Resumes and Cover Letters
Your resume and cover letter are very personal documents that reflects who you are. Even as a freshman, it is important to start building and updating a resume and cover letter to use for internships, scholarships, and job opportunities.
A portfolio is a great way to show off your best work to potential employers. Whether you’re pursuing a career as a writer, a photographer or a graphic designer, you should be building a portfolio.
Is a cover letter really necessary?
A cover letter is a chance to tell the employer why they should hire you over another candidate. It is important to include a cover letter even if it is not required. A cover letter should not simply be a summary of the information that is on your resume, but an original document that allows you use your own voice to express how your skills and experience match with what the employer is seeking.
Including a cover letter will set you apart from those who only submit a resume. A cover letter is also your chance to demonstrate your writing and communication skills.
Resume writing is career marketing
Your task is to identify the skills, qualifications, experiences and achievements you possess that are most relevant and supportive of your job search. In one page, you want to paint a picture of yourself that will generate interest leading to an interview.
The purpose of the resume is to get an interview – resumes alone do not get jobs.
You should think of your resume as a flexible living document. That means that as you apply for positions, you will change elements of your resume often to suit the job or employer you are targeting.
Although many students often feel constrained by recommendations for resume formatting, there is a good reason to keep it simple when it comes to your resume formatting. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software used by many organizations to vet and score resumes initially before passing them on to a recruiter. It’s important to optimize online resume submissions to be ATS-friendly, as these types of software have certain limitations regarding what kind of content they can read. If you try to get too playful with colors, icons, graphics, or text boxes, the ATS may not be able to read the content of your resume, and it could get tossed in the virtual trash! In order to keep your resume ATS-friendly, use the following guidelines:
- Choose a basic, accessible font like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
- Refrain from using any graphics, pictures, lines, or icons.
- Use only one column of text.
- Pay attention to keywords used in the job description and make sure the language on your resume is tailored to what the description is looking for.
- Use concrete data and context to highlight your skills and achievements.
If you’re wanting to show off a more creative resume, consider having two versions. Once you land an interview with your ATS-friendly resume, you can bring the more creative one to the interview (or share it, if it’s online) where you know a physical person will be receiving it.
Think about your target audience:
- Who will be reading your resume?
- What’s important to that person?
- What would make you the perfect candidate?
Consider all of your accomplishments, including work experience, volunteer, internship, research, study abroad, co-curricular and classroom activities. Also think of your technology skills, foreign language ability, certifications, presentations, publications, professional or student associations, honors, travel, and personal interests. Then try to relate those experiences to your current aspirations.
Best Practices for Resumes, Cover Letters and Personal Statements
Review these examples of area-specific resumes:
10 Most Commons Errors in Resume Writing
A strong resume conveys your level of literacy, ability to conceptualize or analyze your own interests and strengths, your pattern or performance or success, who you are, what you’ve done, and your view of the employer. Here are ten common errors beginning resume writers frequently make.
- Not keeping the needs of the employer in mind when writing the resume.
- Too long, short or condensed (entry level resumes should be one-page long).
- Poor format or crowded appearance (stay away from resume templates).
- Misspellings, poor punctuation, bad grammar or wordiness.
- Too boastful or dishonest.
- Critical categories missing.
- Hard to understand or requires interpretation.
- Doesn’t convey accomplishments or pattern of performance.
- Unclear or vague objective.
- Includes lots of fluff or “canned resume.”