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Writing an Effective Resume and Cover Letter 


In many situations, the resume is a company's first impression of you when you apply for a job or an internship.  When writing your resume, your goal should be to get an interview.  The interview gets you the job.   Effective resumes are concise, bulleted, focused on a specific objective, and provide the reader with a quick overview of your related skills and experience.  Rather than listing job duties, you should describe your experience in terms of skills that relate to your job objective.

A cover letter should always accompany your resume when you are applying for a job or internship. The cover letter gives the employer a clear idea of why you are interested in the position and how your skills fit their needs.  You can also use the cover letter to let an employer know you are willing to relocate or that you have a particular interest in the company.  The cover letter can also showcase your written communication skills.  A cover letter should be brief but provide specific information that one may not necessarily see in your resume.

Sample Resumes
Sample Resumes are available at the bottom of this page as well as through the Career Resource Library on Career Connection.

Resume Basics
Appearance
•   Your resume is YOUR marketing tool and should be brief,
     attractive, and easy to read. 
•   Use Microsoft Word – and use the Blank Document and
     NOT A TEMPLATE!
•   Conservative font in at 11 – 12 pt print.
•   Use bold to emphasize your headings as well as company and
     university names.

Length
•   One-page resumes are best for students and entry-level
     candidates.
•   If you have 2 pages, you may have information that is not
     relevant to your objective.       
•   The world of business and industry appreciates brevity.  
     However, if you are entering an academic field, a longer
     resume may be appropriate. 

Organization 
•    If the job requires or prefers a college degree, place your
      Education before Experience.
•    When listing work experience, use reverse chronological
      order.  In other words, list most recent jobs first.
•    List information within experience related categories based
      on its relevance to your objective or its significance.  You want
      an employer to see your best accomplishments first.  

Contact Information
•   Provide a local and permanent address and phone so employer
     can contact you at all times.
•   Use an email address that sounds professional and stays
     with you. 

Experience
•    Never lie or stretch the truth.  It will come back to haunt you.
•    Brainstorm your skills and experiences before you write 
      the resume.  Determine how you can make your background
      match the objective.
•    What transferable skills can you bring to the position?  Even 
      seemingly unrelated part-time jobs helped us develop 
      communication, problem solving, customer service, leadership, 
      and financial skills.
•    All information on your resume should relate back to the
      objective.
•    Always describe Work and Leadership Experiences with strong
      action phrases in order to provide a clear picture of your
      transferable skills.
•    Do not bury important activities and leadership opportunities
      at the bottom of your resume.  Use a separate category to
      highlight internships, study abroad, and campus leadership.
•    Worthwhile experience often comes in the non-paid form and it
      should be on your resume.

Education
•   Include projects from class that relate to your objective. 
•   If you don't have projects, then at least include your coursework
     to show qualifications related to your objective.
•   High school diploma information is not included.
•   Study Abroad can be listed as a sub-heading under education.

Will the Company Really Get My Resume if I Submit it Online?
Yes!!!  Don't avoid opportunities just because they are taking resumes through a website.  This process actually helps you. The online resume goes straight to the recruiter. 

At career fairs, you will often be asked to submit your resume online.  You want to follow their directions because many companies are now going to a paperless resume submission policy.  They may not be allowed to take your resume.  Instead, ask for a business card so that you can follow-up with the recruiter once you submit the resume. 

When you submit a resume online without having a contact name, you should use your current network to determine a way to make a real connection with someone within the company. 

Can I Email a Resume?
Emailed resumes are highly appropriate when you have an employer's email address.  We recommend using your email to briefly tell the employer why you are writing.  If you were referred by someone, make sure to mention that individual's name.  

You should attached your specific cover letter and resume to the email so that your resume and cover letter can be printed in the proper format.  As long as you are using a computer with virus protection, attaching a resume and cover letter to an email is acceptable.  If a company refuses to accept attachments, they usually indicate as such in their job postings.

How Do I Send and Distribute Paper Resumes?
If you are mailing  or hand delivering a resume and cover letter, use resume paper.  To mail your documents, we recommend using large manila envelopes so that you do not have to fold your documents. High quality white or ivory paper will make your resume stand out from the others.


Cover Letter Basics

What is the purpose of the cover letter?
Put yourself in the employer's shoes.  The cover letter tells an employer why they are receiving your resume and for which job you are applying.  Often, they have posted more than one position.  You are communicating what you are applying for and how your skills and experience best match the position.   The cover letter is also your opportunity to showcase the writing skills you have developed while attending a liberal arts university.

When do you send a cover letter? 
If you are applying for a job by mailing, emailing, or faxing a resume, you should always send a cover letter.  Pay close attention to the job posting to which you are applying.  In most instances, the application process will require both a resume and a cover letter. 

What if I apply for a job online? 
When applying through a company's online software program, the program will typically instruct you to upload a resume.

Do I take a cover letter to a job fair or to an on-campus interview?
As a general rule, resumes are all you need for a job fair or a campus interview.  However, if you are attending a career fair to look for an internship, a cover letter may be of a great benefit to you.  If you write a specific cover letter detailing what you want to get out of the experience, then you'll appear to be a focused, goal oriented candidate. 

Sample Resumes and Cover Letter Resources
Students and alumni can also register through Career Connection to download a more comprehensive collection of resume and cover letter samples.

Sophomore Summer Job Resume (Chronological) (doc)
Internship Resume (Chronological) (doc)
Internship Resume (with class projects included) (doc)
Senior Job Search Resume (Chronological) (doc)
Senior Job Search Resume (Functional) (doc)
Senior Graduate School Application Resume (Chronological) (doc)
Senior Graduate Assistantship Resume (Chronological) (doc)
Current Graduate Student with Experience Resume (Chronological) (doc)
Undergraduate Resume with Experience (Chronological)
Alumni Resume (Chronological)

List of Action Verbs for Resumes (doc)

Cover Letters and Other Job Search Correspondence (pdf)

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