As you begin to build a network of contacts to help in your internship or career search, you will have a need to write a variety of letters effectively.
Types of Letters
Inquiry Letter—an opportunity to begin the networking process and ask for an informational interview; discuss organization needs and your ability to solve them; be the solution.
Cover Letter or Application Letter—relates your skills to the needs of the organization and asks for an interview.
Thank You Letter—sent as a follow-up to any networking opportunity or interview.
Follow-up Letter—an opportunity to inquire about your previous communications or encounters with a potential employer.
Accept/Decline Letter—your immediate acceptance or declination of an employment offer.
Remember to Follow-up
Whether you are following up after an interview or developing a relationship with a potential employer, keep the lines of communication open. If you say you are going to follow-up within a specified time frame, be sure to do so (see Follow-up)
Tips for Letters
- Send via email, hard copy, or handwritten note.
- Use clear and concise writing.
- Address the letter to a specific person if possible; otherwise, use a subject line instead of a salutation.
- Keep it brief.
- Match yourself to the opportunity.
- Illustrate your interest and passion for the field.
- Create a system to track letters for follow-up.
- Proofread carefully for grammar, spelling, and format (use modern business format).
What is a resume?
A resume is a sales brochure about you. It describes your abilities, your experiences, and your education—all of which should support your job objective. A resume has one purpose: to get you an interview.
Before you write your resume, ask yourself,
“Is my work experience related to the job
I’m applying for?”
If “yes,” consider using a chronological resume.
If “no,” consider using a skills resume.
Writing Chronological & Skills Resumes
A chronological resume is often used when you easily meet the skill, experience, and/or education requirements for a specific position. This format is good for demonstrating growth in a single profession. This format starts with the current or most recent employment, then works backward. The work experience section is the distinguishing characteristic of the chronological resume, because it ties your job responsibilities and achievements to specific employers, job titles, and dates (see Chronological Resume Outline and Resumes-Samples A&B).
The skills resume focuses on the professional skills you have developed rather than on when, where, or how you acquired them. The attention is always focused on the skill rather than the place or time the skill was obtained. Job titles and employers play a minor role with this type of resume. The focus is on the results you delivered rather than the dates of a particular job (see Skills Resume Outline and Resumes-Samples C&D). You may also use a combination of the two formats.
- Resumes often get less than one minute of an employer's time—make that time count for you.
- Be clear, concise, accurate, and make sure your resume is easily readable.
- Proofread carefully—often when emailing, people tend to be careless with typos, spelling, errors, and grammar. See your Career Coach for assistance in editing.
- Keep your resume to one page (two if you have advanced degrees or lengthy work experience).
- When mailing and emailing a resume, always include a well-written cover letter.
- If mailing, use good quality paper; white, off-white, or buff-colored paper is preferable.
Items to Exclude on a Resume
- Personal data (height, weight, age, marital status, religion, or health). Employers want to avoid any possible hint of discrimination
- Titles ("Resume" or "Curriculum Vitae")
- Reasons for leaving a job
- References — create on a separate sheet
- Salary — if a salary record or requirements are requested, discuss it in the cover letter
- Early childhood and upbringing
- Weaknesses or exaggerations — keep it honest
- Long paragraphs — use short statements or bulleted items
- Hobbies — unless they relate to professional interests or show traits an employer wants
Can I Use One Resume for All Jobs?
Generally, no. A resume should be targeted to the job you are seeking or to the company to which you are submitting your resume. This means that you should research the company to determine which kinds of positions are available and match your skills and achievements to the job.
Important Tips for a Reference Sheet
- Always ask your references if they are prepared to give you a good recommendation. Provide your references with a resume and job description or type of job you are applying for so they can speak about you and your qualifications effectively.
- Use three to five references.
- Use at least one (more is better) employment-related reference. Good sources include previous supervisors, co-workers, faculty, advisors, or community/service leaders.
- Keep personal references to a minimum.
