Don’t use abbreviations unless they are well known and widely accepted.
  • It is helpful to include a sentence or two describing each organization listed on your resume.
  • It is presumed that you will provide references, when necessary. You do not need to include “References Available Upon Request” on your resume.
  • Do not list your references on your resume. This information should be provided on a separate page.

Become a member

Thank you for your interest in the League of American Orchestras! We are dedicated to advancing the orchestral experience for all.

Join Now