Resumes, Cover Letters, etc.
Need More Help?
- Check out the information on this page.
- Come by during our drop-in period in SSC 270 from 1-4 p.m. daily (when school is in session) for a resume or cover letter review (bring a printed draft of your document).
- Schedule an appointment with an advisor. Call 898-5253.
- Watch our "how-to" video Five Student Resume No-No's.
Optimal Resume - Create resumes, cover letters, portfolios, websites - even prepare for an interview!
A resume is a marketing tool designed to highlight your strengths. While this page provides helpful advice and guidelines regarding resume preparation, we all have unique backgrounds and are looking for unique experiences so no two resumes are the same.
Four Standard Resumes Guidelines
- Use correct spelling and grammar
This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many spelling and grammar errors we see. A resume that is full of errors tells the employer that you don't have a good command of the language in which your resume is written, that you are careless, or a combination of the two. Don't rely on spell-check, for example the job title "Stocker" could also be spelled "Stalker!"
- Don't use a template
Please trust us on this one. When you use a template, you are forced to put certain things in certain places on the page, and often you do not have the liberty to move information around in the most strategic way. Once your resume is in a template, it is always in a template and will create headaches for you later. Resist the temptation and just create a new document in MS Word and start typing!
- Usually one page is sufficient
Note the word "usually." Most new college grads only have the need for about one page. Brevity is good, as long as you are not omitting important information that would sell you to the employer. Occasionally (maybe about one percent of the time) a new grad has enough important information for two pages, and it would be a mistake to leave something valuable off for the sake of keeping the resume to one page. Try to get your resume to one page, but if you can't, don't worry, we can help you decide if something should be omitted or help you with formatting to make it more brief, and remember, sometimes a person needs more than one page!
- Make it easy to read
Use a simple, easy-to-read font; for most common fonts we recommend 10-12 pt size. Keep your margins about 1/2" to 1" in width (if your format is indented on the left, you may be able to go a little smaller on that side). Resist using too many features such as bold, underline, italics, or color. Choose one font and one or two font features (e.g. bold/underline) to emphasize certain points. The simpler the better. Many students try to get creative and thinking that their very stylish resume will persuade the employer to want to interview them. Unless you are an art or graphic design major, most employers don't really care how pretty a resume is; they simply want to be able to read your information, and read it quickly. Too much color or an intricate font may hinder this process. The average employer spends about five to ten seconds with a resume before they put it aside or decide to keep reading. Do yourself a favor and focus on being clear, concise, and professional.
In typical resume style, the writer does not use "I" or other personal pronouns such as "my" and "our," so most statements on a resume are not complete sentences. Here are some sample resume phrases.
- Wrote press releases and newsletter copy
- Utilized QuickBooks Pro to process accounts payable
- Collaborated with classmates to design and implement a marketing survey to measure customer satisfaction in a fine dining establishment
- Provided professional care for an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease
Make sure your resumes heading includes your name, phone number, e-mail and street address. If your "permanent" address is in the same locale as the job you are seeking, it might be best to use that address. Most people make their name standout by using a font that is a bit larger and bold. Make sure your e-mail address is professional, and not cutesy or negative sounding. Triple-check your phone number and e-mail address for typos!
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What to Include
Here's a list of what many students include in their resumes. Some of these may be heading titles, or not. Not all resumes will include all these things. Remember, each job-seeker is unique.
- Computer Skills
- Leadership Activities
- Co-curricular Activities
- Work Experience
- Volunteer Experience
How to List Experience
Usually job seekers list experiences (jobs, internships, etc.) in reverse chronological order, meaning current or recent jobs listed first and oldest jobs listed last. If you have had several jobs, some related to your career goals and some not, you might try creating a "Related Experience" section near the top of your resume to feature your career-related jobs, and then place the other non-related jobs under a section beneath titled "Other Experience" or "Supportive Experience" (these sections might also have more concise descriptions that the related-experience section).
Focus on Transferable Skills
A transferable skill is a skill gained in one job that is useful in another. Many college (and high-school) experiences do not directly relate to a post-grad career, but most people can always talk about transferable skills! Here's an example of a resume entry describing a yard work job, by a student seeking a management trainee position:
Yard Care Worker
Smith's Lawn Service, Sacramento, CA: Summers 2007 and 2008
- Consulted with customers regarding service and provided feedback to company owner.
- Trained new employees on use of equipment and proper landscaping techniques.
- Demonstrated punctuality by starting shift at 5 a.m. every day and achieving 100% attendance.
- Exhibited a strong work ethic by providing hard labor in demanding conditions.
Note that the job candidate did not talk about the actual duties that would be obvious, e.g. mowing lawns and trimming trees, but instead focused on the transferable skills that would be important to an employer hiring for a management trainee position.
Quantify your accomplishments if you can. For example:
- Consistently ranked as the #1 or #2 sales associate out of a team of approximately 20 sales professionals.
- Awarded "employee-of-the-month" twice during eight-month employment.
- Planned and implemented activities for groups of 8-10 elementary school students.
- Organized an awards ceremony attended by over 200 student athletes.
Utilize Action Words
We recommend starting your phrases with action words. Here's a helpful list.
- Resume, first year (pdf)
- Resume, second year (pdf)
- Resume, third year (pdf)
- Resume, graduating senior, example 1 (pdf)
- Resume, graduating senior, example 2 (pdf)
- Resume, graduating senior, example 3 (pdf)
- Resume, graduating senior, example 4 (pdf)
- Resume, graduating senior, example 5 (pdf)
- Resume, graduating senior, example 6 (pdf)
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