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Résumés and cover letters work in tandem to secure interviews.
- Your documents communicate your qualifications, enthusiasm and predictors of your success on the job.
- The quality of your documents communicates the quality that can be expected from your work on the job.
- Review, and ask others to review, for spelling, grammar and usage errors. Automated spellcheck will not discover all errors.
Contact your Career Services Career Consultant for assistance.
Build a Résumé
First, create a comprehensive document, for your reference only, that includes dates and details of your entire education, work, and other experience history. Although you won't share this document with employers, it will prove a helpful source document when you create a targeted resume for a specific job application.
The targeted résumé is often your first introduction to a potential employer. It showcases your skills, experiences, accomplishments, and qualifications. It efficiently and effectively demonstrates who you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go.
How to Start
Some employers appreciate a brief profile at the start your résumé, presenting an introduction and a summary of skills and strengths relevant to the job.
Other employers may want a resume that does not include a summary statement.
Consult with your Career Services Career Consultant for advice on this element of a resume.
At the top of the first page of your resume, include your name, phone and email contact information.
- If your resume has enough relevant experience to be span multiple pages, on subsequent pages include your first name, last name and page number.
Next create an education section.
- At minimum, include your current / most recent institution name, location, your degree and major, date of expected or actual graduation.
- If you have special recognitions for academics, you may include bullet point items in your education section.
- Study abroad and degrees at other institutions may be included in the education section, listed under the associated institution name.
After the education section, list relevant experiences that directly relate to the job title and skills the employer has identified as important in the specific job description.
- Include a combination of relevant work experience, coursework, class projects, specialized skills, and leadership roles.
- What you include on your resume may change based on the specific position you are applying for.
- For each relevant experience, use bullet points to describe accomplishments, projects, recognitions, responsibilities and any advancement.
- Start each bullet point with a strong action verb.
- Demonstrate your past successes and contributions through a focus on evidence of specific accomplishments rather than a simple list of duties.
- As in interviewing, present accomplishments using the STAR method: Situation, Task, Actions, Results.
Are you a member of relevant professional associations? Include them on your resume.
- Did you know that many professional associations offer discounted student memberships?
- Professional association websites may include helpful career path information.
On your targeted resume, after relevant experiences and professional associations, you may include other experiences of significant time span or import that demonstrate your professionalism, communication skills, work ethic, reliability, relationship management and evidence of accomplishments.
Your résumé, like your experience, will constantly evolve. Review and update it frequently.
Contact your Career Services Career Consultant for a resume review and detailed feedback.
Write a Cover Letter
Job applications may require a cover letter or list a cover letter as optional (accept the invitation to include it).
When possible through networking and research, address your letter to a specific individual.
Start by stating why you are writing - which job are you applying for? Explain how you heard about the opportunity and why you are interested.
In the remaining content of your cover letter, showcase the most relevant experiences from your résumé, including additional background information not practical to include on the bullet-pointed resume.
- Relate your experiences to the top two or three important items listed in the job description.
Be Specific and Stay Focused
Targeting your résumé and cover letter to specific employers and positions is a must.
Because space on the page is limited, stay focused on representing yourself as a match for the job description. Be concise. Every item you include should provide relevant information for the reader.
Have your Work Reviewed
Have questions about formatting? Having trouble deciding what information is most important? Not sure where to even start? Your Career Services Career Consultant can help you with your résumé and cover letter.
Before the Interview
Make sure you spend ample amounts of time getting to know the organization before you arrive for your interview. It is important to have a solid understanding of both the company and the position for which you are applying. Be prepared to answer questions about why you want the position, why you want to work for this specific company, and how you will benefit the organization. Start by researching the employer’s website, reading industry news, and contacting those in your network that could add valuable insight.
Not only should you know the organization, you also need to know yourself. Spend some time thinking about your past experience and how you can relate it to the job in question. Think about what types of questions you might be asked and how you will respond. You should also come up with a few questions to ask the interviewer(s). Try to think of questions that demonstrate your interest in the position or organization.
During the Interview
First impressions can play a big part in hiring decisions. Make sure to arrive in plenty of time and always be dressed appropriately. Appearing calm, confident and professional at this stage will go a long way with employers.
Similar to your résumé and cover letter, the key to a great interview answer is specificity. Your answers should draw from previous experience that directly relates to the question at hand. Employers want to hear specific examples that demonstrate how your actions produced positive outcomes. Remember the S.T.A.R. method while preparing and answering interview questions:
Task at hand
Action you took
Some other helpful interview tips to keep in mind:
- Smile and make eye contact with everyone you come in contact with
- Be clear and concise
- Appear interested and alert. Remember, body language can play a big part!
- Be positive at all times, even when discussing previous employers
After the Interview
The process isn’t over once you leave the building. Follow up and thank-you notes are a lost art in the interviewing world. Never leave an interview without business cards or contact information for those you met. Thank-You notes, emails, or messages should be sent out the same day as the interview, if possible. This is an easy way to make a positive, lasting impression with potential employers.