Resumes and Cover Letters

“A resume is meant to be a story, not a list. How does your story line up with the job you're looking for?” John Olinger, ’05 CLA, ’07 Atkinson. NIKE Global Brand Manager

Below we walk you through the components of a successful resume and cover letter. Also, be sure to use Optimal Resume, which includes templates, samples, and numerous resources for generating a successful resume and/or cover letter. 

RESUME

The following pdf sample resume provides a general layout option:  Sample Liberal Arts Resume 

The Essential Sections:

Name/Contact Information.
In addition to basic info (address, phone, email), you can add the url for your LinkedIn profile.

Education. 
Include your degree (Bachelor of Arts), Institution, Major, GPA, and expected graduation month/year. Add a Study Abroad experience if you have one, which should include the name of the institution, the location, and the dates you attended. 

Skills.
A skills section should include very specific skills, as opposed to transferable (aka “soft”) skills, which you’ll incorporate into your experience section bullet points. You can omit this section if you don’t feel you have anything to include, but here are some skills you may wish to include: 
-Foreign language proficiency
-Computer Skills (software, hardware, programming languages, design software) 
-Laboratory skills/equipment
-Social media platforms; blogging programs like Wordpress

Experience. 
This should include any professional experience that is relevant to the job/industry you’re pursuing. These do NOT have to be paid employment experiences. They could include unpaid internships, part-time jobs, volunteer experiences that are particularly relevant, leadership roles, research, or even coursework and academic projects. 

  • Writing Effective Bullet Points:
    The bullet points in your experience section should begin with an action verb. Refer to this pdf for action verb ideas.  Your bullets should also contain: the content of the task (How? What?) as well as the result or what was achieved. If possible, quantify the results. 

  • Example: “Advised incoming freshmen about college opportunities and college life to ensure their academic and social success.”

Additional/Optional Sections.
Any additional sections will depend on what you’re applying for. Some examples are:

  • Service/Volunteer Work
  • Awards
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Relevant Coursework
  • Publications/Presentations (such as SSRD)

Unique Resumes and CVs.
If need an alternative format for your resume, make an appointment with a Career Advisor. Example situations include:

1) Functional Resumes: a resume formatting option when you do not have very many experiences to fill a typical experience section. 

2) Curriculum Vitae (CV): a “CV” is necessary for most graduate and/or professional school applications. You can view a sample CV on Optimal Resume.

3)  Design Industry Resumes: If you are applying to jobs or internships with an artistic, creative, or graphic design focus, the traditional resume might not be the best option for highlighting your design skills. Creating a unique layout while still addressing the necessary components can be tricky, so come see us in Career Development. 

4) Online websites and portfolios

What does it mean to “Tailor your Resume”?

Tailoring your resume means creating a different version of your resume for each job/internship. You can have a longer “master version” of your resume that includes everything you’ve done. Then pick and choose according to your current application. 
The resume you submit should serve as a marketing document for the job you want, not a historical account of everything you’ve done.

Strategies for tailoring your resume to the job:

-Cut sections; add different sections.
-Cut unnecessary bullet points. 
-Rename your experience section headings. (For example, if you’re applying for a marketing job, one of your section headings might be “Marketing Experience”.)
-Re-order experience sections so the most relevant is at the top. 
-Edit bullet points, or re-order bullet points so the most relevant are nearest the top.

COVER LETTER

Even when an employer only requests a resume, also submit a cover letter if possible. A cover letter is your opportunity to articulate how your skills and experiences fit the specific organization or position you’re pursuing. For resources on building a cover letter, or to see examples of the appropriate format and structure of a cover letter, refer to Optimal Resume or use one of the following sample cover letters as a guide: 

-Cover Letter Template 
-Sample Cover Letter

In general, your cover letter should follow this overall structure:

Your name
Your contact information

Date

Employer/Organization name
Employer address

Dear _____,

1stshort paragraph: Who you are, what you’re applying for, who referred you (if applicable), and an overall summary of why you’re interested/why you’re a fit for this position.

2ndparagraph: Describe the professional experiences you’ve had that are most relevant to this position, and how they relate to the job you’re applying for. 

3rdparagraph: Another paragraph about your experiences, if necessary. Also, here’s where you might add something about them—why you’re drawn to this company, and how this job or organization fits with your future goals. Show off a little of your knowledge of the employer. 

4thparagraph: Restate your interests, provide any other pertinent logistical information requested, and thank them for their time and consideration. 

Sincerely,
Your name

More tips for a successful cover letter:

  • Cover letters MUST be tailored. If you are applying to several similar jobs, there may be pieces of your cover letters that are the same, but generally it should look different for each employer/job/organization. 
  • Always address your cover letter to a person or department, never “To Whom it May Concern.” 
  • Don’t simply restate what’s already on your resume. While it’s certainly fine to use experiences from your resume, the cover letter should link those experiences to the specific position. 
  • If you’re applying for a job that is somewhat of a stretch given your experiences, the cover letter is a perfect place to help the employer understand how you are a good fit. Spend the extra time to make your cover letter stand out!

Triple-check typos, as well as employer names/info to ensure you’re not sending a cover letter to one employer, with someone else’s name on it. 

How do we evaluate resume quality? We use these checklists for resume and cover letter feedback: 

Resume Checklist

Cover Letter Checklist