This is a guide for writing resumes, cover letters, and thank you letters. There are also tips for interviews and applying for jobs in person.
Resume Types (Targeted vs. Chronological Resumes)
- Best for applying for jobs.
- Highlights skills and experiences that are relevant to the position.
- Focus on the skills if you don’t have much relevant work or volunteer experience.
- Should be only one page long.
- Uses keywords relevant to the targeted position.
- Should include the following information, but only if it applies to the position you want:
- Important academic courses and workshops
- Work-study programs and internships
- Service learning (community service)
- Detailed summary of your skills
Any skills you have developed that might help you in this job are relevant. You could have learned these skills in many ways, including:
- School courses
- Family experiences
- Work experiences
- Volunteer activities
- Extracurricular activities
- Interests and hobbies
- Study habits
- Best for applying to colleges, scholarships, etc. or to give to your references.
- A broad, complete review of your qualifications.
- Is not targeted toward any specific job or career field.
- Includes a short summary of your skills.
- Should include the following information:
- Important academic courses and workshops
- Good grades
- Sports and other activities
- Honors and awards
- Work-study programs and internships
- Service learning (community service)
Only list your most significant and special skills for this resume – they may help your application stand out from the crowd! Include general ones like teamwork and specific ones like what instruments you play or what computer programs you’re familiar with.
Writing Your Resume
When Writing a Resume, keep these things in mind:
- Think of your audience; will this be a targeted resume (for a specific job or position) or a chronological resume (for your references or an admissions committee)?
- If it is for an employer or college, this is your chance to catch their interest so you will be offered an interview. If it is for your references to use, this is your chance to make sure they have all the information they need to write an excellent recommendation for you.
- You want to make yourself look good, but Be Honest! “Padding” your resume will only result in the employer expecting more than you can actually offer. You want to give them more than they expect, not less.
- Your email address should be appropriate. What will they assume about you from your email address? If you ask them to contact you at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com they probably won’t bother asking you for an interview.
Writing your Resume by Section
If you include everything you have in each of these categories, you can edit them down to tailor your resume to specific jobs fairly easily.
- Contact information
- Include your name (should stand out), mailing address, phone number, and (appropriate) email.
- Include your high school and any college you have taken courses from. Name of institution, location (city, state), expected graduation date (or dates attended), GPA (if above 3.0), relevant coursework (languages, advanced placement, computers, electives, etc).
- Honors and Awards
- List honors and awards you received through community events and service, teams, studies/academic programs, athletics, contests, and extracurricular activities. Include dates.
- List all your activities in high school and the community. Include the name of the group or organization, titles of any positions you have held, and dates you participated.
- Workshops and Trainings
- Include any specialized training and certifications you have had in any area (this would include the Flying Start program!), such as theater, music, sports, computers, writing, languages, drafting, teamwork skills, LINK Crew, etc.
- Internships and Work-Study
- These should be presented like jobs on your resume. List the name of the organization, your job title, the location (city, state), the dates you worked with them, and your duties and responsibilities.
- Volunteer and Community Service
- This should also be presented like a paid job on your resume. List the name of the organization, any job title, the location, the dates you worked with them, and your duties and responsibilities.
- Work Experience
- Again, list the name of the organization, your job title, the location, the dates you worked with them, and your duties and responsibilities. This section should show your skills and industry experience, level of responsibility and capability, knowledge of customer and product information, ability to communicate and work with the public, ability to handle multiple tasks, etc.
- Soft Skills – ones that are part of your personality, such as being friendly, organized, or flexible. Think of how your family and friends might describe you; are you a fast learner, dependable, or creative?
- Hard Skills – also called technical skills, such as proofreading, familiarity with MSWord, or computer programming.
- This is optional. It clarifies for the reader what your short-term goals for yourself are.
- Pick at least 3 people who know you well and will give good recommendations of you to potential employers. These people should be supervisors, coworkers, teachers, family friends, etc. Have a few people who can speak to your work ethic and skills and a few who can speak to your character.
- Contact these people to get their permission to use them as a reference. Also, get the address, phone number, and email of where they would like to be contacted (home vs. workplace).
Putting your Resume Together
Your resume should be attractive, well organized, error-free, and no longer than one page. The average time an employer will spend looking at your resume is 3-10 seconds! If it is not easy to read or full of mistakes, they won’t look at it.
- Decide which type of resume you are creating. If it is targeted, make sure every item is relevant to the job you’re applying for. If is chronological, you want to give a good overview of yourself.
- Your contact information should be at the very top of the page, probably in the center. Your name should stand out, yet be easy to read.
- Choose a font that is easy to read, and stick with it throughout the resume. If you really want to mix it up, make the headings a different font (they should stand out anyway). Popular ones are Times New Roman, Arial, Bookman Old Style, and Baskerville.
- Make sure your Layout (placement of things on the page, indents, etc.), Type Style (whether headings and job titles are bold, in CAPS, or italic), and the size of your font are consistent throughout your resume. All your headings should look the same, for example. Resumes are typically in 10-12 point font, depending on how much information you have. You might want to make your name 14-point font, so it will stand out. Tip: don’t use italics much – it is harder to read.
- If you have an objective, put that at the top. It will help them see if your goals match their position.
- Put the section that is your strongest at the top. This may be your skills, experience, or education.
Writing Your Cover Letter
Persuasive Cover Letters (also: Letter of Interest or Letter of Application)
Prospective employers will skim this to get an idea of your communication skills and decide whether to look at your resume.
- Your goals: To quickly present your interest in the company and job, impress them with your experience and how it relates to the job, and show you are dependable, professional and determined.
