Resumes and Cover Letters
Updated 14 August 2015
A resume is a one-page summary of who a person is and what that person
has done. It is also the single-most important marketing document
a person can produce. Therefore, its content and appearance will
say volumes about that person to a potential employer.
There is no one preferred format. There is no magical
formula. The advice given here may differ from advice others may
give. In the final analysis, do what you feel is best for you.
Some general advice:
- Spelling and grammar are absolutely critical. If you are
not careful in the preparation of your most-important marketing
document, what does that tell a potential employer?
- Resumes should include your name, address(es), telephone
number(s), education, occupational and volunteer experience, and a list
of relevant honors and/or awards. A listing of your
hobbies/interests, professional objective, grade point average, and/or
other personal information (age, martial status) is optional.
However, remember that you want to keep the resume to one page.
- Don't be afraid to list past employment that, on the surface,
doesn't appear to be relevant to the position you are seeking.
Although there may be little in common with slinging hamburgers at
McDonald's and working in a corporate public relations office, the fact
that you exhibited the initiative and responsibility associated with
working and going to school may impress a potential employer.
- Also do not discount volunteer experiences. Just because
you may not have been paid for doing something in the field of public
relations doesn't make that experience any less relevant.
- If you wish to include references, place them under a separate
heading on a separate page. Some employers want your
references. Others may not. This approach gives you
flexibility. If you do provide references, use a variety of
professional and academic references. You should get the
permission of a potential reference prior to listing his or her
name. Do not list family members as references.
Just as important as the resume is the cover letter. It, too,
must be free of spelling and grammatical errors. It is in your
best interests to be direct. Don't beat around the bush.
Tell a potential employer why you are writing him or her in the first
paragraph. By including some research you have done on the
company to which you are applying, you can differentiate your letter
from the majority of letters that employer receives. That may not
get you the job, but it usually gets you past that crucial
first-cut. Unless otherwise instructed, indicate that you will
follow-up the letter and resume with a telephone call or visit.
However, the worst thing you can do is to say you will follow-up and
then fail to do so.
- Appearance can be as important as content. For that reason,
do not try to jam too much information on that one page. You may
not be able to list everything you want. It is up to you to
choose what is most important. Have your resume typeset or laser
printed. Although you are not limited to printing your resume on
white paper, don't be too wild. When in doubt, it is best to err
on the side of being conservative.