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Resumes & Cover Letters

Scroll down or click one of these links to navigate to that section of this page:

What is a resume, and why use one?
What type of resume format should I use?
How many pages should my resume be?
Do I need an objective?
General resume tips & pointers
What exactly is a cover letter? Do I really need one?
Okay, how do I do all that?
Any other general tips?
How do I send the cover letter and resume via email? what do I put in the email body?
Can someone at the Career Development Center help me write and review my resume?

 

What is a resume, and why use one?

The goal of a resume is to get the interview. A resume does not get you the job! The resume is your first impression to a prospective employer, and therefore it needs to be well-written, factual, and relevant to the job in which you are applying.

A resume is a marketing tool, designed to sell you to a prospective employer. A resume is not for your past; it is to market yourself for the next job! You need to answer the four questions an employer has in their mind when reading your resume:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you want?
  3. What have you done?
  4. What are capable of?

An employer will visually scan your resume for 30-45 seconds. In that time you must attract them to your resume, tell them what you want, and most importantly, what you can do for them.

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What type of resume format should I use?

While there are several technical terms for the different types of resumes out there, you should use a format that presents your qualifications best. No two people should have the same resume. There is an individuality that must shine through a resume - your voice that speaks to the employer. This is why you should never use a template resume from MS Word or any other resume software program.

Resumes should contain all information that is relevant to the job in which you are applying, in order that best sells you to what least sells you.

Section 1: Objective or Professional Summary
Section 2: Education
Section 3: Internship/Work Experience
Section 4: Volunteer/Campus Activities
Section 5: Awards and Accomplishments
Section 6: Skills (Computer, Language, etc)

*Remember: A resume is set-up to your personal qualifications, so the order of these sections may differ. Example: If your Campus and Volunteer Activities are stronger than your Work Experience, you would change the order on the resume.

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How many pages should my resume be?

Ideally, a college student or soon-to-be college graduate should try to limit their resume to one (1) page. However, if you have excellent and relevant information that will help you gain the interview then it is all right to use an additional page.

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Do I need an objective?

If you have a specific job title or career path, then yes, use an objective that is well thought-out, well-written, and specific to the type of position in which you are applying.

If you do not have a specific position, then do not use an objective. Avoid boring and generic statements that really don’t say anything. Consider using a Professional Summary that provides a general overview of your skills and experience in 2-3 sentences.

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General Resume Tips & Pointers

Here are some suggestions that work!

  • Keep your resume as close to one page as possible (unless you have 10+ years of experience).
  • Dates should reflect reverse chronological order for your education and work experience. Do not include high school.
  • Your resume should be concise, easy to read, and word processed
  • Be consistent in displaying techniques, punctuation, and verb tense.
  • Use perfect spelling. Errors on your resume tell the employer that you're likely to make errors if hired.
  • Be honest - don't exaggerate.
  • The use of phrases or splinter sentences is fine; avoid word abbreviations.
  • Avoid slang and trite expressions.
  • Use action verbs to describe accomplishments and experience.
  • Allow a minimum of 1" border all around.
  • Be sure reproduced copies are clean. Use white or off-white paper. Avoid gray paper.
  • Avoid graphics, underlining, italics and excessive use of bold. These devices cause problems with resumes that are electronically scanned.
  • Your resume provides an opportunity to communicate with an employer. Preparing a superior resume takes thoughtful planning which starts with taking an organized look at yourself.
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What exactly is a cover letter? Do I really need one?

A cover letter is the companion document to the resume; it is an introductory letter that guides an employer through your resume. A well-written, well-set up cover letter will encourage an employer to read your resume the way you want it read. The letter will highlight your specific skills and traits for the job, point out your related experiences, and explain how you will perform on the job.

Cover letters absolutely are necessary. You should begin to think of Resume and Cover Letter as one word: Resumecoverletter. When someone asks for your resume, you also provide the cover letter.

The letter works in your favor, and will almost subconsciously tell the employer how to read your resume.

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OK. How do I do all that?

There is a basic and effective outline to writing a cover letter. Following our cover letter outline allows your cover letter to be personal, yet work effectively in guiding the employer through your resume.

Check out the full outline and letter samples in the box to the right

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Any other general tips?

Sure. Here are several:

  • Find out who you are sending this letter to, and address it to them. Try to avoid Dear Sir or Madam at all costs.
  • Be direct – this is not an autobiography. It is a place to talk about your specific qualifications for the job in which you are applying.
  • Writing style counts – while you can “talk” to the employer in your letter (I, my, etc), make sure you do not start every sentence with “I”. It is a very choppy way of writing.
  • Do not indent your paragraphs. English papers are indented, not business letters.
  • Proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling are vital. Have your letter reviewed for help
  • Put a space between your paragraphs – this helps break up the text.
  • Do not simply regurgitate your resume. While they will sound alike and use some of the same words, you do not need to repeat each job. Focus on the skills and abilities – this is what forces the employer to your resume to locate those skills.
  • Always sign your cover letters, if handing in a hard copy.
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How do I send the cover letter and resume via email? What do I put in the email body?

The best way to send your resume and cover letter is as one file – when the employer opens that one attached file, it starts with the cover letter and scrolls down to the resume. This is preferred, so now your file is always together and an employer only has to open one attachment.

In the body of your email you can simply state:

Dear Mrs. Doe,

Attached is my resume and cover letter for the _______ position.

I look forward to speaking with you about this great opportunity.

Sincerely,

Job Seeker

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Can someone at the Career Development Center help me write and review my resume?

Absolutely! While we are not a resume writing service, we will happily sit down with you to teach you the mechanics of writing a resume and cover letter. We also offer resume and cover letter review services. Additionally, you can attend a resume/cover letter writing workshop to get the help you need.

For review, submit your resume and cover letter on Charger Career Link.

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