Resume and Cover Letter Guidelines
Work with a Career Services Specialist to create the perfect resume!
The resume is your marketing tool for getting the interview. This is the employer’s first impression of you, so it needs to be excellent! Being a summary of your employment qualifications, a resume should highlight your education, experience, skills, and other relevant information.
Use our online service!
Use our Optimal Resume Service and see our tips below to aid you in creating your resume. If you would like more feedback on your resume, make an appointment with a career specialist by calling 970.248.1404.
Like your resume, your cover letter is an important self-marketing tool, and is the first impression you will make on a potential employer. The functions of a cover letter are to demonstrate a fit between you, the company, and position; to show that you can contribute to the organization as a whole; and to convince the employer to offer you an interview. Learn about tips on creating a cover letter below. To make an appointment to have a career specialist review your cover letter, call 970.248.1404.
Used most frequently and is preferred by employers. This format presents information in reverse chronological order (most recent first).
Functional or Skills-Based Resume
Concentrates on skills developed through education or work experiences. This is done by listing the skills you have and documenting specific examples of how you utilized those skills. Use caution when preparing this type of resume as many employers are somewhat suspicious of resumes without specific dates.
This resume combines the first two types and can be used to effectively present your qualifications. The combination resume will not only highlight your skills, but will also provide employers with the expected chronological format.
- CMU Students: build your resume using our Optimal Resume Service.
- Attend an Advising & Career Center workshop on Resumes Cover Letters & Interviewing
- Review our Nuts and Bolts handout and the sample resumes provided in above section.
- Use Action Words
- Be original and honest!
- See Resume Dos & Don'ts
- Keep font between 10 – 12 point.
- Resumes should be appealing to the eye and allow the employer to quickly retrieve information.
- Use bullets to effectively present your information-do not write in paragraph format.
- Do not include photographs or personal information such as age, height, marital status, children, etc. unless it is required for the specific position (acting, modeling, etc.)
- Do not include references on bottom of resume-put references on separate page, see more reference page tips below
- Proofread; proofread; proofread!
- Have at least one other person also edit your resume and/or have a professional staff member review your resume (this is a free service in our office)
- Print your resume on quality paper (use the same for your resume, cover letter, and references)
- Avoid flecked or dark papers because they do not photocopy or scan well
- Use a quality printer – do not send photocopied resumes
- Use a large manila or white envelopes that allows you to mail your resume and cover letter without folding
Reference Page Guidelines
- See Sample Reference Page
- Print references on separate page.
- Use same paper as your resume and cover letter.
- Use the same heading on this page as you have for you resume and cover letter.
- Indicate reference list with a sub-heading like "References" or "Professional References" at the top.
- When providing references, include the same information that would be found on the person’s
- name, title, organization, complete address and telephone number.
- fax numbers and e-mail addresses are optional.
- Good references are people who are professional and in positions of responsibility such as Professors, Advisors, Employers, Coaches, and Community or Business Leaders.
- Have 3 to 5 references.
- Select people who know your abilities.
- Ask permission of each reference before you use them as a reference.
- Assist your references by giving them a copy of your resume-this way they have easy access to your strengths, experience, skills, activities, etc.
- Tell your reference the type of job you are looking for-so they are able to relate your positive attributes to the potential employer
- If a letter of recommendation is needed give your reference a stamped envelope addressed correctly (never send these unless they are specifically requested)
Cover Letter Components
--Use our Components of a Cover Letter Template and Cover Letter Steps to get started--
Heading: Applicant & Employer Mailing information
Paragraph 1: Introduction--why are you applying
Paragraph 2: Skills, education, experience, training, achievements, etc.
Paragraph 3: Why you are the best fit for the company/position
Closing: Provide contact information
Samples and Other Helpful Tools
- Attend an Advising& Career Center Resume and Cover Letter Workshop.
- Focus on what you can contribute to the employer-not what they can do for you.
- Don’t exaggerate--be honest and positive.
- Proofread! Have at least three different people proofread your letter.
- Keep a copy of every letter you send.
- Customize each letter for the specific company/position.
- Make an Appointment with the Advising & Career Center if you would like additional help or for someone to look over your Cover Letter draft.
- See our Resume and Interviewing Guidelines for more employment tips
Research yourself, the company, and the position before you write.
A good cover letter demonstrates knowledge about the specific company and position. Show that you are familiar with company history, recent events, or, at the very least, that you know what the company does. Keeping up on current events, reading trade journals, and browsing the company website will provide all kinds of information you can use in your cover letter and later in an interview
Research the Company
- What does the company do?
- How do the goods/services they provide impact you personally?
(Company values vs. your values.)
- Who does the hiring--to whom should you address your cover letter?
- What opportunities are available for training, advancement, and career growth?
- Do you want to work for this company? Why?
Research the Position
- What will you do?
- How will you do it?
- What skills/ tools will you need?
- How does the position contribute to the organization as a whole?
- Where is the position located?
- What hours will you work?
- What are the benefits, salary range, etc?
Research Your Own Abilities
- Can you do the job?
- Do you have the necessary education?
- Do you have experience in the field or any related experience?
- Use the Choices Career Profiler to learn more about yourself.