Resume & Cover Letter

Resume - Writing

What it is

  • A resume is a targeted marketing tool
  • It highlights your skills, education, experience, and accomplishments for a particular position and organization

What you need to know

  • Employers take around 20 seconds to review a resume; make the most of their time
  • Bullet your descriptions and include accomplishments and skills
  • Tailor the experiences and skills for each specific opportunity you are applying to – a one size fits all resume will be ignored


  • Have both a Word (.doc) and a PDF version of your resume, and follow the employer’s instructions on which format they would prefer.  For more info, read "The Best Resume File Format"
  • When printing your resume, use high quality white or off-white paper
  • For students and new graduates, one page is best; some professions are open to longer resumes
  • Make sure your formatting is consistent throughout the document and that verb tenses match the experience
    • Ex.  Current experience: use present tense (organize, correspond, etc)
    • Previous experience: use past tense (organized, corresponded, etc)


Resume - Structure

Professional identifying information

  • Name, address, phone number, professional email, and LinkedIn profile


  • Degree(s), major, university, city, state, month and year of graduation (or anticipated month and year)
  • Include applicable minors, honors, awards, special projects and relevant coursework
  • Include your GPA if it is above average or better (3.0 or higher)


  • Place experiences most relevant to the job you are applying to under a heading like “Related Experience”
  • You don’t need to have separate sections for paid and unpaid experiences, so include related internships, class projects, research, or volunteer experiences
  • Unrelated experiences, such as summer jobs, can appear under a heading like “Additional Experience”
  • List in reverse chronological order (with the most recent experience first)
  • Other headings to consider include: Leadership, Technical Skills, Lab Skills, Licenses and Certifications, Languages (only if advanced/fluent), Research and Publications, Community Service, Memberships/Affiliations


  • Be specific in your descriptions and quantify accomplishments using action verbs, superlatives and numbers (e.g., "Effectively collaborated with a team of diverse professionals," “Only student rep. on the sub-committee,” “Trained 8 lifeguards,” “Supervised a caseload of 6 clients”)
  • Use verbs to showcase specific and transferable skills you have acquired in and out of the classroom
  • Remove all personal pronouns (no “I” or “my”)


  • References should not be included on the resume itself
  • Create a separate reference page listing 3 or 4 people, with their contact information, who have supervised your work (employer, professor, advisor)
  • Bring the reference sheet to the interview
  • Always contact your references before listing them ― you do not want them to be surprised by a call from an employer
  • Use LinkedIn to request “recommendations” by supervisors or colleagues you are connected to (once you have at least one recommendation, you can add “for immediate recommendations, please see (insert your LinkedIn url)” to your resume

Cover Letter

What it is

  • A cover letter emphasizes your interest in a specific position and employer
  • Your resume is providing the who, what, when, where for employers, the cover letter provides the why
  • Showcases how your background matches the needs of the employer
  • Cover letters are not long ― A half-page, 3 paragraphs, is best
  • All cover letters should be individually created for a specific job ― Do not use generic templates
  • It’s okay to get personal and provide examples of life experiences if they strongly highlight why you are a great fit for the role. Just remember, while personal information can help you stand out, you do not want to tell someone your whole life story, so use good judgment 


  • Use simpledirect language and correct grammar
  • Letters should be flawless ― no typos or spelling errors
  • Single-space your letters and put in business letter format (add your heading, the date, who it’s going to, etc.)
  • If printed, use high-quality, white or off-white paper - match resume paper
  • Online/email submission, save and send as a PDF