Resumes and Cover Letters

Resumes and Cover Letters

How To Write a Resume and Cover Letter

Resumes and cover letters are important parts of every effective job search. Together, they serve as your first impression with potential employers. Your resume should highlight our main skills and accomplishments relevant to the position for which you are applying and the cover letter should be a deeper dive into what you would bring to the organization.

Resume General Guidelines

  • Tailor your resume to the position for which you are applying by including what’s relevant, and excluding what's not.
  • Use brief, strong statements with bullet points. Avoiding full sentences or paragraphs. Use the language from the job posting.
  • Listing job duties/responsibilities.
  • Be sure there are NO grammatical or spelling errors and the layout and organization is consistent, neat and professional looking.
  • Use action words to begin each accomplishment and descriptive line, e.g. enhanced, influenced, reconciled, etc.
  • Do not use personal pronouns, e.g. I, me, my.
  • Do not include unnecessary punctuation, e.g. periods at the end of descriptive lines, colons at the end of headings, parentheses around dates, etc.
  • Line your dates on the right margin, to allow reviewers to locate easily and to add some white space.
  • If you choose to include “relevant coursework” as a section, list only courses that show breadth or depth (specialized or more in depth study) that are relevant to the position for which you are applying.  Save space by listing in two columns.
  • Avoid using templates. They are inflexible to work with and do not look professional.
  • Include a cover letter when submitting a resume. Employers do not always request a cover letter, but they do expect one.

Cover Letter Guidelines

  • Always type your letters using block style format (single-space with double-space between paragraphs; text flush to the left).
  • Typos, misspellings and grammatical errors can cause your application to be rejected. Have someone else proofread to make sure your letter is error-free.
  • Be sure to sign the letter.
  • Cover letters should be concise and focused.
  • Don't repeat information already on your resume.
  • Keep the letter to one page.
  • Show you've done your research on the organization and their mission statement.
  • Avoid beginning too many sentences with the word “I”.
  • Avoid the phrase “I am writing” in your opening paragraph, as this is understood in a letter.
  • Use three or four paragraphs in the letter.
  • Use transition phrases and topic sentences to improve the flow of the letter between paragraphs.
  • Convey confidence and a positive attitude. 
  • Show your personality by including why you are interested in the position or why you began on this career path.
  • Address letter to a specific person or title, e.g. Director of Human Resources. If the job posting does not give you a name, it is okay to call the company to inquire to whom you should direct the letter. Be sure to include their title.
  • Tailor the letter to the position and organization.
  • Do not oversell yourself or appear too desperate. 
  • Use the cover letter as an opportunity to demonstrate through past successes that you will be an effective and productive employee.

If you would like support creating or enhancing your resume, please contact:

Johnson campus: Beth Walsh, Director of Career Development, Beth.Walsh@NorthernVermont.edu, 802.635.1377, Dewey Hall 164

Lyndon campus: Amy Wright, Director of Career Services, Amy.Wright@NorthernVermont.edu, 802.626.6441, Carhartt Advising Resource Center, LAC 323