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Resumes & Cover Letters
To secure a job or internship, you typically have to actively market yourself to recruiters and hiring managers. Your resume or CV (curricula vitae), cover letter, references, and follow-up materials are the first steps in this journey. They don’t get you the job—the goal is to demonstrate your interest and fit for the desired position, so you can get to the interview stage.
Recruiters and hiring managers often get flooded with resumes and typically only have a few seconds to evaluate each applicant’s materials. Therefore, keep your application materials brief, concise and focused on their needs.
Start by creating a comprehensive resume with all of your experience, key strengths, etc. As you respond to different job postings, tailor your resume to the specific opportunity, including only the information that’s relevant to the job you are seeking. As you apply for different opportunities, carefully review the job posting for any specific instructions or requested information. Check for key words, then make sure you use them in your cover letter and resume.
General resume tips:
- Most employers expect to receive resumes by email or through their organization’s online application site. Always send a PDF version of your resume to maintain consistent formatting. Be sure to name the PDF in a very clear way — with your name and the job title you’re seeking or the posting number. This makes it easy for the hiring manager or recruiter to identify.
- If a printed copy is needed, use very high quality paper that is subtle in color (white, ivory, light gray). Use the same paper for all application materials.
- Traditionally, the experience section of your resume will be in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent position.
- Proofread. Typos, mistakes and inconsistent formatting can reflect poorly on you as a candidate.
- Include your references in a separate document.
Your cover letter can be your first introduction to the employer, so it’s important to make a strong positive impression. As with your resume, it’s a good idea to create a general cover letter you can customize for different postings. Be sure to demonstrate genuine interest in (and knowledge about) the company and the position.
Find out the name of the person who’ll be reviewing or making hiring decisions. If necessary, contact the organization’s Human Resources department and ask to whom you should address your application materials. If they are unable to provide a name, use a general title such as “Hiring Manager.”
General cover letter tips:
- When sending your resume by email, the body of your email can be used as an abbreviated cover letter. The subject line should include your name, the job title, and/or the posting number. Then write your cover letter in the body of the email. Leave out the header, date, and address section – only keep the salutation (“Dear [HIRING MANAGER’S NAME]”) and the body of the letter. Make sure to include your email address in the body of the email, in case it is forwarded. Hint: To avoid accidental sending, compose your cover letter email in a separate document, then paste into the email. Attach a PDF of your resume and cover letter to the email before sending.
- For a hard copy letter, use the same header as the one on your resume. This helps define your personal brand and keeps your contact information handy.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread.
A curriculum vitae, or CV, is a summary of your experience and skills that is typically longer than a resume and includes more information, particularly details related to your academic and research background. It’s more common to prepare a CV if you are applying to advanced degree programs or academic jobs.