Career counselors can help you create, update and maintain your resume, cover letters and follow-up correspondence. Staff can also offer feedback about existing resumes and provide you with resources to assist in professional communication.
The best way for us to help you develop your resume is to make an appointment. We invite you to review samples of resumes, cover letters and thank you letters, review a list of action verbs to use in your resume, or browse these suggestions:
Preparation & Basic Tips
- Do not use a template; it shows lack of creativity
- One or two pages in length; depends on your experience and job requirements
- Be clear, concise, and direct
- Use a basic font - Arial or Times New Roman are ideal
- 12 point font is standard, but some can be 10 or 11
- Use formal language; avoid abbreviations
- No personal pronouns (I, my, we, etc.)
- No personal information (height, weight, marital status, Social Security number)
- Use high quality resume paper, ink, and a conservative color
- Have your resume reviewed for errors by many individuals
- Update it every six months.
Transferable skills are an essential part of any professional career. They are acquired through many ways, including work, volunteer projects, campus activities, and classes. They are often overlooked by the job seeker, but they are very marketable to potential employers. Some examples of transferable skills:
- Interpersonal communication
- Stress and time management
- Written communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Problem-solving skills
To identify your transferable skills:
- List your work, volunteer experience, and any other activities
- Identify three primary responsibilities for each experience
- Decide what skill you used to be successful
- Choose skills and activities that relate to the job description that you are pursuing
Recommended for individuals who have related or transferable work experience to the job they are pursuing and for those who do not have large gaps in employment history
- List jobs in reverse chronological order
- Describe responsibilities and accomplishments of each position
- Focus on skills developed and relevant experience
- Most common resume style
Recommended for individuals who are changing career fields, have relevant work from many years earlier, or have been out of work for a long time.
- Emphasize skills and accomplishments
- Headings are skills/accomplishments based on requirements of job and relation to field
- Work history is included as a list at the bottom
Recommended for individuals who want to emphasize specific areas of work experience within employment history that may not otherwise be clear.
- Formatted as chronological resume
- Bullet points are divided into subsections with specific headings (e.g. supervision, administrative, technical)
- Also use this format if you have many bullet points for each job
The typical resume has several components. Which ones you use depends on what you are marketing and who is going to read it.
You must include name, address, home or cell number and email address. Do not use a work phone number and keep all of your contact information appropriate.
Provide basic information about what type of position you are seeking. Be clear and concise.
Highlight of Qualifications
Provide a quick reference, either bulleted or paragraph form, of your most relevant information, such as achievements, experience, or skills.
List the name of the organization, city, state, full title of degree or training received and date obtained. If currently enrolled, it is appropriate to include “expected graduation date” or “date of enrollment - present.” Additional honors or coursework may be included in this section. GPA is optional.
Licenses or Certification
This is important if it is a required component of your field. List full name of the certification or license and date obtained. If in process it is appropriate to list them and indicate that they are “pending” or “expected” and when you anticipate receiving the approval.
Describe your employment, internships, practicums, field experiences, and volunteer jobs in this section. Use reverse chronological order. Include start and end dates (month and year), name of organization, location (city, state), position title, description of duties, accomplishments, and skills developed. Include action words and quantify information when possible.
Focus on tangible skills. Common skills include computer/technical skills or language skills.
Volunteer Work, Extracurricular Activities, or Professional Memberships
List career-related activities or activities where you developed transferable skills. Focus on activities that you were most involved in or where you held leadership positions.
Honors or Awards
Avoid listing every award received. Focus on significant and relevant honors. If the name of the award does not explain its significance, include a brief explanation of the award.
Create a separate sheet, with your contact information, for references. Only give them when requested. “References available upon request” is not necessary. List the name, contact information, and connection to each reference. Include only professional references. Always ask your references for permission to include them.
Scannable resumes are different from resumes read by humans. The resume is scanned into a database and a computer search is done using key words that are essential to the position. It is essential to focus on the appropriate key words and information for the position. However, do not simply list key words. They still need to be associated with past activities and job duties because they will eventually be read by an individual during the hiring process. Unfortunately there is no way to know what key words are going to be used other than the words used in the initial job description. Read that description carefully and include those words that are appropriate.
It is common to email your resume to potential employers. Typically, Word or PDF attachments are recommended. Double-check your uploaded document to make sure it uploaded properly. Margin differences can sometimes alter your document. Save your resume with a brief but clear name.
Some employers may specify the format to submit the resume, such as Word or PDF. If the recipient has an older word processor that may ask you submit it in “plain text/ ASCII plain text,” you will want to save your resume in a text only format, indicated by a “.txt” after the name. The system will not read any formatting. Other employers may require a “rich text format.” This format supports bolding, bullets, lines, etc. If you have any questions on the appropriate format to use, ask the employer.
Employers may ask that salary history be included with cover letters and resumes. There are a few different theories on how to respond to this. We will present three of them for you to review and let you be the judge. The first is to ignore the request altogether. The argument against this is that by not responding, it may be interpreted that you cannot follow instructions or have something to hide. We do not recommend this.
The second is full disclosure. Some career experts feel that this can hurt you, because if your previous salaries have been significantly lower than your realistic current salary expectations, or if your previous salaries have been higher than what you can expect, the prospective employer may not consider you. Other professionals feel that full disclosure is proper because you are providing exactly the information that was requested.
If, after research, you feel that there is a significant difference, either high or low, you may want to consider the third option. Reply in a political manner and then provide your salary requirement. For example, “Regarding your request for salary history, I feel that in my previous positions, I have been adequately compensated. Currently, I am looking for a salary in the thirties. However, I am flexible.”
Whether you choose full disclosure or the final suggestion, the information should be in the body of your cover letter and never on the resume.
When an employer requests a salary requirement or salary expectation, you do not need to put it on a separate page. Salary requirements or salary expectations may be included in the body of your cover letter, not on your resume.
Before you state a salary requirement, be sure that you have researched your field and know the salary requirements so that you are making an informed statement. Use salary ranges instead of one specific salary. If you place a salary range that is too low, you may not get the salary you deserve. If your salary expectations are too high, you may not be considered. Either way, the employer will know that you have not done your homework!
What to include:
- Correct contact info for yourself and the employer
- What job you are applying for and where you saw it advertised
- Demonstrate your research of the organization and why you fit
- Show how your skills match the duties; connect clear examples of your accomplishments to the job
- Short closing statement to reiterate your interest, correct contact info, and thank you
- Not showing that you have researched the job or organization
- Not double-checking spelling and grammar
- Not making it unique to each job that you pursue
View a sample cover letter
Thank You Letters
- Send within 24 hours after the interview
- Emails are becoming more common. You could send an email thank you, a handwritten card, or you can email initially and also follow up with a handwritten card. The option you choose depends on the interview process, such as number of people interviewed, upcoming future interviews, and your feel for the interview
- Ask the interviewer for a card, so that you know where to send it
- Be brief, mention something that stood out for you during the interview, reiterate your interest, and thank them
- View a sample thank you letter
- Separate document when requested; not included on resume
- Include 3-5 professional references with titles, mailing address, phone number, and email
- Include your contact info at the top of the page
- Get permission from your references and speak with them about the position if possible
- Whether written or email, include the position, salary, and starting date agreed upon
- Be brief and timely in your response
- State decision and provide a brief explanation
- Express appreciation for the offer