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Marquette University
Career Services Center

Holthusen Hall, First Floor
1324 W. Wisconsin Avenue
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
Phone: (414) 288-7423
Fax: (414) 288-5302
E-mail | Staff Directory

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Resume & Cover Letter Writing

Learn Resume Basics

The suggestions that follow are based on several years of experience with the recruiting process and employer feedback. Be aware that most rules for a good resume are not set in stone, but are strong guidelines. There is no one “right” way to write a resume. Employers have different opinions on what they prefer; therefore, it is important for your resume to best highlight your skills and interests. Our suggestion is to listen to the themes and use common sense, and your resume will be great.

Resume Parts

Contact Information including:

  1. Your name as you want to be referred to professionally (Jon Baker, Jonathan Baker, Jon E. Baker)
  2. Current address and phone number with area code (Your cell phone is the best option)
  3. Email address (professional addresses only)
  4. LinkedIn profile link

Objective OR Summary of Qualifications/Personal Profile Section:

Depending on your level of experience or clarity of your Occupational Target, you might consider two options for beginning your resume. This is used to help “set the stage” for employers. This section helps people know WHY they are reading your resume. If you need help developing a career goal refer to the Occupational Target webpage.

Objective

A clear objective helps focus and select information. Although you may wish to make your objective broad, do not make it so broad that it says nothing. If you are pursuing employment in more than one field, simply create different objectives for each field.

Your career objective should answer this question: “What do I want to do?” Is it for graduate school, a part-ob,
an internship, a professional position after graduation, or a scholarship? Make sure your objective is clear.

Some sample objectives:

  1. Research position in biochemical laboratory
  2. Position teaching science or social studies at the secondary school level
  3. Editorial or research assistant in a public affairs organization
  4. Acceptance to College Student Personnel Administration graduate program
  5. Internship position to explore career options in the health field
  6. Summer job in the field of physical therapy

Summary of Qualifications/Personal Profile

If your career goal is obvious and the intent of your resume is clear you may consider using a “summary of qualifications” or “personal profile,” depending on what’s most appropriate for you.

A summary of qualifications should summarize your resume and accomplishments much like an introduction might summarize a book. You could also think of this as a “tagline” for yourself and the rest of the resume will have the supporting information for your “advertisement.” You can use this space to match your accomplishments to the qualifications of the job to which you are applying.

These should be written in the third person, not using “I” or “me” throughout, and they should provide a highlight of the top items that set you apart as a candidate. Think of the top three or four things that highlight you as a candidate and differentiate you from the other candidates in the pool.

If you don’t have these skills, don’t say this in your profile!

If you worked full or part time to defray your college costs that might be something to highlight since it shows
that you have great time-management and multi-tasking skills.

If you speak other languages, that should be highlighted here. Additionally, if you are from abroad, your work-authorization status should probably be mentioned in order to reduce confusion with prospective employers.

A sample profile:

Personable and motivated entry-level marketing professional with experience in both nonprofit and for profit environments. Skilled in marketing plan design and implementation. Efficient presentation and communication skills acquired through student leadership positions.

You could also do this as a summary of qualifications, using bullet points:

  • Two years of internship experience within a Fortune-500 company
  • Proven leadership experience with a student organization
  • Fluency in Spanish

Education Section

List for each degree-conferring institution beyond high school:

  • Name of educational institution or specialized training program
  • Location (city, state) of each institution
  • Degree or certification obtained
  • Actual or anticipated graduation date
  • Major/minor/area of concentration or emphasis (how to properly write your degree and major)        
  • GPA/Major GPA (if proud of it, >3.0)
  • Certifications and/or licenses related to career goal
  • Relevant coursework, projects, and/or thesis (optional)

Example:

Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, May 2014

Experience Section

This part of your resume may include several sections such as:

  • Work Experience
  • Internship Experience
  • Volunteer Experience (service learning, community service, and student teaching)
  • Campus Leadership
  • Career Related Experience: any area in which you may have significant experience and is related to our career goal, even remotely
  • Other Work Experience: Use this to list jobs you have had to show consistency, longevity, or just simply that you know how to work. Sometimes this section does not include bulleted action word statements because what you are doing may be obvious such as Bartender.

Briefly describe for each position:

  • Job title, dates, organization name, location (city, state), date (month, year)
  • List your responsibilities for each position using bullet statements and a variety of Action Words to describe situations and achievements

Example:

Front Desk Assistant, Marquette University Career Services Center,
Milwaukee, WI August 2011 – May 2012

  • Greeted and assisted all clients, students and visitors of the Career Services Center
  • Provided administrative support to all functions of the Career Services Center
  1. List each experience in reverse chronological order, meaning more recent first. If your most career-related experience was a year ago and it will get buried under your job at the coffee shop, then create a new section called Career Related Experience and put it there where it will show up first.
  2. Include scope of responsibility such as: Trained eight student workers.
  3. If you have little experience related to your career objective, think about class projects that demonstrate your skills. List these just like a position with the name of the project, name of the class, Marquette University, and semester (Fall 20XX). Then list the objective of the project just like you would list action word phrases under each position.

Honors, Activities, Leadership, or Special Skills Section

Front load these with those most important or most pertinent to your objective (career goal). You may want to use specific headings such as professional organizations, computer skills, and leadership positions. Include any honors, scholarships or recognition awards that you have received. If you were actively involved in any clubs, teams or committees while in college, those may be included also. The key to this section is keeping it brief. If you feel you need more detail, use the guidelines for Experience and make it a complete section.

