Creating Your Resume
Writing a resume to summarize your professional qualifications can be an intimidating process. Use these tips, tricks, and samples to create a resume that tells your story and highlights your skills and achievements.
Developing Your ContentToggle More Info
Brainstorm all of the experiences you have had and qualifications you bring to the table. You are not limited to work experience! Service-learning, class projects, internships, and extracurricular activities all show valuable transferable skills and can be included on a resume. Put together a comprehensive list of these experiences. You will later narrow these down to only include the most relevant ones on your resume. Some experiences and qualifications to consider include the following:
Building Your Resume TipsToggle More Info
- Within each section of your resume, list your experiences in reverse chronological order. That means that your current/most recent roles go at the top and your oldest roles go toward the bottom.
- When describing your experiences, use bullet points focused on your achievements instead of paragraphs describing your duties or the job as a whole. Bullet points make it easier for employers to get the most important information when skimming your resume. Avoid using personal pronouns like I, me, and my.
- Include the month and year range for your experiences: May 20XX - December 20XX. An exception to this is in your education section. For your bachelor's degree, list your expected graduation date in the format "Expected Month Year."
- Your formatting should be clear and consistent. Use common and professional fonts like Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman in 11-12 pt font. Margins should be consistent (no larger than 1" or smaller than 1/2") and content should fill the page. Use bold, italics, and underlines to differentiate sections of your resume and to emphasize important information.
- The length of your resume will vary based on your industry and amount of experience. The traditional resume is one page.
- Check your resume for spelling and grammar mistakes. You don't want to miss your chance at the dream job because you put "Florida Golf Coast University."
- Always tailor your resume to the position. There are several ways to do this:
- Incorporate key words from the job description into your accomplishment statements.
- Include a Relevant Coursework subsection in your Education section if you took any courses relevant to the position.
- Order the sections on your resume based on what you think will be most important or attractive to the employer.
- Base the skills in your skills section on the employer's stated needs.
- Don't use a template. We recommend using a word processing software to make your resume
by hand. Templates can cause difficulties for multiple reasons:
- Applicant Tracking Systems often can't read them.
- They waste a lot of white space and often include elements that employers dislike, such as graphics and excess color.
- Never include a headshot or information regarding your age, gender, ethnicity, race, marital status, family situation, social security number, or university identification number. These put you at risk for discrimination.
- Do not included references or the phrase "References available upon request" on your resume. References should be on a separate document. Reference formatting examples can be found in the Additional Professional Documents section of this page.
We've included a few samples on this page that you can use for formatting help.
Describing Your AccomplishmentsToggle More Info
Your resume should not just list your responsibilities and duties from various roles but should focus on your contributions from those roles that are relevant for the position you want to get. In order to show this, you want to highlight skills and achievements. One way to do this is by creating accomplishments statements that begin with an action verb, then describe the projects and tasks you completed using details relevant to the job you are applying for, and end with a result of the project or a reason why your contribution was important. Incorporate verbs and keywords from the job description to tailor your resume to the role. Your most relevant experiences on your resume should have 3-5 bullet point accomplishment statements.
Use this chart as a guide when writing accomplishment statements:
Transferable SkillsToggle More Info
You may have heard of "soft" skills or transferable skills. These are skills that you gain throughout your life experiences that are relevant no matter what job you are applying for. The NACE Career Readiness Competencies are the transferable skills employers most commonly look for. It is important to not just list transferable skills or "soft" skills in your skills section because that doesn't give an employer an idea of what skills you bring to the table. Instead, use your accomplishment statements to give examples of your transferable skills in action. You can work on Transferable Skills Badges as a way to showcase your development of these skills.
Action VerbsToggle More InfoConsult these sample action verbs if you need help starting off your accomplishment statements. Need more verbs? We've got a handout for that. More Action Verbs
Working with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)Toggle More Info
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) were created to help corporations and organizations handle large numbers of applications. They track applications and serve as the first step of the process to narrow down the pool of qualified applicants by scanning resumes for keywords and forwarding the most qualified candidates to recruiters or hiring managers. Here are some basic steps you can take to improve the chances of your resume making it past the ATS:
- Don't try to trick the ATS. You may hear suggestions like pasting keywords into your document in white text, but tactics like that will most likely cause problems once a recruiter realizes that you are willing to cheat the system. Instead, use keywords in context in your accomplishment statements.
- Keep your formatting simple. Fancy, creative formatting can work well in some industries when you are presenting your resume directly; however, creative formatting will confuse an ATS. Things to avoid include tables, text boxes, logos, images, graphics, columns, headers and footers, hyperlinks on important words, and unusual fonts.
- Apply to roles you are qualified for. This doesn't mean you have to have every single qualification listed in the posting or that you cannot apply for jobs outside of your current industry. It just means that you should meet the core qualifications to make it past the ATS.
- Don't apply for too many jobs within the same organization. The ATS lets recruiters see how many and which jobs you have applied for in an organization. If you apply to many different roles, recruiters will not be able to tell what you are interested in, and it will seem as though you lack awareness of your own skill set. However, it's fine to apply for multiple very similar roles.
