Resumes, cover letters and CVs will be important documents to develop when searching for jobs, internships and other opportunities. Below are tips for getting started with a resume, cover letter and curriculum vitae. We encourage you to draft these documents and bring them by Career and Professional Development to have a Career Fellow conduct an initial review before making an appointment with a career advisor.
Want handouts and other resources on resumes and cover letters? Check out Handshake's Resource Library.
What is the purpose?
The purpose of a resume is to give a 30-second snapshot of your qualifications. Your resume will initially be skimmed, not read. Keep your information pertinent and concise. Tailor your resume as much as possible to the position for which you are applying. Examples are available on Handshake.
What do I include?
A resume is one page and can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Contact information
- Paid work
- Volunteer experiences
- International experiences
- Campus activities and organizations
- Leadership experiences
How do I make my resume stand out?
Remember to describe your role within your experiences using action verbs. To enhance your resume, focus descriptions on the skills you used and the accomplishments or contributions you made. For a list of action verbs and transferable skills to help get you started on descriptions, stop by Career and Professional Development or check the Resource Library on Handshake.
Having a hard time coming up with bullet point descriptions? Find inspiration here!
Never written a resume?
Start by checking out Handshake - there are resume templates in the system. You can choose from a variety of templates to get started. Review your initial resume draft with a Career Fellow in the Career and Professional Development office. Make an appointment on Handshake to see a career advisor to complete and fine tune your resume.
What is the purpose?
A cover letter is your personal introduction that accompanies your professional resume. It provides more information and is not a restatement of your resume. A potential employer wants to learn more about you and why you're interested. Each cover letter is unique and tailored to the job for which you are applying. Use this one-page letter to market your strengths and prove that you are a good fit for a position. Examples are available on Handshake.
What is included?
A cover letter is generally three to five paragraphs in length and will include the following:
Include your name and address, as well as the intended employer's name and address. Also, include the date. Address the letter to a specific person. Avoid "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir/Madam." This might require a phone call to the company's Human Resources department. If you cannot find a name, begin your letter without a salutation.
Introduce yourself and identify the position for which you are applying. Mention how you learned about this company and/or position. Include names of referral if applicable. Explain why you are interested and reflect your knowledge of the company and position.
Body of Letter
The body should be no longer than 1 or 2 paragraphs. Identify how your experiences, strengths and skills meet the needs outlined in the position description. Back up your statements with specific examples, using precise and active language - help the reader step into your shoes.
Express your enthusiasm regarding an interview for the position. Initiate follow-up. Mention that you will call, specifying a time frame (7-10 days). If appropriate, note that you will be visiting the area and offer to schedule an office visit. Share your phone number and email address. Thank the reader for his or her time and consideration. Use a proper closing notation two lines below the last paragraph (such as "sincerely" or "gratefully"). Note "Enclosure" (or "Attachment" for electronic documents) two lines below the typed name if including additional materials, i.e. a resume.
How do I make my cover letter stand out?
- Be sure to tailor your cover letter to the specific position for which you are applying. Do not use the same cover letter for every position.
- Do your research before writing your cover letter.
- Do not simply repeat your resume in narrative form. Your cover letter serves to draw out themes from your resume. Be engaging. Convey enthusiasm.
- Your letter should exhibit your written communication skills.
- Check your layout and format. Is it attractive? Did you use adequate margins and white space? Is it centered top to bottom and left to right?
- Review your fonts. Is the style appropriate and easy to read? Does the letter match your resume in fonts and layout style? Is your font size at least 11 point?
- Make sure your cover letter sparks enough interest to prompt the employer to read your resume. Be persuasive and point to direct examples, work or school related, that show the qualities you want to highlight about yourself.
How does a curriculum vitae differ from a resume?
- It is primarily used when seeking academic or research positions
- It can be longer than 1 page, anywhere from 2 to 10 pages
- More information is included under each category
- It includes a broader array of experiences and more detail
What is included in a curriculum vitae (CV)?
- Research experience
- Research interests
- Teaching experience
- Work experience
- Volunteer experience
- Presentations & Publications
- Professional societies
- Honors, awards and offices
- Relevant coursework
Basic curriculum vitae tips
- Keep the format simple; be organized, consistent, and clear
- Most important information should appear on the first page
- Education listed in reverse chronological order
- Publications always listed last
- Avoid unnecessary words, such as "responsibilities included"
- Use action phrases, not sentences written in the first person
- You can always change your CV to cater to different positions or programs
- Proofread, consult with your faculty advisor, and have it reviewed by a career advisor
- If longer than 1 page, include name and page number on each page after the first
Curriculum vitae resources
- Visit the Resource Library in Handshake for instructions, samples, and citation information