Résumés and Cover Letters

Résumés

Your résumé is a professional summary of your education and experience related to the type of employment you seek. Your résumé should enumerate and illustrate to potential employers the value you would bring to their organization. Your résumé will evolve as you grow professionally.

What is a résumé?

A résumé is a concise, written statement highlighting the qualifications and skills you possess as a result of your life experiences. It communicates a maximum amount of relevant information with a minimum number of words. A résumé aims to persuade an employer to grant you an interview or to request your formal application.

Resume Shirt Image

Who should have a résumé?

Everyone! In today's tough job market, the average individual changes jobs at least once every four to six years. The résumé is a primary tool used by almost every employer to weed out prospective employees. Your résumé is your entry ticket to the job market.

When should I start writing my résumé?

Now! A résumé is something that grows and changes as you develop professionally. It's never too early to get started. A well-prepared résumé is a necessary tool for effective job seeking. The time and effort devoted to résumé preparation is a worthwhile investment in your future. The discipline required to collect, analyze and prepare your data for writing a résumé provides the opportunity for necessary self-assessment.

Where to start?

Think of your résumé as an advertisement. Before you write the advertisement, you must know what the product you are selling. You are the product! Make sure you can clearly state the benefits of this product : your skills, abilities, competencies, motivation and potential. Start by sketching your past work and educational experience, and then fill in the blanks. Do not worry about formatting. That can come later. The important first step is to create a pool of information from which to draw. The best résumés target an employer's needs. Do some research into the employer's needs - through the job referral itself, annual reports and other publications by the employer, and publications in Western’s Career Services Library.

Résumé Resources

Junior/Senior Résumé Brochure

Freshman/Sophomore Résumé Brochure

Guide to Résumé Writing

Teacher Education Résumé Writing Guide

Résumé Dictionary

Cover Letters

What is the purpose of a cover letter?

The cover letter invites the hiring committee to read your résumé and tells them why you are the best person for the position. It also covers specifics you might not have been able to adequately add into your résumé.

What format should I use for my cover letter?

There are numerous formats available to guide you through the writing process. Be aware that the format you choose should also coincide with the open position. For example, if you are applying for a position that requires graphic design skills, you might want to add some creative elements to your cover letter. If you are applying for a business position, you would want your letter to reflect a more professional business approach.

How long should my cover letter be?

For entry-level positions, a one-page cover letter is usually sufficient. With that said, one paragraph is not enough.

Cover Letter Tips:

  • Nothing is more of a turn off for potential employers than seeing misspellings or grammatical errors. Have at least two people look over both your cover letter and résumé to catch mistakes.
  • Don’t forget to add your name, contact information and date on your letter.
  • Your signature on the bottom is a must.
  • Single-spaced is best.
  • Be confident in your writing. Without embellishing the truth, just state it as is. For example, instead of saying: "I am pretty good with numbers," you should say, "I have extensive training with accounting and am excellent when dealing with details and numbers."
  • Use your cover letter to add substance to your résumé. If you cannot explain something in your résumé, use your cover letter to make your point.

Cover Letter Resources:

Gathering Recommendation Letters

Compose an information sheet (or email) and give it to your professors who are writing your letters of recommendation. Be sure to include the following information:

  • Your name.
  • Your class (Sophomore, Junior, Senior).
  • Your major.
  • Overall G.P.A.
  • G.P.A. in your major.
  • Courses you have taken with this particular professor, when you took them and grade received in each.
  • Current educational goals. Do you want to go to graduate school? In what? When?
  • Current career goals.
  • Employment, volunteer or other work experience, especially if related to your educational or career goals. (Briefly state what you did and when you did it.)
  • Other noteworthy activities, both in and out of school (e.g., sports, being an RA, extracurricular activities).
  • Honors, awards and other recognition of your achievements.
  • Other information to help the professor write a better letter.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact:

Career Services & Academic Advisor
Mariah Green
Taylor Hall 302A
970.943.7122
mgreen@western.edu