- File type is important. PDFs keep your format intact, but .docx files (Word files) are easiest for the ATS to read. The best thing to do is to choose the file format that the posting or application system asks for. If they don't provide instructions, use a .docx file.
Sample ResumesToggle More Info
Curriculum Vitae / CVToggle More Info
A curriculum vitae, or “CV,” is a comprehensive statement of your education and teaching/research/work experience. (The term “curriculum vitae” is roughly translated from Latin as “course of life.”) It is most commonly used for applying to employment positions in higher education. However, some graduate school programs will ask prospective students to submit a CV as part of the application process.
Resumes and CV’s look similar, and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. The primary difference between a resume and CV is the amount of content. Think of it this way – resumes are a “selection” of your experiences and skills that relate highly to a particular field of job, while a CV tends to read like a “collection” of your qualifications. Consequently, resumes tend to be shorter, typically one page for recent college graduates, so they can be scanned rather quickly. CV’’s do not have a page limit since they are intended to reflect the range of your interests and depth of your knowledge. CV’s are often read quite thoroughly.
For students creating a CV for application to a graduate school program, here are some the most common elements to include (if applicable to your background.) List in the following order. Content within sections should be in reverse-chronological order.
- List all institutions from which you earned a degree in reverse-chronological order
- You can include institutions you attended but did not earn a degree if it was a substantial amount of time (more than a year) or it is highly regarded school
- Specific coursework completed if it helps describe your academic preparation
- Membership in the Honors program
Academic honors & awards
- Your GPA if it is above 3.0; Dean’s List, President’s List
- Scholarships you received only if they were highly competitive – this does not include Bright Futures
- Include any substantial research projects; especially those that were completed under the supervision of a faculty member are most valuable.
- Provide details - what was the purpose of the research, and what did you learn
- You may also include a separate statement of your research interests
- FGCU Research Day participations
- Example: You are applying to a M.S in Environmental Science program – include your internship with the Rookery Bay Restoration Project and your part-time job at The Nature Conservancy
- May include computer skills, knowledge of another language, experience with certain lab equipment or research software, or anything directly related to the field
- Any related certification within the field and the year received/earned
- Membership in the professional associated related to your field – indicate level of involvement
- Examples may include the following positions: Orientation Leader, Housing RA, Student Government, Sorority/Fraternity officer, student club/organization officer, Intercollegiate athletics captain, or a position of high responsibility in a fundraising endeavor (such as Relay for Life)
- Conferences and workshops attended
Campus and Community Involvement
- Participation in student clubs/organizations and volunteer experiences in the community
Other Work Experience
- Any jobs you have held. Don’t need to include ALL of them (such as the two weeks spent cutting lawns in the summer)
- Don’t need long job descriptions, especially for basic positions (such as retail clerk or restaurant server)
For students that have completed a Master’s Level program and are applying to a Doctoral level program, here are some additional elements to include (if applicable to your background):
- Publications and Published Work
- Could be journal articles and research reports, or, for example, an English major may have poems or short stories that have been published
- Work Submitted/Work in Progress
- Teaching Experience/Courses Taught
Video ResourcesToggle More InfoFor more assistance, watch our Candid Career Resume Writing playlist.
Creating Your Cover Letter
A tailored cover letter serves as a sales pitch for why you're the best candidate for the position. Follow these tips for a step-by-step guide on how to write one.
Types of Cover LettersToggle More Info
There are two basic types of cover letters:
A letter of application is used when applying for a position that has been posted and is currently available. The letter should state how your education, skills, and experience match the qualifications listed in the job posting. To write an effective cover letter, examine the job posting and customize the letter for the specific job and company. Instead of repeating everything on your resume, focus on highlighting your main qualifications and drawing connections between your experiences and what the employer is looking for.
A letter of inquiry, or a prospecting letter, is sent to express interest in working for or interning with a particular employer when there is not an advertised job opening. Summarize your qualifications and highlight how you contribute to the company. You must communicate why this company interests you and why you want to work for them, so it must also be customized for the specific company. A prospecting letter is most effective when you can reference how you heard about the company, whether it is through one of your contacts or your research. However, not all employers accept unsolicited letters and resumes.
Cover Letter TipsToggle More Info
- Tailored - The cover letter is your chance to share with the employer why you are the best fit for their position, company, mission, product, service, etc., so build in key words from the job posting and focus on the skills and qualifications that they ask for.
- Do Your Research - Find out as much as you can about the company and the position. Look at the company's website, employees' LinkedIn profiles, and company Twitter feed. Find out current challenges and how your role would help address those.
- Tone - Don't be afraid to show your enthusiasm! Use a tone that is reflective of the company and industry. For example, advertising companies might be attracted to a creative cover letter. For more conservative industries like banking, you may be safer by sticking to more professional prose.
- 6-Second Rule - Research shows that you have less than six seconds to get an employer's attention from the moment they start reading your cover letter. If they skim it and see it's a repetition of your resume, they won't read it.