Interests Section

The trend is to keep away from any extraneous information that does not clearly connect to your career goal. However, if you are applying for a position in which you have experience through a hobby or leisure activity, you may want to consider adding it to your resume. For example, if you are applying for a forest ranger position and you enjoy hiking in the wilderness, include it by stating: “Skilled in all-terrain hiking, camping and navigating.” What you need to ask yourself is: “Will this information help the potential employer learn more about how well I can do the job?” If your answer is yes, then be sure to include the information.

Technology/Computer Skills Section

More employers are asking about these skills, and many assume that college students today are very tech savvy. Many of you don’t have industry-specific tech skills, but if you do, then those need to be highlighted. It may be that you don’t have space for a separate “technology” section, in which case a “Computer skills include...“ line could be added to your profile or you could address the skills in the description of the job in which you used them. Don’t waste space listing every MS Office program you use since it’s generally agreed that if you can’t use MS Office you’re in BIG trouble in the workplace.


OVERAL APPEARANCE

Formatting

  • Resumes tend to be very conservative in format with the primary goal being readability. In some fields, such as advertising, marketing, and fine arts, creativity is more acceptable and often expected. Creativity should not deter from the overall content and flow of a resume.
  • We suggest that you never use resume templates provided by Word. They waste too much white space, use fonts we don’t suggest, and organize your information poorly.

Tabs and Bullets

  • Remember that the fewer indents and tabs you use the better your resume will translate into document readers that employers use for your online submissions.
  • Additionally, when you use bullet points, use the bulleting function in Word rather than bullet characters and spaces.
  • Bullet points are not complete sentences, so periods are not needed. If you do choose to use them, however, be consistent and use them throughout the document.

Length

  • If possible, use a one-page resume for new and recent grads. If you have trouble fitting all of your information on one page, drop in during walk-in hours or make an appointment with a career counselor.
  • Margins should be between a half inch and one inch. Often this makes the difference between a one-and two‑page resume.

Font

  • Use one color and one font throughout the document.
  • Font size is between 10-12 points and is consistent.
  • To differentiate titles and headers, use different type treatments, but keep these to a minimum.
  • Serif fonts are easier to read than sans-serif fonts on your professional documents — Google it if you’re not familiar with those font styles. Times New Roman has been popular, but doesn’t allow the letters to blend together well in some cases. You can experiment with fonts like Georgia, Garamond or Bookman Old Style for the feel that suits your resume.
  • The font size will vary depending on the font that you use, and the same goes for the size of your margins. You will have to experiment to see what is readable for the font you choose.

Grammar, Spelling, Typos

  • No grammatical or spelling errors.
  • No personal pronouns (I, me, my, etc.).
  • Unless necessary, avoid definite and indefinite articles in descriptions such as “a,” “an,” and “the.”
  • All information is delivered in bullet, action word statements. Because these are not complete sentences, periods are not necessary.

COVER LETTERS

The key to a search is to communicate with the person who has the ability to hire or admit. Therefore, your cover letter is extremely important. Effective cover letters convey a sense of purpose, project enthusiasm for the position or program, and demonstrate your knowledge of the employer or graduate program’s goals and needs.

Many times individuals will spend hours writing a “perfect” resume and very little time writing a quality cover letter. Remember that your cover letter not only accompanies your resume, it is usually on top of your resume when the envelope is opened. A positive first impression requires that your cover letter be neat and concise, and have no errors in spelling or grammar. Each cover letter should be customized to fit the position for which you are applying.

You will want to customize your cover letter depending on its purpose. Some reasons for sending a cover letter may be:

  • A result of a direct search
  • A response to an advertisement
  • A follow up on a contact made through networking

No matter what your reason for sending a cover letter, be sure it contains the following information:

  • Return address with the date
  • Name, title, organization, and address of the person to whom you are writing

First Paragraph

  • State purpose of letter
  • Catch attention
  • Indicate your interest in the position or company
  • Flatter your audience by using company/ program information found through research

Second Paragraph

  • Explain how your background makes you a qualified candidate
  • Give an example, talk about a specific project, accomplishment, or service
  • Highlight information found in the resume

Third Paragraph

  • Refer the reader to your enclosures (resume, reference, examples of work)

Final Paragraph

  • Indicate your intentions for follow-up
  • Repeat a number where you may be reached

Closing

  • Salutation
  • Signature

HAVE PROFESSIONAL DOCUMENTS CRITIQUED

There are three ways to have your resume critiqued:

  • Meet individually with a career counselor by scheduling an appointment.
    • Individual career appointments may be made by calling 414.288.7423.
    • Appointments are available each weekday during office hours.
  • Meet individually with a career intern during drop-in hours.
    • A 10-15 minute meeting with a career intern is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
    • Monday through Friday: noon to 2:00 p.m. (Walk-ins are not available during summer or winter)
  • Verify your profile and upload a resume to MU Career Manager. When prompted mark the box
    indicating that you would like your resume critiqued.

Additional Resume and Cover Letter Writing Resources

  1. Sample resumes
  2. Functional Resumes for Experienced Professionals (PDF)
  3. Marketing your Study Abroad Experience
  4. Electronic Resumes
  5. Sample Cover Letters
  6. Understanding how to write your degree
  7. Curriculum Vitae
  8. Portfolios
  9. References and Letters of Recommendation