Resumes and Cover Letters

Getting Started

The primary purpose of a resume is to secure an interview. Typically, an employer will spend less than a minute looking over a resume when making an initial decision on whether or not to consider you for an interview. Therefore, it is essential that your resume communicates both your skills and experience efficiently, while also serving as an effective marketing tool. Your resume should catch the attention of employers and interest them in talking to you.

Essential Sections

Everyone’s resume should include three essential sections:

  1. Heading: name, address, phone number, email, LinkedIn URL (optional)
  2. Education: degree(s) completed (most recent first) with name of school, graduation date, GPA (optional)
  3. Experience: list work experience (most recent first) with title of position, organization name, dates worked

Additional Sections

Additional sections will vary based on your background, experience, skillset, and industry, but may include any of the following:

  • Accomplishments/Honors
  • Skills
  • Relevant Coursework
  • Volunteer Experience
  • Activities/Involvement
  • Presentations
  • Publications
  • Professional Affiliations

For more information on building your resume, be sure to check out the Career Handbook, or make an appointment with a career counselor to get one-on-one assistance!

Formatting Your Resume

When designing your resume, it is important that it looks concise and consistent so that the information is easy to read and quick to understand. If possible, it should look full without looking overcrowded. Typically, you should strive to keep your resume to one page, however this may not always be true, depending on your experience, qualifications, and industry.

General Tips

Some general tips to creating a quality resume:

  • Do not use templates, as you run the risk of formatting issues when viewed on a different computer. Use 10-12 point font (name can be a little larger)
  • Be sure to use a font that is easy to read both on paper and digitally: Arial, Calibri, and Times New Roman work well, but consider something more unique such as Garamond, Georgia, or Helvetica
  • Proper spacing between each section and each item is important to show a clear separation and improve readability
  • Consider placing all dates on right side to create clean looking timeline
  • Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

Creating Action Statements

The bullets that reside under your various work or extracurricular experiences have the potential to showcase not only what you did, but also what you accomplished and what skills you obtained. Additionally, these statements provide a clear example of your ability to effectively communicate; a vital transferable skill.

Begin each statement with a strong, action-orientated word or phrase to keep your statements short and powerful. When possible, try to incorporate accomplishments and quantify any results. To jump-start you in creating these statements, utilize this list of action verbs.

Developing a Cover Letter

Often times your cover letter can be just as, if not more important than, your resume when applying for a position. While your resume provides the employer with a list of your qualifications and experiences, the cover letter provides you the opportunity to translate this information into why you would be an ideal fit for that particular position. With that in mind, while you may still use some of the same language and highlight certain qualities, you should be writing a unique cover letter for every position to which you apply.

Dos and Don'ts for Cover Letters
Write a letter specific to that position and company Send out generic cover letters
Directly address items listed in the job posting Include overly used buzzwords or phrasing
Make connections between your accomplishments/experiences with the position Relist statements from your resume
Speak to how you will benefit the company Focus on how the position will benefit you

Review the following template and sample to help you draft your cover letter. Also, feel free to make an appointment to see a career counselor to learn how you can strengthen your cover letters.

Utilizing LinkedIn

Nearly half of all employers research job candidates online. One great resource that you can utilize to promote a positive online presence and get your qualifications out there, is LinkedIn. Your LinkedIn profile can be an important supplement to your resume. This website serves as a professional social media outlet, where you can connect with people, organizations, jobs, and news, all within a professional setting. Spend a little time reviewing the numerous tips and resources created to help students get started at LinkedIn for Students.


References should not be included on your resume, nor should you list “references available upon request” as this can be assumed. When employers ask for references, they are asking for the contact information for individuals who can provide further insight into you as a worker. Your list of references should include three to five individuals who know you professionally or academically, such as a supervisor, professor, coach, or advisor. These individuals should be listed on a separate document, formatted similar to your resume, and include each person’s name, job title, organization name, phone, and email.

To be polite, remember to ask permission prior to listing someone as a reference and to make sure that he or she will give a positive reference. Additionally, it is beneficial to notify your references prior to an interview that they may be contacted, and provide them with a copy of your resume and the job description.