Resume Writing

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Typically, a resume is an employer’s first introduction to you.  In the initial screening process, your resume may only have 15-30 seconds of consideration.  With this in mind, it is important that you know how to effectively present your skills, experience and knowledge– don’t get passed over because of a poor resume.


What’s in a Resume?

A resume is an individually designed summary of your personal, educational and experiential qualifications as they relate to the employment you are seeking.  The primary purpose of a resume is to persuade an employer to interview you.  It will also serve as an outline during the interview.  It is not an autobiography!  It should highlight carefully selected skills and accomplishments that would make you an ideal candidate for the job.


Points to Consider

  • Writing a resume takes time.  Plan to write several drafts before you are done.
  • Never go over two pages.
  • Be relevant.  Use information that supports your qualifications.
  • Your objective should be clear and focused–not too general–if you decide to use one.
  • General rule for GPA: list if 3.0 or better (you could list your major GPA).
  • If you have not yet graduated, state the “anticipated” or “expected” graduation date.
  • Lead with your strongest suit–education, experience, etc.
  • Experiences can come from internships, work, volunteer, co-curricular, etc.
  • Avoid using “I” and phrases such as “duties included…” and “responsible for…”
  • Use buzzwords and keywords.
  • Make your resume “accomplishment focused.” Think “scope and results.”
  • Resumes should be visually appealing and error free (no grammatical or spelling errors).
  • Ask several people to proof read it for you.
  • Laser print on bond paper, preferably white, off-white or grey.  Use a 9″x12″ envelope.  This keeps documents neat, easy to handle, read and scan.  Do not tri-fold it and stuff it into an envelope that matches your resume stationery.  This is now considered outdated! is a web-based program that will help you create (in several formats including Word, Plain Text, PDF and HTML), style and manage your resume. This program prompts you at each step to enter the required information and provides helpful examples.

It is highly recommended that students have three types of resumes: traditional, scannable, and electronic (our OptimalResume software automatically converts to all three types). CareerOneStop offers great resources for developing your resume, and the links below will provide you with additional guidelines and samples:


Quintessential Career ~ Scannable Resumes


Keyword Resumes

College Grad



Do not list references on your resume.  Prepare a separate sheet entitled “References of (your name)” or PROFESSIONAL REFERENCES” and have it available upon request.  You should never send your reference sheet unless it is requested.

References should be previous employers, faculty, supervisors, coaches, or college administrators who have knowledge of your abilities and skills.  Always obtain permission before listing references.

Your reference page should be on the same paper as your resume and cover letter, be printed in the same font, and include the same heading as your resume (name, address, phone number, etc.).  Information should include:  reference name, title, organization, address, phone number, and e-mail address.  Also include your relationship to the person if it is not clear.


Cover Letter

The cover letter, also known as a letter of introduction or letter of application, is a professional business letter which accompanies your resume any time you mail or hand deliver your resume to a prospective employer.  The only time a cover letter does not accompany a resume is when you attend a job fair or you are bringing it to an interview.  A cover letter introduces you to the employer and highlights your qualifications for a position.  The cover letter should be 3 to 4 paragraphs and no more than one page.  Each cover letter should be tailored to the position for which you are applying.  The paper and font should match your resume.  Before you print your letter make certain your writing is as clear as possible (no flowery phrases) and error free.  Read your draft aloud.  Listen for any awkward transitions or vague thoughts.  Ask an English professor and a professor from your academic program for feedback as well.


Cover Letter Format

Your street address
Your city, state and zip code

Today’s date

Name of person (always try to direct your letter to a specific person)
Street address
City, State and zip code

Dear (name of person):

First Paragraph:  State the reason you are writing, name the specific position for which you are applying, and indicate how you learned about the opening.  Emphasize what you can offer the employer related to the position you are seeking (not what they can do for you).

Second Paragraph:  Explain how your academic and work experiences qualify you for the position.  Point out specific achievements or unique qualifications and back them up with examples, but don’t repeat your resume; instead, refer to the qualifications you possess which will entice the reader to want to look at your resume.  Be specific, but concise.

Third Paragraph (optional):  This paragraph is not necessary, but could be used if you need to include additional information about your experiences or characteristics that haven’t already been mentioned in your resume.

Closing Paragraph:  Give a plan of action.  Try using an active ending; in other words, rather than asking them to contact you, tell them you will call in a few days to determine the possibility of setting up an interview.  If you are not comfortable with this request, tell them you will call in a few days to ask if they require additional information.  If you state that you will call, remember to follow up.  Be sure to thank the employer for their time and consideration.


(Be sure to sign your letter!)

Your name typed



Thank You Letter

The most effective way of communicating your interest AFTER an interview is to send each interviewer a short, professional thank you letter typed on professional stationery or sent in an email.  In addition to expressing appreciation for the interviewer’s time, you have a final chance to take advantage of the opportunity to reiterate your interest and offer supplemental information you did not have an opportunity to share.


Acceptance Letter

Even if you have accepted a job over the phone, it is important that you confirm your acceptance in writing.  The letter should be brief, but include the following:  appreciation and acceptance of the offer, the terms and conditions of the offer (salary, benefits, etc.) and the start date.


Decline Letter

It is important to write a brief letter expressing your appreciation of a job offer, and to politely decline.  There is always a chance that you may want to work for this employer again, so it’s important not to burn any bridges.

View the links below for additional cover letter tips and samples:


Science Careers Cover Letter

Job Resume Help

Quintessential Careers Cover Letters

Owl Online Writing Lab

Owl Online Grammar Assistance

More Grammar Rules