Résumés & Cover Letters
Résumés & Cover Letters
Creating an effective resume and cover letter are often essential skills in getting you to the next level in your field but they’re not one-size fits all. Each opportunity you apply for, each industry, and each individual company has it’s own expectations as to how a resume should be laid out. This page is dedicated to providing you with some of the basic tips that are generally accepted by the recruiters and hiring professionals who are reading your resumes and cover letters as you start off on your professional journey.
On average, a recruiter will spend 30 seconds or less reviewing your resume so it’s important to be concise in highlighting your best skills and achievements as they are relevant to the position you’re applying for. The goal of your resume is encourage the reader to keep reading and say “yes” to inviting you in for an initial interview.
Here are some common sections found in a typical undergraduate student resume:
- Name & Contact Information
- Profile / Summary (Optional)
- Experience – This can be broken up into two or three sections based on the themes in your experiences. Common headings include: Work/Professional Experience, Clubs/Student Organizations, Leadership Experience, and Service/Community Involvement.
- Skills (Optional)
Formatting Quick Tips
- Keep your document to one page (for most undergraduates)
- Put your experiences in reverse chronological order (most recent to oldest) in each section
- Keep your formatting consistent and easy to read quickly (i.e., job titles, organization names, dates, and locations in the same location each time)
- Use bullets, not paragraphs
- Quantify bullet points to emphasize a skill or accomplishment
- Tailor your resume to the position for which you are applying
High Quality Bullet Points
Display your skills in action instead of just listing the responsibilities you had. Use the following formula:
Action Verb + What + How/Why/Impact
Basic bullet: Developed interpersonal skills
Bullet plus: Developed interpersonal skills by facilitating cross-cultural conversations with Malawian teens and community members (how)
Basic bullet: Created real interest monitoring tool
Bullet plus: Created real interest monitoring tool to study the effect of rate changes on foreign exchange levels (why)
Basic bullet: Directed actors in productions
Bullet plus: Directed 5-10 student actors and managed technical team in both short and full-length productions attracting audiences of 100+ (impact)
Schedule a Résumé Review Appointment
Students and alumni may schedule an in-person or virtual appointment to meet with a Peer Career Advisor or CPP staff member to have a rough draft of a resume reviewed. Appointments are scheduled via Handshake. We encourage you to make an appointment at least one-two weeks prior to the date that you need your resume. Review the resume samples, go through the Resume Checklist, and then e-mail a draft of your resume, as an attachment, to firstname.lastname@example.org once you have scheduled your appointment.
Cover Letter Tips
A cover letter is your way to share your story, showcase your knowledge and understanding of the role and company, and highlight your key accomplishments which set you apart from other candidates. It’s a great way for an employer to evaluate how you communicate professionally while getting to know you a little better, beyond your resume.
What to Include
Your cover letter should include 3-4 paragraphs with the following information:
- First Paragraph
- The main purpose of the first paragraph is to introduce yourself and tell why you are writing. You want to grab the employer’s attention: why you are interested in this position and/or why this organization. Use your community: if someone has referred you to the organization (a current employee, friend, family member) include his or her name in the first sentence to establish a warm connection.
- Second/Third Paragraph
- Tell the employer your story: describe your qualifications for the type of position you seek using specific examples from academic, work, volunteer, and/or co-curricular experiences. Connect your accomplishments, skills and knowledge directly to the type of position, organization and/or field. Avoid repeating facts outlined on your resume by focusing on key concepts.
- Final Paragraph
- Summarize or give a final statement of interest/qualifications. Thank the employer for his/her time and consideration. Plan to follow up with the employer with a phone call or email.
Need help getting started?
Answer some of these questions to help you consider what you want to say in each paragraph.
- Paragraph 1: Why are you interested in this position/this organization? What in the posting made you say “I’ve got to apply!”?
- Paragraphs 2-3: What 2-3 experiences connect your skills to those listed in the position? What made you say “I can do that!”?
- Paragraph 4: What final point do you want to make?
Formatting Quick Tips
- Font: 10 to 12 point, in the same font as your resume
- Margins: 1 or 1.25 inches.
- Layout: Left justified, beginning no more than 2 inches from the top.
- Style: Positive language, confident but not imposing, concise with supporting detail, written in active verb voice.
- E-mail: Use body of e-mail as cover letter starting with salutation.
- Content: 3-4 paragraphs
Schedule a Cover Letter Review Appointment
Students and alumni may schedule an in-person or virtual appointment to meet with a Peer Career Advisor or CPP staff member to have a rough draft of a cover letter reviewed. Appointments are scheduled via Handshake. We encourage you to make an appointment at least one-two weeks prior to the date that you need your cover letter. Review the cover letter samples linked below and then e-mail a draft of your cover letter, as an attachment, to email@example.com once you have scheduled your appointment.
To schedule an appointment, log into your Portal to access your Handshake/WolfLink account
There you will have access to a variety of appointment options as well as a list of upcoming events and jobs/internship postings.