- Use a cover letter to highlight skills and experiences that are of interest to the employer.
- Make it professional: give it the same look as your resume (fonts, paper choice, etc.), don’t staple or fold the resume or cover letter.
Writing your Cover Letter by Section
These are just tips on what should be included in each section. See the samples for ideas on how to phrase each section and format the letter.
Your Contact Information
- Name, mailing address, phone number, email, and date you’re writing the letter.
Employer’s Contact Information
- Person’s name, person’s title, company name, mailing address. If there is no contact person mentioned, call to ask who to address your cover letter to. In some cases you may be asked to address it to Human Resources or the Recruitment Manager. They may also instruct you to include the title or number of the job posting.
- Dear Mr. Smith: or Dear Ms. Smith: (note the colon) It is best to address it to a specific person. If that is not possible, you can address it like this: “To whom it may concern:”
- Your goal here is to tell them how you heard about the position opening and why you are contacting them about it.
- This is where you impress them with the experience you have that is related to the job you are applying for. Include your technical skills here. You should also show that you understand the requirements of the position you are applying for.
- This is your persuasive paragraph. Include some of your soft skills here, and how they will help you be an asset to their organization.
- Tell them how and when to contact you. Express your interest in hearing from them and thank them for considering you.
- Close with “Sincerely,” followed by your typed name. Make sure you leave enough room for your signature between those lines. Also include a line detailing anything you’ve sent with the cover letter, such as your resume.
Impressive Reference Lists
Your reference list should match the look of your resume and cover letter. It should include at least 3 references. References can be supervisors, coworkers, coaches, teachers, family friends, etc. You will need some references that can testify to your work ethic and skills and some that can talk about your character and teamwork. Make sure you contact these references to get their permission and their preferred contact information.
For each reference you should include:
- Position Title
- Company or Organization
- Mailing address
- Phone number
- Email address
- How they know you
Interviewing and Applying In Person
When applying for a job in person and Interviewing:
- Dress appropriately. Consider what your appearance says about you to the prospective employer. You want to show that you are taking this seriously and professionally. If you are applying for a position as a host/hostess at a restaurant and you show up in jeans and a dirty t-shirt, they probably won’t hire you to greet their customers. Likewise, if you are applying for a job in construction and you show up at the site in a suit and shiny shoes, they’ll think you don’t know anything about construction.
- Don’t wear cologne/perfume. Or wear very little – some people are allergic to it.
- Be confident. If you’re convinced you will make a good employee, they will be convinced too.
- Call ahead. Introduce yourself; ask when you should come by to apply and what the application process is. Some businesses will ask you to come by during their less-busy hours, others will prefer you arrive when a manager is available to greet you. Making this simple phone call helps assure that your time applying there will be as effective as possible (you don’t want to get lost in the crowds of customers) and shows that you think ahead and are a considerate person.
- Take a copy of your chronological resume and references with you. Make sure you also have the mailing address and phone number for a reference at each of the 3-4 most recent jobs you’ve had. This way you’ll have all the info you need to fill out any application forms they may require.
- Research the position, industry, and company you’re applying for. This shows you’re really interested, self-motivated, and helps you to stand out from other applicants.
- Think of experiences that illustrate your strengths. You want to be able to give good examples of your strengths, your learning skills, and your ability to work with others (even when they are difficult).
For the Interview
- Call at least a day ahead if you need to reschedule. It’s okay to reschedule if you really need to.
- Get there early. If you have an appointment, get there at least a few minutes early. Don’t get stressed out rushing, getting lost, etc. Stay calm.
- Maintain eye contact. Don’t look down or at the ceiling.
- Smile and be friendly and polite.
- Breathe naturally and try to relax.
- Sit up straight – slouching tells them you’re not interested.
- Have a nice folder for your resume. Never fold, staple, or crumple it up.
- Don’t take your backpack – only a nice folder (for extra resumes), pen, and a notepad for taking notes. (You may also bring a small purse or wallet). Don’t bring food, drinks or gum to an interview – it is not professional!
- Turn your cell phone off during the interview!
- Ask questions about the position, the company, and what they are looking for in an employee. This shows you have done some research and are interested. Just as importantly, you may be interviewing with them, but they also need to convince you that you’ll like working for them!
- Stick to the positives. Don’t talk negatively about yourself, an employer, or a past job. If they ask you for one of your weaknesses, find a way to turn it into a positive. For example, if one of your weaknesses is procrastination, you could talk about how you used to procrastinate and how have learned not to.
- Most importantly, be yourself!
Letters for Interview and Scholarships
Effective Thank-You Letters
It is VERY important to thank potential employers, scholarship committees, and references for their time and consideration. In a business setting, sending a thank-you letter is the best way to be remembered after an interview. It gives you a chance to remind them about you, impress them with your attention to detail, and thank them for their time and consideration.
For an interview:
- Be genuine!!! Mention something specific that you were impressed with.
- Remind them about the position you are applying for and mention any specific reasons you may be even more excited after the interview.
- Write and send your thank-you letter within 24 hours, while your interview is still fresh in the employer’s mind.
- Again, the format should match your resume and cover letter.
After being awarded a scholarship:
- Thank the scholarship committee (or foundation) for their time and consideration.
- Let them know what you will use the scholarship for (i.e. where you are going to school) and/or how it will help you.
- Show them how excited and honored you are.
For someone who has written you a recommendation letter or been your reference:
- Thank them for their time and effort.
- Let them know how it turned out. Did you get the scholarship? Did you get into a training program or college? Did you get a job?
- Following up with them shows your appreciation and they can mention how responsible you are to future employers, programs, and scholarship committees.