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Learning on the Job: Resources for Cover Letters and Resumes

Hello, readers! My name is Emma Ellard. I’m guessing most of you already know what a resume is: a written inventory of all the experiences, skills, and accomplishments a student has to turn in alongside a job application. However, you may not be certain how to best maximize your resume to make you and your accomplishments truly shine in the eyes of a potential employer. Or, perhaps you’re familiar with resumes, but cover letters are unknown territory for you, and you’re not exactly sure what goes into writing a summary of your resume points, job qualifications, or how to make it a cohesive and effective piece of your application.

Resumes and cover letters go hand in hand, and together they paint a picture for your potential employer of the kind of employee you might be. Let’s talk about the fundamentals of resumes and cover letters – their function, their format, valuable resources to help you boost your professional writing, and tips and tricks for painting a clear and authentic picture with your application material!


Resumes can be stressful, so try starting out with a simple list of all of your accomplishments – you’ll want to include qualifications such as education, volunteer experience, past jobs, projects, sports, organizational activities, skills, special training, and leadership positions. Many people refer to a resume as a highlight reel, so use this time to decide which highlights to include! Try to pick points that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying to work at a newspaper, you may want to include that you did the sports reports for your school paper for 3 years, but it would be best to leave out the one semester you spent in knitting club.

However, even if you have a show-stopping lineup of experience, skill sets, and accomplishments, it may not catch the attention of employers if your information is presented in a way that is unclear and cluttered! Typically, the information in your resume is formatted in bullet points that are sectioned off by category – “Education” or “Job Experience,” for example. Those sections should start with clear, bold headings that help guide your reader through your resume points. Ideally, your resume would be able to be easy to read, so make it concise with the formatting choices you make! For instance, a one page resume is easier to read than a multi-page resume, which takes flipping and shuffling to parse through. Ample white space (especially around the margins) is easier on the eyes, and a simple, easy to read font gives the content of your essay the space to shine! For a helpful resource, check out the recommendations from MC Careers here.

Here is a sample resume to refer to:

Cover Letters

While a resume lists your accomplishments in bullet points, a cover letter is written in paragraph form. An ideal cover letter takes your resume points, connects them to the qualifications for the job at hand, and allows you the space to really emphasize the ones that are most relevant or essential.

Think of it like a narrative: you are telling the story of how you came to learn about the job, and why you would be the perfect candidate! This is still a professional document, so avoid being too prosaic. However, the cover letter gives you the space to add a bit more personality to your application. For more help on cover letters, click here.

Here is a sample cover letter to refer to:

.One important word of advice for both pieces of writing: double-check! Small errors in your resume points can make your resume less impressive, and it can be detrimental in sections like contact information. Your employer may not be able to reach out to you if it’s incorrect.

Perhaps the most important thing to make sure is that the way you portray yourself in your professional writing is polished but still genuine. Don’t ever fictionalize your accomplishments; present an honest picture, just put it in a nice frame.

Writing resumes and cover letters can be intimidating and overwhelming, but we here at the Writing Center hope that this post made writing your application material a little easier! If you have any more questions about writing resumes and cover letters, schedule an appointment with the Writing Center, check out our handy online resources, or consult another credible resource to clear up your concerns. The Career Services Student Resources page has a wealth of resources for you to use to manage every aspect of your application process, including how-tos on making a resume and cover letter. Plus, try checking out’s Career Advice page for even more how-to’s and professional insights.

Explore the Writing Center resource page here:

Visit Career Services here:

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We hope this helps! Happy writing!

Emma Ellard

The Writing Center is located on the first floor of the Leland Speed Library across from the Gore Art Gallery.

Schedule your appointment here!

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Monday-Thursday: 9am - 8pm

Friday: 9am - 3pm


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