Resumes & Cover Letters

Consider your resume and cover letter to be a professional marketing tool where you can best represent yourself to prospective employers, volunteer sites, graduate programs, and more. Both documents should be concise and tailored to a target audience – read below for tips on how to do so.  

Resume Building

While it’s useful to maintain a running document of everything you’ve done, knowing that the average recruiter spends less than 10 seconds scanning a resume, it’s important to make the best use of space and to choose wisely when selecting your most relevant experiences, skills, and accomplishments. Here are the most common categories used in college level resumes: 

  • Education 
  • Relevant Coursework 
  • Skills 
  • Projects 
  • Experience
  • Activities or Honors

When you get to the point of having multiple types of experiences, it can be helpful to separate out the Experience category into Relevant Experience and Additional Experience. It does not matter if the experiences are paid or unpaid, but that they are relevant to your applications. Anything that is important for them to see, needs to be on the top ¾ of the page.  

Other categories include International Experience, Leadership Experience, Research Experience, Community or Campus Involvement, Volunteer Experience, etc.  

If possible, keep your resume to one page, but for graduate students and experienced professionals this may not be possible. You still want to make sure you’re including only the most relevant information unless asked for a CV, which is more commonly requested for academic and research-based positions. This article can provide relevant tips for that format.

Writing Effective Descriptions

Instead of writing out what you did for each job, volunteer opportunity, club, etc. consider what you accomplished and if there are any tangible results, try and quantify them. For example, instead of saying you created a social media account for your summer retail job, you could say you ‘Created a Facebook page to increase awareness of their downtown store, resulting in 100+ engagements’.  

If you are running low on available space, dedicate more space to the more technical or relevant opportunities vs the more obvious duties of other jobs, like retail where it can be assumed what a cashier does every day. This is also where you can embed relevant keywords you are seeing in various job postings and demonstrate your skills in them (if applicable). Check out this list of Action Verbs to start each phrase off right.  

If you are really stuck and need assistance in drafting a resume, the Writing Center can assist with both online and in-person appointments. Once you’ve drafted a resume, the SCI Career Consultant can review it.  

Sample Resumes

Cover Letter Building

While not every company requires a cover letter, they can be helpful if you haven’t spoken to anyone at the company before. It could be your only opportunity to provide more insight to why you are applying to the company/role, what you bring to it, and why you’d be a good fit. It’s also a great way to prepare for a first-round interview and understanding your motivations for applying (since the interviewer will ask).

Cover letters are even more important if you’ve been referred to the company or a particular role by a current or former employee. Referrals are consistently a great way to land a first interview, so be sure to include their name. It helps recruiters know that someone is willing to vouch for you or that you took the extra step to attend one of their recruitment events, network with an employee, etc.  

Check out this handout to start drafting a tailored cover letter and be sure to have someone review it.  

Sample Cover Letter

  • Sample Cover Letter: coming soon

Please note that many companies do not require cover letters, but have embedded supplemental essay questions in their online applications. For tips on how to write an effective cover letter or respond to supplemental application questions, check out this article.