Résumés, CVs, and Cover Letters

Résumé Formats and Examples | Résumé Sections | Curriculum Vitae | Résumé Formats | Writing a Cover Letter


The résumé: What is it?

A résumé is a data sheet documenting your skills, experience, and training. Its purpose is to get you an interview.

Be brief yet include enough detail to clearly communicate your strengths; it should be designed so the reader can visually scan the page and immediately see your top skills and primary qualities (if unsure of your top skills, please see our Identifying Skills worksheet). Be sure you have highlighted how you meet at least the minimum requirements of the internship/job for which you are applying.


Résumé Writing Tips

  • Be promotional: it’s your job as an applicant to advertise your abilities.
  • One page is strongly recommended unless the strength of your relevant experience requires a second page.
  • Carefully review the job description/posting if you are responding to one and note the specific skills, strengths, and experience desired. Identify key words for use in your résumé.
  • List information in order of interest to your targeted reader.
  • Use action verbs (see our Action Verbs handout), be consistent in verb tense, avoid paragraphs, use concise phrases, proofread (or have a friend do it) for grammatical and spelling accuracy. It needs to be error free.
  • Never tell a lie.
  • References are typically past or current employers, faculty, or advisors who can speak to your skills and performance related to work. If references are requested, on a separate sheet include your résumé header (your contact information), the word References, and the name, title, company/location, phone and email of each reference. Be sure to ask each reference for permission before providing their name to a potential employer.


Résumé Sections

Contact information

Place at the top of the résumé. Include your name (bold and usually in a slightly larger font), mailing address, phone number, email address, web presence (e.g., link to portfolio).


Education

  • List pertinent educational history (college/university) in reverse chronological order. Include degree, major, institution, and expected date (month, year) of graduation
  • Optional: May add minor studies, languages, scholarships/academic honors, GPA, study abroad, related coursework (if you create separate sections for any of these, e.g., “Honors,” don’t list them under education)

Example:

BA Art History, University of Oregon, June 20xx
Minors in Dance and Political Science
Study abroad in Barcelona, Spain, 20xx


Experience

  • Include position title, name of organization, location (city and state), employment dates (month & years or simply years)
  • Avoid a review of your duties/tasks
  • Focus on skills/accomplishments/results and lead with strong descriptive action verbs (see action verb handout for examples). Do not use the pronoun “I”; instead begin phrases with action verbs
  • Select from all of your relevant experience, paid or unpaid: employment, internships, volunteer, leadership activities
  • Use numbers to add dimension to your statements. Examples: Increased attendance at annual conference by 20%; Contributed to professor’s research by reviewing and analyzing 35 articles
  • When preparing statements, ask the questions “who, what, why, where, when, and how” to clarify and demonstrate the impact of your work
  • Use bullets to draw attention to action verbs; employers want to skim for detail and will typically not read lengthy paragraphs

Example:

Ceramics Studio Assistant, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 2016–present

  • Prioritized and scheduled firing of incoming pieces for 150+ students, ensured firing was completed in a timely manner
  • Followed complex safely protocol while working kilns
  • Created new display of glazes to assist students in quickly selecting colors for pieces


Optional Résumé Sections

Objective

Tells an employer what kind of job you are looking for. Be specific about the industry or position if you know it. Typically first section on résumé after contact information. Example: Facilities manager for performing arts center


Qualifications Summary

Makes assertions about abilities, qualities, experience, and achievements. Presents relevant information related to your objective.


Academics

If you have demonstrated relevant skills in your academics, consider listing this information as a subsection of your education, or in a skills section, or in a separate section with a title such as, Academic Highlights, Academic Projects, Studios, or Design Projects.


Activities

Include community or university activities not mentioned in Experience section. Example: Volunteer, Upland Humane Society, Pearland, CA (20xx–xx)


Skills

List skills relevant to the job you are applying for (e.g., computer literacy, languages, design skills).


Honors and Awards

This section might include awards, honors, scholarships, or other academic or scholarly recognition you've received.


Interests

List to show diverse skills. You can also list interests that help highlight your fit with a particular job/company that would otherwise not be apparent on the résumé. This section may serve as a conversation starter in interviews.


