Resume & Cover Letter Writing

The resume is the document that introduces your qualifications to the employer. Because the resume is used by employers to screen applicants, it is important that you spend time in developing a professional resume that will attract the interest of employers and create interview opportunities for you.

Parts of a Resume


  • Name and contact information (complete address, phone, e-mail) 


  • Type of position you are seeking and the field/industry of interest 


  • List degrees - most recent first
  • Include relevant details (courses, special projects, minor or area of emphasis, etc.)
  • List study abroad experiences (use the same format as your Penn State entry)
  • Provide your overall and/or major G.P.A. (if below 3.0, discuss options with a career counselor)


  • List your experiences - most recent first
  • Give specific details; use numbers to show percentages, dollar amounts, etc.
  • Use bulleted statements
  • Start statements with action words

Activities (optional)

  • List relevant activities and leadership positions first
  • Add details to demonstrate skills and experiences, if applicable  
  • Include honors/awards, hobbies, and interests, if relevant

Skills (optional)

  • Highlight your skills (i.e. computer hardware/software, foreign languages or other skills required for the job)
  • Include the level of proficiency (basic, intermediate, etc.)
  • List relevant certifications

References (optional)

  • Seek prior approval from references
  • List references on a separate page (formatted to match resume)
  • List three to five references (who are familiar with your academic achievements, leadership and teamwork skills, and/or work ethic)
  • Include current contact information (name, title, organization, mailing address, phone number and e-mail address)

General Tips

  • Organize the categories to reflect the priorities of the hiring organization and/or position (i.e. if research is a core component of the work, your research section should be displayed prominently)
  • Provide details about skills and experiences
  • Provide a date of completion (if you are currently working toward your degree)
  • Proofread and spell-check
  • Have your CV reviewed multiple times by career counselors, advisors, professors, etc.
  • Be prepared to elaborate and discuss the content of your CV during your interview

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

A CV, which is longer than a typical resume, is often required when applying to graduate or professional programs, employment with international firms or when promoting oneself primarily within academic fields. As appropriate, your CV may include:

  • Professional, vocational or research objective
  • Summary of qualifications
  • Professional licenses or certifications
  • Education: post graduate, graduate and undergraduate degrees
  • Listing of relevant course work
  • Educational or professional awards
  • Research, laboratory experience and related skills
  • Description of thesis or dissertation, papers written
  • Publications
  • Academic or professional presentations
  • Related extracurricular activities
  • Professional and association memberships
  • Community involvement
  • Work experience - paid or volunteer
  • Technical and specialized skills
  • Travel / exposure to cultural experiences as related to goals
  • Foreign language skills
  • References

Parts of a Cover Letter    

Opening Paragraph

  • Express interest in the position and organization
  • Share how you learned about the opportunity (especially if referred by an individual)
  • Provide a broad overview of your most relevant experience and education

Middle Section

  • Summarize how your education, experience and personal qualities prepare you for the position
  • Write to persuade the employer to read your resume – without repeating your resume

Closing Paragraph

  • Reiterate your continued interest in the position and organization
  • Specify the next steps (either request in-person meeting or state that you will follow-up by phone)
  • Thank the employer for their consideration

Other Types of letters

General Tips for all Letters

  • Use the same mode of communication (email, telephone, letter) initiated by the employer
  • Consider your intention and make it clear
  • The quality of paper and all correspondence should be professional
  • Use proper e-mail etiquette: appropriate greetings, proper grammar, use formal language and include your e-mail/telephone contact information on all messages