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Resume & Cover Letter


A resume has one crucial purpose: To secure an interview with a prospective employer.

A great resume will communicate your experience, skills, and education. A great resume can put you one step closer to landing your desired job. When drafting your resume, there are some important rules to follow and some crucial errors to avoid.

  • Make your name the largest words on the page. Use the name you prefer professionally.
  • Consider omitting your current address. An appropriate email address—typically, some form of your name—and a phone number (with a professional voicemail) will suffice.
  • Include a LinkedIn link if your profile is up-to-date and professional. Do not include links to Facebook or other social media sites. On Facebook, set your privacy settings and have an appropriate profile photo. 

  • Do not use an objective statement.
  • Instead, include a short paragraph highlighting the education, work history, and/or skills that are most relevant to the job for which you are applying. Do not simply repeat information in your work experience section.
Example: Associate of science in nursing major with bilingual abilities (able to read and speak Spanish) and experience working with patients in a medical setting; experience working with professional medical staff; and experience working with children in an education environment.

  • List your work experience in reverse chronological order so your most recent job is first. List jobs that are relevant to your chosen work field. Including every job you have held isn’t necessary.
  • List your job title, company name, city and state of employment, and date employed. Use two to five points that accurately describe the work you did at each job, and list the most important points first. Make sure each point has relevance to the job you are pursuing. Use the O*NET website for assistance with writing such descriptions.
  • Each point should start with a bullet and power verb (words like managed, provided, maintained, increased, produced, supported, improved, organized, and collaborated).
  • Quantify information on your resume. Tell how much or how quickly or how well you performed by using numbers and facts. Avoid vague terms like “communication skills” and “team player”—show, don’t just tell. Avoid adverbs (such as “efficiently”), which are imprecise and wordy.

  • If you are in college, omit your high school (unless you’re in your first semester of college). Also, most awards and achievements from high school should be omitted.
  • Include your current university, your major, and your current class standing. Include your minor if it’s relevant.
  • Omit any institutions you attended but did not receive a degree from.
  • Deciding whether or not to include your GPA is tricky. If you just graduated from college (or are still in college), include your GPA if it’s above 3.5. 

  • Do not include the statement “References available upon request” at the end of your resume. Employers already know this. Use your space wisely.
  • Instead, have a separate document with your references available. Use the same formatting and contact information on your resume and references page.
  • Contact your references so they know that you are applying for a position. Your references should not be caught off guard if a prospective employer contacts them.
  • Choose your references wisely and aim for a diversity of experiences (for example, a professor, a job supervisor, and an internship coordinator). Don’t include relatives. Also, include the title and degree of your references (for example, Jill Smith, PhD). 

  • Include a cover letter and reference the job you are applying for while highlighting several skills.
  • Get a second set of eyes to proofread your resume. One typo could land your resume in the garbage can.
  • If you are emailing your resume, save and send it as a PDF file. If you are handing out hard copies of your resume, use quality resume paper and a good printer. Make sure the watermark is printed on the correct side and facing in the right direction. 

  • Avoid using templates. Resume templates feature an unoriginal look, plus the preset formatting can make editing your resume difficult.
  • Keep your resume short—one page should suffice. The most important information should come first. Typically, your professional summary should be followed by your education and work experience. Put other things—like skills or achievements—near the end.
  • Use a font that is popular and easy to read. Fonts such as Bell MT, Calibri, Garamond, Georgia, and Palatino are good choices. Use an 11- or 12-point font for text.
  • Make your headers (such as Work Experience and Education) stand out, but do not over-format the headers. There is no need to bold, italicize, AND underline the text.
  • Avoid the use of color on your resume. A colorful resume might help you stand out but not in the way you want.
  • Minimize personal information that could be used to discriminate against you. Do not mention your age, race, marital status, children, religion, or sexual orientation. Do not include a photo.

Cover Letter Building

A cover letter provides an opportunity to sell yourself and reveal your personality. A resume and cover letter should be part of your “marketing package.” Include a cover letter unless specified otherwise.

Reasons to write a cover letter
A cover letter allows you to highlight your strengths, demonstrate your writing ability and include information that would be out of place on a resume, such as the name of a mutual contact or an explanation for a change in career.

Basic rules for cover letters
Keep cover letters brief and concise, customize your letter to the job and employer, and “show, don’t tell”—give examples of skills instead of listing vague terms such as “hard worker” or “quick thinker.”

The beginning
Include your contact information at the top of the cover letter as well as the date and the contact information of the employer/receiver.

The introduction
Learn who the letter should be addressed to by calling the company or visiting their website. Avoid dated terms such as “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To whom it may concern.” When in doubt, use “Dear Hiring Manger” to begin your letter.

Opening statement
Introduce yourself and inform the employer about the position you are applying for. (Example: I am a senior accounting major at Southern Adventist University and I am interested in the assistant manager position at ABC Company.)

Middle paragraph
Mention your resume. Highlight quantifiable skills from your resume without repeating (complement without restating). Briefly expand on your experience and how your qualifications fit their job description. State how you believe you would be a good addition. (Example: My skills in ________ and _______ would be a valuable asset for ABC Company.)

Offer thanks for consideration and reiterate interest in the company. Politely request an interview.

Formatting tips
One-inch margins with 11- to 12-point font. One page only. Save document as PDF. Proofread carefully. Avoid long sentences and paragraphs. Use a similar look on both the resume and cover letter.

If you would like to learn more about creating an excellent resume, references page, or cover letter, make an appointment on your HANDSHAKE account, then click on "Career Center" in the top right-hand corner and click on "Appointments"  then "Schedule a New Appointment". Follow prompts and submit in order to book an appointment.