- Use the same color and quality of paper for the reference sheet as you do for your resume.
- Only submit your references when requested. Otherwise, take your reference sheet with you to the interview.
- Thank your references and anyone else instrumental in your job search when you accept a job offer.
- As your career builds, keep your reference list up-to-date.
What is a Curriculum Vitae (CV)?
A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a summary of your educational and academic background. In the United States, a curriculum vitae is used primarily when applying for academic, administrative, scientific, and research positions or fellowships/grants. Its length can range from two to four pages (or more as your career progresses). Please keep in mind each field has a different standard. Ask the faculty in your department, as well as your Career Coach at Career Services, for feedback on your CV.
The Differences between a Resume and a Curriculum Vitae
A CV is a longer, more detailed synopsis of your background and skills. A CV includes a summary of your educational and academic backgrounds as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, affiliations, and other details. As with a resume, you may need different versions of a CV for different types of positions.
Often, a briefer one- to two-page document can also be developed as a distillation of the more important points in the CV. If a job announcement requests a resume, you may send the briefer document in an initial response letter, with the notation in your cover letter that the CV can be sent if needed. If you are confused about whether a hiring individual or institution really wants a resume or a vita, you should contact them and ask. Often these terms are used interchangeably; however, if a CV is requested, have yours prepared to send.
Points to Consider
As is true with resumes, your CV may get as little as 30-60 seconds of consideration by a potential employer, grant reviewer, or other reader. An effective vita must be able to positively attract attention, stimulate the reader's interest, create a desire to get to know you better, and generate action. To maximize effectiveness, your CV should be:
Clear. This means well-organized, logical, readable, and easily understood.
Concise.Since the CV is typically longer than the resume, there is sometimes a tendency to "pad" — avoid the temptation! Be absolutely sure that there are no "double entries" — no item should appear in the CV in more than one place. Present everything that is relevant and necessary, but keep it brief.
Complete. Be sure you have included all of the important and relevant information that the reader needs in order to make an informed decision about your application.
Consistent. Don't use an extensive mix of styles (such as an array of different fonts). Be sure to use the same order in presenting information — present your experiences from most recent to least recent.
Current. Remember to include dates with all information. It is particularly critical to continually update the information; ideally, the CV should be revised at least once a year.
While the content is critical, you should also be conscious of the image you present with this document. Remember, your CV and accompanying letter may be your first contact with a prospective graduate program, employer, or grant reviewer. A CV needs to be visually appealing and should not contain any typographical or grammatical errors.
Items to Include in a CV
The categories listed below are often included in CV's. However, no CV contains all of them, and some CVs will contain other categories that are not listed here. The basic rule is that your own unique educational and work experiences should be carefully considered when deciding which categories will be most effective. The first step in actually developing your CV is to write down all relevant information; later you can organize it into categories and do whatever editing is necessary. After you have written down all relevant information, you should develop a hierarchy, placing the most important and relevant categories and information first.
Typical Sections to Include in Your Curriculum Vitae
Honors & Awards
Additional Relevant Skills
References (separate sheet)
When writing a resume, grammar and language mechanic rules do not always apply. However, poor grammar, spelling, typos, and formatting can result in your resume being discarded by employers. In fact, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder Survey, 58% of surveyed employers indicated they will throw away any resume with typos. Review this grammar guide to ensure your resume avoids the trash-bin!
Top 10 Skills Employers Seek
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) asks employers to rate the importance of certain attributes they look for when interviewing and hiring candidates. Visit your career coach to identify strategies to develop these skills through internships, involvement, study abroad, etc.
(Based on a 5-point scale; 5 = extremely important)
- Verbally communicate with persons inside/outside the organization
- Work in a team situation
- Make decisions and solve problems
- Plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Obtain and process information
- Analyze quantitative data
- Technical knowledge related to the job
- Proficiency with computer software programs
- Create and/or edit written reports
- Sell or influence others
Source: Job Outlook 2013, National Association of Colleges & Employers