Make a Resume and Cover Letter that Lands Interviews

Your resume and cover are the first impressions an employer will have of you. First impressions are critical because they shape any further interaction with a person. For that reason, it is important that your resume and cover letter accurately portray who you are and what you can offer a company. Below is a list of dos and don'ts, and general tips for making your resume and cover letter the best they can be.

Resume Do's and Don’ts

  • Do - Keep in mind that design and functionality are important. Make sure your resume reflects who you are and promptly shows what the company is looking for. Managers only look at your resume for a few seconds, so make sure yours catches their eye!
  • Don’t - Use a resume template. It can cause difficulty with maneuverability and most are too generic.
  • Do - Try and keep your resume between one to two pages. 
  • Do - Keep the font at a legible size. Avoid shrinking text to fit in more content. Your name should be large and bold with your contact information near it. 
  • Don’t - Split names between two lines. If you do not have enough space for the entire name, use a new line.
  • Do - State your objective for the position at the beginning of your resume. Objectives for internships may indicate that you wish to enhance your skills. Objectives for employment should state the skills you will bring to the employer.
  • Do - Include all related experiences and licenses in reverse chronological order. For students without much professional experience include extracurricular involvement. Use past tense when describing duties in your current job or internship and write in the first person. 
  • Do - Include your current degree program and graduation date (anticipated or past). Be accurate about your degree title and add your GPA if it is above a 3.0. 
  • Do - Include any academic awards, scholarships, any foreign languages you speak or are familiar with, and extended time spent working, living, volunteering, or studying abroad. Also include special skills in computer programs, databases, spreadsheets, and systems.
  • Don’t - Include the street address, telephone number, zip code, or supervisor’s name.
  • Don’t - Include personal information such as date of birth, marital status, height, or weight. 
  • Don’t - Generally exclude hobbies, interests, and religion /ethnic background unless they would be considered relevant to an employer. 
  • Don’t - Include the high school you attended.
  • Do - Have a page, with the same heading as your resume, that lists 3-5 professional references. 
  • Do - Include their names, titles, place of employment, business telephone numbers, and email addresses. 
  • Do - Take this list to interviews or send it upon request. Carry additional copies of your resume to interviews.

Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do - Accompany your resume with a cover letter. 
  • Don’t - Simply repeat what is in your resume. Think of a cover letter as a supplement to your resume providing additional information for an employer about who you are.
  • Do - Write your cover letter to be specifically geared towards the position you are applying for. Modify your content as needed to fit the position’s description and requirements.
  • Don’t - Use the same cover letter for every position. Cover letters should be specific to each position you are applying to. Be sure to address your cover letter to a specific individual. If the individual’s name or position is unknown, address it "To whom it may concern".
  • Do - Keep the cover letter neat, concise, and easy to read. Provide a dynamic first paragraph that captures the reader’s attention. 
  • Do - Include information about where an employer can reach you during business hours.
  • Do - Provide personal examples of your skills and qualifications. This will strengthen your cover letter and make it stand out. Be sure to use examples to directly respond to specific qualifications of the employers. Let the employer know you can meet their immediate need.
  • Don’t - Use overly wordy responses or complicated sentence structures. Avoid phrases like "I think", "I feel", "I believe". Phrases such as these tend to contradict or weaken assertions made about yourself.

Follow Up

Be proactive and don’t expect an employer to take action. Provide details on the next actions and then follow through with them. Don’t forget to personally sign the cover letter.

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