How to Write A Resume and Cover Letter

What is a Resume?

A resume is a summary of a person’s business or professional qualifications, educational background and work experience for a particular position. The purpose of a resume is to market capabilities, qualifications and credentials to potential employers.

There are three basic types of resumes: chronological, functional and combined. A chronological resume lists your work experience in reverse chronological order beginning with your present or most recent position. Include the name and address of the company, the dates of employment, job titles and a description of your responsibilities in order of importance.

A functional resume emphasizes your responsibilities and duties instead of your employers, employment dates and job titles. This format is useful to draw attention away from work areas you do not wish to highlight and is commonly used when changing career fields.

A combined resume is a hybrid of functional and chronological resumes. This format is especially useful for Individuals who have a long work history. It highlights aspects that are most relevant to a desired position as well as summarizing the career history.

You should use a chronological resume unless:

  • Your employment history is erratic or extremely long
  • You are seeking to change career fields
  • You are attempting to return to a previous career occupation
  • You posses an unusual combination of skills that you wish to emphasize rather than a linear progression of your career


The First Step in Writing a Resume

The first step in writing a resume is to assess your skills. In order to sell yourself to a potential employer you need to communicate your strong points, skills, and accomplishments. Make a list of your personal strengths. Your resume needs to communicate how your personal strengths will benefit the employer.


Elements of A Resume

Personal Information: Include your name, address, phone number and e-mail (if you have one).

Objective: An objective statement is used to define the position you are applying for. It should be a clearly written, concise statement that communicates your career objectives.

Experience: List your work experience in reverse chronological order, most recent experience first. If you are applying for your first job list any odd jobs, volunteer work, and other unpaid work experience you may have performed in the past. College students should include any work-related experience that helped finance their education. Give a description of the job function that details and demonstrates your skills.

Skills: Skills can be listed in the experience section, where the job description is given or in a separate section. Some high school students list their skills at the top of the resume. Highlight skills to the job opening.

Education: State your high school/college and dates of attendance. Give your date of graduation if you have graduated. Or, you can give the year of your expected graduation. If you are a good student you can list your GPA.

Extracurricular Activities or Accomplishments: This is a miscellaneous section where you should list achievements, awards and activities.

References: Have a separate sheet ready with names and phone numbers of references. Make sure you contact your references and ask permission to use their names first.

It is not required to keep the elements of a resume in the above order. You can put Skills and Education at the top of your resume. If you have skills or accomplishments that are very relevant to the job you want, list them first.


Resume Do’s

  • Do target your resume for the job you are applying for.
  • Do keep a copy on disk.
  • Do use a laser printer, (for professional-looking copy.)
  • Do stress accomplishments. Include figures to substantiate your claims
  • Do use strong action words:

Weak: worked on integrated circuits…

Strong: designed integrated circuits…

  • Do make the resume attractive and well organized for the eye

Don’t forget to proofread for errors


Resume Dont’s

  • Don’t mention salary.
  • Don’t volunteer too much information up front. Include only enough information to encourage an employer to find out more.
  • Don’t include references. Reference requests are generally made when there is an actual hiring interest.


Cover Letter Guide

The principle function of a cover letter is to inform the potential employer about the type of position you are seeking. The cover letter is your opportunity to sell yourself and at the same time add a personal touch to your resume.

Most cover letters can be written in three paragraphs using less than 200 words. Here is a brief format outline:

1. The first paragraph introduces your purpose for writing. Perhaps you got the company’s name from a networking contact or from an ad or trade article. The first paragraph is a good place to mention it.

2. The second paragraph briefly summarizes your experience as it relates to your prospective employer’s needs. It should answer the basic question of “why should the company hire you?”

3. Like any good sales pitch the final paragraph should propose a course of action. Use this paragraph to propose an interview or better yet indicate you will be contacting your potential employer to arrange an interview.


Sample Cover Letter


City, State, Zip Code

Dear Name:

I am responding to your advertisement in the New York Times of August 13 for the entry-level position as a sales associate. As my resume will indicate, I appear to fit the candidate description as outlined in your advertisement. I have a strong interest in the position and I believe my background, qualifications and work experience appears to be well suited to your company’s specific requirements.

I received my Bachelor of Marketing from Winchester College last month. In addition, I have worked as a summer intern with several computer companies in the Winchester area during the past three years.

Please accept my enclosed resume in consideration for this position. I will plan to contact you the week of June 1st to find out if we can arrange an interview.

Thank you for your time. I am looking forward to hearing from you.




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