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Résumé Formats and Examples

Organization of information and page layout are key to résumé success. There are four formats to choose from. Your choice will depend on your skills, experience, and how you wish to promote them to a potential employer.

The chronological, functional, and combination résumés all contain the same content but are laid out according to their three different formats.

  • Chronological: This format is the most common of the three. It lists all experience in one section in reverse chronological order (most recent to least recent). Under each job entry, action phrases are listed to highlight accomplishments and responsibilities.
  • Functional: Rather than listing action phrases under each job, this format lists the action phrases under sections grouped by skills. It tends to be the least common but can be helpful for people who want to downplay their job titles or have gaps in their work history (gaps while you are a student are typically not a problem).
  • Combination: As the name describes, this is a combination of the two formats above. Action phrases are listed under each job, but the jobs are grouped into skill categories. This can be a good way to highlight relevant experience and skills you offer. Also, if you have relevant experience but it is spread throughout your work history, this format will help you group the work and move it to the top of your résumé.

The artist résumé is used by people pursuing work as fine artists.

  • Artist: This format emphasizes the artist’s career trajectory and includes relevant experiences such as exhibitions, specialized training, artist residencies, publications. Note: For exhibition listings it is important to include details, such as if it was juried, invitational, solo or group, and the medium of the work.

In the U.S., a CV (Curriculum Vitae) is often requested by academic institutions. Its emphasis is on your teaching and research experience as well as academic awards, grants, university service, conferences, etc. Countries outside of the U.S. often refer to a résumé as a CV.


Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Within the United States, the term “CV” is commonly used to describe a search document for positions within or related to higher education. Research-related and scientific positions also typically request a CV. A U.S. CV tends to be longer than a résumé and emphasizes areas important to academia, such as research, teaching, academic awards, grants, university service, conferences, and publications. (Countries outside of the U.S. often refer to a U.S. résumé as a CV.)


Writing a Cover Letter

Be promotional—the product is you!

Cover letters are a marketing tool to demonstrate to an employer why you are a strong candidate for the job/internship. Effective letters explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organization and identify your most relevant skills and experiences. They tend to be more flexible than a résumé in that you can convey your enthusiasm, assertiveness, organizational skills, self-knowledge, interest in the organization, sense of humor, and ability to write.


Prepare Before Writing

Know yourself and the job/organization. Study the position description (if available). What does the employer want? Compare this to what you have to offer. This overlap will help you outline your letter. Avoid simply reiterating your résumé or listing activities. Identify skills and/or experiences you have to offer and provide examples.


Make It Unique

Every letter should be written for a specific position and organization. Generic form letters do little to show why you are a good fit with your target audience. While this approach takes time, it will show the employer that you are serious about pursuing the job/internship.


Include “Proof” of Your Skills

Make connections between your statements. For example, if you write that you understand the goals of the ABC firm and would do well as a designer with the company, give specific examples and reasons for thinking so. Your reasons could include that you have developed the skills necessary through coursework, you have had prior experience in a related position, or you have held the job before with a different organization.


Show Your Enthusiasm!

Use an active voice and enthusiastic tone. Once written, reread the letter. If you sound too passive, apologetic, or indifferent, rewrite the letter to capture the reader’s attention. Engage the reader with your enthusiasm and commitment to the work.


Make It Easy for an Employer to Select You to Interview

Focus on what you can do for the employer, not what the employer can do for you. Know what the employer wants and clearly outline why you meet their needs. If you make the connection clear, the employer is more likely to call you for an interview!


Additional Tips

  • Cover letters, with formatting shown on the other side of this page, typically should not exceed a page in length
  • Show off your ability to communicate in writing
  • Use spell check and a human proofreader to ensure it is error free
  • Avoid over-used phrases and clichés
  • Cut extraneous words; keep sentences and paragraphs short
  • Check for coherence and readability; read your letter aloud
  • Be the employer; would you be interested in you?
  • Let a day pass, reread, and ask someone else to read it

Cover Letter Example

The following is an example of formatting to be used for cover letters that are printed and then sent to an employer or for letters that are attached to an email or uploaded for an application. If you are sending a cover letter as the body of an email, begin with the salutation.

 

cover letter example
Cover letter example pdf


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