Writing Your Resume and Cover Letter
The purpose of the resume is to provide employers with information about your abilities and experiences so they can assess your potential for a successful job match. The resume is your marketing tool designed to catch the interest of an employer. First impressions are critical since as little as 15 seconds may be devoted to scanning each resumé. The focus of the resumé must be on the needs of the employer, not on the needs and desires of the job seeker. “Resumé” means “summary,” not “autobiography.” Space is critical; carefully evaluate each item and its relationship to the career objective.
Resume Styles and Formatting
CHRONOLOGICAL: Lists experiences in reverse chronological order (listing most recent jobs first) and emphasizes a continuous career path of increasing responsibility. Most commonly used by individuals who are staying in the same or similar field, have training and/or experience consistent with the career objective, have relevant job titles, or are applying for a job in a highly traditional field. This style is most effective for the majority of new college graduates.
FUNCTIONAL: Organizes experiences gathered from a variety of jobs and experiences, according to specific functions or skills. It is most helpful for people who are changing careers, re-entering the job market, applying for positions for which their training and/or experience does not directly qualify them, or whose background does not emphasize their abilities for the job.
COMBINATION: Merges elements of the first two styles and typically includes an overview of qualifications for a particular position then reverts to the reverse chronological style for the remainder of the document.
A resume typically gets only 15 seconds of attention the first time through, so make it as easy as possible for the reader to find the important information.
- Avoid using word processing "wizards" or "templates" that reduce your control over the format of your resume.
- Use margins of at least 3/4 inches all around.
- Use bulleted statements to describe experiences rather than paragraphs.
- Begin bulleted statements of activities with varied action verbs in a consistent verb tense.
- Incorporate but do not overdo bold, underlining, and italics to highlight and separate sections of your resume.
- Print your resume on high-quality 20-24 lb. resume paper. Available at our college bookstores and office supply stores.
- Solicit input about both content and style from career services professionals, faculty, former employers, and professionals in your field.
Choose categories that best highlight your skills and experience. Some common categories for students and recent alumni include:
- Related Coursework
- Skills (Computer, Language, etc.)
- College/Community Activities or Involvement
- Volunteer Work
- Honors & Awards or Achievements
A good objective statement should be concise and to the point. Refer to the desired position and company or industry. If you are pursuing more than one type of position within more than one company or industry, consider developing multiple resumes.
- To obtain a Graphic Artist positon at XYZ Advertising Agency
- To obtain an Elementary Education Teaching position with Lincoln Public Schools
Sample Resumes (organized by major)
A cover letter (sometimes called a letter of application, intent, interest or inquiry) should accompany your resume communicating your personal experiences and qualities related to the job or graduate program in which you are applying. A cover letter should be composed and typed specifically for each job or school that you apply to, including internships. It should complement, but not repeat the information contained in your resume. Effective cover letters convey a sense of purpose, project enthusiasm for the position or program, and demonstrate your knowledge of the employer or graduate program's requirements and needs. There are three resume styles that are most commonly used for resumes: chronological, functional and a combination of the two styles. Your resume style should be selected based on experience and qualifications as well as the type of position for which you are applying.
Sample Cover Letters (organized by profession)
Thank You Letter
Writing a thank you letter after a job interview is a must! In fact, some employers think less of those interviewees who fail to follow-up promptly. Plan to send out your thank you letters as soon as possible (preferably within 24 hours) after your interviews. If time is of the essence, it's appropriate to send an email thank you letter. However, be sure your email is professional and well written.