A strong résumé demonstrates your relevant skills, strengths, and accomplishments. A cover letter is a document that tells your reader how you are uniquely qualified for the specific experience you're applying for.
The goal of a résumé, along with a cover letter, is to get an interview.
It is important that you clearly articulate your experiences and personalize both your cover letter and résumé to the job description for which you are applying.
A Strong Résumé...
- communicates you are Career Ready. Highlight your transferable skills, major strengths, accomplishments, and future potential. Check out examples of how you can demonstrate your Career Readiness skills
- lets an employer see a snapshot of your experiences and the impact of your contributions. Try using the formula:
- Action Verb + Who/What + Outcome/Result — Example: “Responded to crises with de-escalation tactics to maintain safe living conditions for residents and staff.”
- Action Verb — what did you do (See list of Action Verbs for ideas)
- Who/What — who/what did it impact
- Outcome/Results — what changed because of your actions
- uses numbers. Numbers help illustrate impact and scale. Consider the key indicators of success like clients served, percentage growth, donations raised, and customer satisfaction.
- is concise and relevant to the job that you’re applying for. Not every task you’ve ever done is résumé-worthy, look over the job description to see what kinds of skills and experiences they value and highlight those. Try to keep it to one page and use similar keywords to the job description to speak the employer’s language. PRO-TIP: keep a master résumé with everything that you can copy and paste so you can easily switch out key bullet points as you get more experience.
- is easy to scan and find important information. Employers read hundreds of résumés, so your résumé needs to convey the most important information as easily and clearly as possible. Consider using bold or italic fonts, and make good use of the page’s white space. Put experiences like education and job history in chronological order from most recent to oldest. And remember, it's your job to advertise your abilities; don’t be modest! Lead with your career readiness skills and greatest talents.
- helps you prepare for the interview and the entire job search process. Your résumé bullet points should turn into interview talking points. Make sure you have some good stories to share that relate to the job description you were provided with. If they are asking for someone with skills in data analysis, make sure you have an example on your résumé that you can talk about in more detail about your impact.
An Effective Cover Letter...
- shows you’ve done your research on the organization and position. You can make the employer's job easier by clearly describing how your strengths, career readiness skills, and interests apply to this specific role.
- demonstrates the unique contributions you can make to the organization, calling attention to your career readiness skills and motivation. Avoid cliches and be specific about the challenges, knowledge, and opportunities you hope to find in the position.
- engages the reader. Assuming an active voice and enthusiastic tone attracts an employer's attention. If you sound too passive, apologetic, or indifferent, rewrite the letter to capture the reader's attention with your enthusiasm and commitment to the work.