Well-written resumes and cover letters and essential to a successful job search - and we can help.
A good resume is a tailored marketing document that paints a picture of you as a close match for the target opportunity (job, internship, scholarship, grad school program, etc.) to which you are applying. Typically resumes range from one to two pages in length, with longer resumes more appropriate for individuals with more experience.
Resume Guide: Our Guide offers comprehensive assistance for creating functional and chronological resumes, crafting descriptive, action-verb statements and writing cover letters and thank-you letters. See numerous samples of resumes and letters.
- Download the Resume Guide here.
Resume Templates: Not all resume templates are created equal. While Microsoft Word and other software offer resume templates, we generally recommend starting with a plain Word document and using the Resume Writing Guide samples to create the format. Templates often have built-in formatting that is more cumbersome to change and displays content in less powerful ways. We have, however, created a customizable MS Word document that we believe is a more powerful format. You can use this scaffold to build your resume by typing over the content to replace it with your information. You will still need to make adjustments to margins, font size and spacing to make the most appropriate use of the space or to rearrange sections to highlight the most important content. [Note: This Word document works best on a PC; if you have a Mac, we recommend creating a version using a PC, such as ones found in a campus computer lab.]
- Download the Resume Template here.
Transferable Skills Checklist: Not sure how to describe all that great broad liberal arts experience? This checklist helps you assess your strengths and discover how to articulate them.
- Download the Liberal Arts Transferable Skills Checklist here.
Targeting Your Resume
The best resume is targeted to the specific position for which you’re applying. Do not expect an employer to make assumptions or draw conclusions about your experience and skills. You must paint a clear picture that provides evidence you are a good match through both the content and the format of your resume.
You will likely need at least a few different versions for any job search, targeted to different fields (e.g. sales vs. human resources) or even to different specific positions.
What content should I include?
Experiences which make up your resume content can include jobs, internships, volunteerism, significant class projects, research with faculty and leadership in campus and community organizations. The most relevant experiences warrant the most detailed descriptions. Be sure to provide enough detail, including numbers, to provide a sense of scope of responsibility, and definitely highlight accomplishments and results.
Mirror the words and phrases in each posted job description to which you apply as much as possible in your resume content. Descriptions of similar positions and information you’ve collected from talking with networking contacts are also good sources for clues to best tailor your resume.
For less relevant experiences, be sure to focus on transferable skills (i.e. skills useful in almost every position, like communication, working in a team, resolving problems, etc.).
What format should I use?
The typical employer spends fewer than 5-10 seconds scanning your resume the first time, so you want the format to facilitate quick and easy access to the most important content on your resume.
The most valuable “real estate” on a resume at the top of each page and section and front of each line, since we read from top to bottom and left to right in English.
Depending on the relevance of each piece of resume content in relation to each position to which you’re applying, you may need to rearrange the order of resume sections, change the order of words and phrases within a description, move some entries to/from the “Relevant Experience” section or remove irrelevant information entirely.
Many employers, especially larger ones, accept resumes through online applicant tracking systems. This software will extract data from your resume and organize into a database. Software cannot interpret your resume in the same way human eyes can, so having two versions - one optimized for human consumption and one for computers - is a good idea.
Ideally, you can contact a prospective employer to whom you’re applying and find out if your resume will enter an applicant tracking system initially or be reviewed by a person. Doing so can help you determine which resume to submit first.
As you move through a selection process and are invited to interview, you can always bring the version of your resume formatted to be pleasing to the eye. For more information, see our handout on Technology-Friendly Resume Formatting Tips.
While a resume looks back at your past experiences and accomplishments, a cover letter looks forward. Also called a letter of intent, it explains why you are interested in a particular position and synthesizes/highlights the education and experiences detailed on your resume, as they apply to a particular employer. The cover letter should not tread the same valuable real estate as the resume, but should offer new insight, especially painting a clear picture that you are knowledgeable about the opportunity to which you’re applying and are a great fit for it. Most successful cover letters are a maximum of one page (3-4 paragraphs).
The Center for Career & Professional Development offers advice and resources to help you, whether you’re starting from scratch or you’re an experienced job searcher who just needs another set of eyes to polish your product.
Use our online resources to create a first draft
Resume Writing Guide (also includes cover letter and thank-you letter resources)
Upload a MS Word version of your resume, cover letter or other marketing document to PirateLink for review by a Center for Career & Professional Development team member. We generally review new documents each business day and provide editing suggestions.
Get a Critique
Get one-on-one help by scheduling an appointment with a career advisor to discuss development of a resume, cover letter, personal statement, application or other document. Ideally, bring a first draft. Call us at (512) 863-1346 to schedule a time. Want a preview? Download My Resume Checklist to see if you’ve covered the bases.
- Resume Samples - Hundreds of job-specific resume examples written by professional resume writers and career coaches to help aspiring job seekers.
- The Veteran’s Guide to Developing Resumes - The National Association of Colleges and Employers provides great tips for veterans moving into civilian careers.
- How to Present Your Online Degree to Employers - Did you earn a graduate or other degree online? Get advice on how to market that experience to prospective employers on your resume.
- 279 Free Resume Templates - While you should be cautious downloading just any old template, this site does a great job of explaining how to use templates and dividing templates into categories useful for different goals.