Tips for Writing Resumes and Cover Letters

A resume and cover letter help you market yourself to potential employers.

Together, they should portray your unique qualifications, help you to stand out from the other candidates and make an employer want to meet you.

Prospective employers will typically spend less than 30 seconds reviewing your resume. You must keep it clear, concise and focused only on information that will sell you best.

How do I start? Research!

  • Self Awareness 
    Inventory your education, work experience, accomplishments, skills and abilities. Complete a career assessment in the Career Center.
  • Employer Awareness
    Research the industry, organization, products, services, missions statement, relevant terminology and the position.

How should I organize?

Chronological Style
  • Organized by date
  • Easy to write, preferred by most employers
  • Best when demonstrating progression and growth
  • List experience and education in reverse chronological order
  • Drawback – Must defend gaps

Functional Style
  • Focuses on skills and accomplishments – what you’ve done rather than when
  • Useful for people who lack paid work experience,
  • Career changers, recent graduates with limited work history
  • Skills targeted to employer’s needs

General guidelines

  • Absolutely no errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation
  • Consistency in format, font size, style. Use a 10 or 12 point size and either Times New Roman or Helvetica/Arial font.
  • Honest and verifiable
  • When in doubt about length and relevance, consider goals and reader’s interest. One page if possible, no more than two pages.
  • Use good quality white or beige paper
  • Review your social networking sites such as Facebook. Make sure there is not information (or pictures) that might be inappropriate for others to see. Despite privacy settings, there are ways for others to access your accounts

Career focus

You do not need to include a formal objective statement. It is sufficient and important to at least identify the position you are applying for. You can label this Career Focus or, you can put the job title for the type of position you would like, under your heading. The rest of your resume should support your qualifications for this position.

Skills and qualifications

May also be called
  • Summary of Qualifications
  • Professional Profile
  • Highlights of Qualifications

Overall summary includes
  • Technical, transferable, interpersonal skills, language and computer skills. 
  • Provides overview of most relevant skills, experience, especially those related to the position you are applying.


  • List colleges/trade schools, location, dates of attendance. Can leave off high school.
  • Degree earned or working towards, major, concentration, actual or expected graduation date
  • GPA overall and/or in your major(if above a 3.0), honors, awards, Dean’s List, scholarships, related coursework
  • List in reverse chronological order beginning with the most recent

Work experience

  • Work – include full-time, part-time, internships, volunteer, summers, temporary
  • Job title, company, location, dates of employment
  • Description of duties and responsibilities using phrases, starting with an action verb, show accomplishments
  • Current job in present tense; former jobs in past tense
  • Results oriented and quantifiable, whenever possible
  • List in reverse chronological order beginning with your most recent job

Cover Letter
A cover letter introduces you and your resume. It allows you to match your personal skills, knowledge and experience to the position you are interested in. It provides a writing sample to the employer and should be perfect in format and content.

Basic Guidelines
  • Set up the letter using business letter format.
  • Use same typeface and size as your resume and the same quality paper.
  • Proofread thoroughly for typos and errors.
  • Address the letter to a specific person whenever possible.
  • Include the exact position title you are applying for.
  • The letter should be no more than one page in length.