Resumes and Cover Letters
Many times a resume and cover letter is the first impression a prospective employer has of you. We recommend you develop a resume early in your academic career and update it regularly. Schedule an appointment with us to help you begin the writing process. We are also happy to review resumes that have been drafted for specific positions, including applications for graduate school.
Below is information to help you begin your drafts. We encourage you to bring them to the Liberal Arts in Practice Center for feedback, but also share it with your advisor, peers, and others connected to your field of interest. Soliciting feedback from a variety of sources will only make your documents stronger.
A resume is a one-two page document which allows you to introduce yourself and your strengths to potential employers and graduate school recruiters, scholarship committees, and many more individuals you will meet as you make career and academic plans. It is one of the most important tools you have in your job search. It is worth investing significant time and care in developing your resume.
When writing and designing your resume, there is standard information which should be included. Below are the sections that are highly recommended to be part of your final product.
The first item that should appear on your resume is your name. Your contact information should immediately follow. List your name, address, city, state, zip code, area code, telephone number, and email where you can be reached. You may consider listing your permanent and school address if you are submitting your resume for positions for summer term, between breaks, or post-graduation.
The objective gives a sense of purpose to the resume. State the type of position you want to attain and an indication of the skills you offer the employer. You do not necessarily have to identify a specific job title in your objective statement, but avoid generalities. You should tailor your objective to each position you seek. This section should be the first after your name and contact information.
International students who wish to include citizenship/work status should include that information here, although including such information is not necessary.
In general, new graduates should place education at the top of their resume as the primary qualifying factor for the position. List the highest degree first and work backward. Do not list your high school education. List your degree, major/minor, name of school attended, city and state, and date of graduation. You can (and should) list your G.P.A. if it is above 3.0.
If you studied abroad, it is recommended that you list that information in the education section. List the name of the program, the institution, city and country of the institution, and the dates of attendance.
If you don’t have career related experience, it is a good idea to highlight some of your major courses on your resume. This gives an employer an idea of your training and shows that you have knowledge in a specific area. List courses by title and in order of importance.
This section is used to highlight your employment/research history. Be sure to show what you have achieved and special contributions you have made. Remember to include internships, field terms, senior projects, and practica. This can include both paid and unpaid experiences. Make sure you define your abilities rather than your duties. Stress your accomplishments and quantify those accomplishments whenever possible. Use brief and direct descriptions and strong action verbs. Include your job title, dates of work, and employer name and location.
Experience can also be separated into “Related Experience” and “Supporting Experience.” This strategy can be especially helpful if your most related experience is not your most recent experience.
Special Skills, Campus Involvement, and Awards
Include any special skills such as computer skills or languages known. Quantify these skills by using such phrases as: proficient in, knowledge of, etc. Include your memberships in professional organizations, particularly any awards, leadership roles, offices held, or presentations given that related to your career objective. This is also the section to highlight out of the classroom accomplishments, such as volunteer involvement or campus leadership. Again, focus on successes or significant contributions rather than detailing duties.
To best highlight these skills and accomplishments, you may want to create separate sections that could include
- Computer skills
- Lab skills
- Honors and Achievements
- Military Service
- Special Skills
- Leadership Experience
- Co-curricular Experience
- Community Contributions
Resume Formatting and Guidelines
Making Your Resume an Easy Read
Your overall resume presentation says volumes about you. In addition to the content of your resume, it is important for you to consider layout and design. Many employers will initially look at resumes for, at most, 10-20 seconds. Make those seconds count by creating a resume that is visually appealing and easy to read.
- Utilize formatting tools to distinguish important information (e.g. section headings, school and company names, job titles, etc.)
- Limit the number of tabs you set so that all indentations and columns fall no more than three vertical lines running down the page.
- If your resume extends to a second page, fill at least half the second page. If not, try to condense to a one-page resume.
- Be consistent with your use of tools, placement, and spacing.
- Top and bottom margins should be at least 0.5 inches, but no more than 1 inch. Left and right margins should be at least 0.75 inches, but no more than 1 inch. Center your resume from top to bottom and left to right.
- Use a 10-12 point font in the body of the resume and 12-16 point font for section headings.
- Use 12-20 point font for your letterhead. Make your name stand out.
- Use fonts that are easy to read, such as Garamond, Times New Roman, and Arial.
- Don’t try to copy a resume; your experiences and education are unique.
- There is no one correct format; tailor yours to highlight your achievements.
- When listing accomplishments, list them in order of importance.
- If your resume is two pages, be sure your name appears at the top of both pages and use a paper clip to attach them.
- It is always a good idea to have at least one other person review your resume. Don’t place complete trust in computer spell-checks.
- You should be re-editing your resume for each position to which you are applying to ensure you are effectively matching your skills and accomplishments with the job description. After each edit or revision, have at least one other individual read your resume again to look for grammar, spelling, spacing, or design errors.
The cover letter is a way of introducing yourself to an employer. It should be tailored to a specific position-you should never submit the same cover letter twice! The following format is recommended in designing your letter:
First paragraph: Why you are writing
In your initial paragraph, state the reason for your letter.
Letter of application: You are applying in response to a specific opening. State the position and indicate how you learned of it. If you found out from someone currently working there be sure to mention their name (with his or her permission).
Letter of Inquiry: You are inquiring as to whether there are openings with the organization in your field of interest.
Second paragraph: What you have to offer
Indicate why you are interested in the position or organization. Do your research. Above all, indicate what you can do for the employer. This is known as an employer-focused letter. If all of your paragraphs begin with “I…”, then you have written a self-focused letter. Change your wording! If you are a recent graduate, explain how your academic background makes you a qualified candidate for the position. If you have practical work experience, point out your specific achievements or unique qualifications. You may refer to your enclosed resume, but try not to repeat the same information that the reader will find there. This is your chance to expand on that information and really shine.
Third paragraph: What happens next
In the closing paragraph, indicate your desire for a personal interview. Close with a statement that will encourage a response. For example, state that you will be in the city where the organization is located on a certain date and would like an interview. Or, simply state you will call during a certain week to inquire about an interview. Ask the employer to contact you if they desire additional information. Refer the person to your phone number/email stated in your letterhead, and thank them for their time.
Cover letter check list
- Center the letter from top to bottom on the page.
- It should identify who you are and the position for which you are applying.
- It highlights the skills you bring to the position and focuses on accomplishments related to the position.
- Each letter should be addressed to a specific individual. If you don’t have a name, do more research or contact the company and ask for the name of their human resources director or college recruiter. If the gender of the contact person is not clear, call the company to ask.
- Always check that the individual’s name and title are spelled correctly.
- Always type your letter.
- Be proactive; close the letter by explaining how you will follow up with the employer.
- Limit it to one page and three to five paragraphs.
- Don’t rely solely on the computer spell checker – read and re-read for errors. Have at least one other person review your letter.