- Do not exceed one page
- Left-adjust the content
- Set your margins to a consistent number around the page
- Clean-lined, 11 to 12-point font
- Stay clear of fancy, scripted fonts; tiny type; or anything that makes it hard to read
Heading & SalutationToggle More Info
- Your heading should match the heading on your resume with your name, phone number, email, and LinkedIn (optional).
- Include the date that you submit the application.
- Your letter should also be addressed to a specific person. Consider calling the company receptionist, checking LinkedIn, or researching the company website for the name of the hiring manager. Include the name, title, department, company name, and company address.
- Address the employer by using a colon if you have never met before: "Dear Mr. Jones:"
Intro ParagraphToggle More Info
In the intro paragraph, tell the employer why you are writing by stating which position you are applying to and how you heard about it. Use an enthusiastic tone when describing why the position is exciting to you and why you are the right fit over other candidates. Consider using openers that will engage the reader. If you have a personal connection with the company or someone who works there, mention it in this paragraph.
- Show your passion for the job and/or the company. A lot of people have the right skills, but employers want people who genuinely want the job.
- Be authentic; don't go overboard with flattery.
- In some industries like fashion or technology, it is more appropriate to say that you love or use a company's product.
Second ParagraphToggle More Info
This paragraph is your strategic "sales pitch." What makes you the best candidate for the position? Employers are looking for evidence that proves you possess the desired qualifications. This evidence comes in the form of your education, experience, skills, and personality. Your cover letter should contain specific examples that you have what they are looking for.
- Step 1: Refer to the job posting and list the desired qualifications.
- Step 2: Think back to your experiences in school, work, internships, volunteer service, or campus involvement. Record specific examples of times you demonstrated these desired qualifications.
- Step 3: Take the examples you have developed and integrate them into the prose of your cover letter. Do not just list them.
Third ParagraphToggle More Info
45% of employers want to know why you want to work for them, so use this space to emphasize your knowledge of the company, your familiarity with the industry, and how this position fits into your career plan. If this section is shorter than two sentences, do not create a third paragraph and instead combine content into the final paragraph. Show the employer that you know what the company does and the challenges it faces. These challenges do not need to be specific, just general industry trends. Then emphasize your value by showing how you might solve the problem.
Example: You might write, "A lot of healthcare organizations are making large adjustments to their methods of providing high-quality care to patients following the changing laws." Then address how your experience or education in healthcare law and policy has equipped you to meet the challenges of a changing healthcare industry.
Discuss how you feel connected to the company's product, service, mission, business model, etc. Share a personal or professional experience that taught you about the importance of the industry or the work the company is doing.
Final ParagraphToggle More Info
Thank the reader for their time and consideration. Indicate the phone number and email where you can best be reached. Reminder: make sure there is a professional greeting, including your name, on your voicemail message.
If you are applying to a position out of the area, indicate when you are planning to relocate to that area, or when you may be taking a trip to the area and would be available for an interview. You can also indicate if you plan to receive any certification required for the position.
The ClosingToggle More Info
Keep the closing simple. "Sincerely" suffices. Follow these rules for your signature:
- Email: Type your name under your closing; you can include a script version of your name in place of your signature
- Hard copy: Sign your name in blue or black ink above your typed name
- PDF or Word document: Insert an image of your actual signature by signing it in the notes app on your phone and adding the picture to your document or by using a scanning app to scan your written signature
Sample Cover LettersToggle More Info
Video ResourceToggle More Info
Additional Professional Documents
Professional ReferencesToggle More Info
Over 80% of employers check references, so be prepared to submit a list of your professional references. They should be on a separate document from your resume, titled "Professional References."
Why do employers conduct reference checks?
- Ensures the consistency of everything stated on your resume and what you have said in the interview
- Obtains feedback that provides a more in-depth picture of you as a candidate, including their perception of your skills, personality, and work performance
- Identifies any areas of weakness or concerns
The only individuals capable of providing this information objectively:
- Current and former supervisors and colleagues (supervisors preferred)
- Current and former faculty/staff members
- People that may know you from a substantial volunteer experience
- If you are applying for a supervisory position, a former supervisee could also be helpful
Sample Reference Entry:
Mr. John Smith
100 Main St.
Fort Myers, FL 33988
Relationship: Immediate supervisor for two years at Everglades Bank. Can speak on behalf of my [ability to____, skills in____, etc.].
Preparing your list of references:
- Your list should have three to five references.
- Ask each person ahead of time if they would be willing to serve as a positive reference. If they don't seem sure, ask someone else. A lukewarm response or "I don't know her very well" reference can be damaging.
- Ask them for the phone number and email by which they prefer to be contacted; do not provide contact information they have not approved.
- If you know, let them know what kinds of jobs or which companies you are applying to. This can help them customize their feedback toward the job/company.
- Put them in order of strongest to weakest. Your strongest references are typically your current supervisor, individuals who know you well and have the most favorable things to say about you, and people that have known you the longest. Avoid having more than two references from the same place.
- Bring a hard copy on stationary that matches your resume when you go to an interview.
Example: Sample References
Once you have obtained the job, it is professional protocol to send a note or email to all of your references letting them know and thanking them for their help.