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Résumés & Cover Letters

Tips for Writing Résumés

The résumé is a critical tool to help you get your foot in the door. Often your résumé is the first contact the employer will have with you. You want it to look professional, stand out, and highlight your skills and competencies. There are computer programs that can help you set up your résumé, and career centers often offer résumé classes. You can also look at a sample résumé for some hints on how to set up your résumé. Your résumé should:

  • be honest
  • be error free
  • be clear and concise
  • use action words
  • be printed on high quality paper
  • focus on skills, achievements, and accomplishments
  • use keywords that correspond with the position you are seeking

The three basic types of résumé used in job searches are chronological résumé, skills-based résumé, and electronic résumés.

A chronological résumé lists your work experience and employment history in chronological order, that is, by date. This type of résumé is excellent for highlighting the education and experience you have in a field. Click here to see a Sample Chronological Résumé.

A skills résumé organizes your experience according to specific skills or functions. This format works well if you are changing careers or entering a field for the first time because it highlights transferable skills and abilities and downplays unrelated work experience. Click here to see a Sample Skills Résumé.

An electronic résumé is a chronological or skill-based résumé that is formatted for electronic submission. Electronic résumés are usually created in plain text, without any formatting such as boldface, indents, bullets, or underlines. Click here to see a Sample Electronic Résumé.

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The following are components that you will want to include in the contents of your résumé:

  • Personal Information
  • Job Objective
  • Education
  • Awards and Honors
  • Work Experience
  • Skills and Abilities
  • Campus and Community Activities
  • Professional Memberships and Activities
  • References

Personal Information
Write your name, address, and telephone number. If you have a temporary or school address, you will want to include a permanent address and phone number as well. Don't include other personal information (marital status, height, weight, health, interests, or hobbies) unless you think it is relevant to the job. Keep it simple. Adding unessential information only clutters up your résumé and detracts from the essential information.

Job Objective
It is not essential that you include a job objective on your résumé. The rule of thumb is to include a job objective if you are seeking a specific job. You may be willing to accept various jobs in a company, especially if you're a new graduate with little experience. If you decide not to list your job objective, you can use the cover letter to relate your résumé to the specific job for which you are applying.

List your degrees, schools attended, dates of study, and major field of study. Include related educational experience that may be relevant to the job, such as certification, licensure, advanced training, intensive seminars, and summer study programs. Don't list individual classes on your résumé. If you have special classes that relate directly to the job you are applying for, list them in your cover letter.

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Awards and Honors
List awards and honors that are related to the job or indicate excellence. In addition, you may want to list special qualifications that relate to the job, such as fluency in a foreign language. Highlight this information prominently, rather than as an afterthought. Pack a persuasive punch by displaying your best qualifications up front.

Work Experience
If you use the chronological résumé format, you'll list the title of your last job first, dates worked, and a brief description of your duties. Don't clutter your résumé with needless detail or irrelevant jobs. You can elaborate on specific duties in your cover letter and in the interview.

Skills and Abilities
If you use the skills-based résumé format, you'll categorize your accomplishments and work experience by types of skills and abilities, such as attention to detail or interpersonal skills. Following each heading you will describe how you have demonstrated these skills and abilities in school and on the job. If you use the chronological résumé format, highlight your skills and abilities through the descriptions of your job duties and accomplishments.

Campus and Community Activities
List activities that show leadership abilities and a willingness to make a contribution to the community.

Professional Memberships and Activities
List professional memberships, speeches you've given, or research projects you've been involved in.

References can be furnished upon request. However, make sure that you have contacted the individuals you plan to use for references. Include, if possible, former employers and teachers.

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