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Resume & Cover Letter

A resume and cover letter are two of the most important tools that help you secure an interview with a potential employer. Our goal is to teach you how to make your materials so engaging that the reader cannot wait to meet you.

Cover letter guide: writing a cover letter

There are at least three good reasons to write a cover letter

  1. Many employers use the cover letter to assess a candidate's writing and communication skills.
  2. To highlight aspects of your background. Don't repeat information from your resume but instead give concrete examples of your skills and experience and match them to the qualifications of the position or the needs of the employer.
  3. To stimulate interest in you and your resume and to underscore your interest in the job.


Any appropriate business letter format is acceptable. A standard set-up includes block paragraphs that are single spaced with an extra space between paragraphs. Your resume header should also be on your cover letter and reference list (all on separate pages).

Tip: The best way to start a cover letter is by taking the job posting you are applying for and highlighting areas that you have skills or experience. Then, you want to write about those job specific skills or experiences in your cover letter.

Where do I start?

Do your homework!

  • Research the employers career website to find out more about the department or topic the position primarily focuses on.
  • Determine some of their current news or defining characteristics: their competitors, customers, innovations, etc.
  • Understand their mission and values as an organization as well as a department. Review their marketing, follow them on social media to learn what's most important to them and how they want to present themselves to external stakeholders.
  • Find a connection with the employer that you can highlight in your cover letter; that could be their mission, a recent report they issued, philanthropic work they do, etc.

Tip: Each letter should be unique and personal. Make sure at least one other person reads the letter before it gets sent in. Bring your cover letter and the job description to the Career Center for us to review

Example cover letter (PDF)

Cover letter rubric

  Cover letter should get you the interview Cover letter could land you an interview. This is an average letter (borderline case). Cover letter needs significant improvement and would be discarded during screening.
Business format and overall quality of writing ability This letter uses correct business format with date and addresses at the top and a signature at the bottom. This letter is clear and concise, and grammatically correct. There are no spelling errors. This letter uses correct business format with date and addresses at the top, and a signature at the bottom. There are minimal grammar and spelling errors. While its content is decent, this letter does not convince an employer to call. Business formatting is not used in this letter. There is no address or date at the top. This letter is not signed. There are multiple grammar and spelling errors. The content of this letter does not make sense to the reader.
Section 1: Introduction This section identifies the position for which you are applying and explains why you are interested in the job. You have described how you heard about the opening. The wording is creative and catches an employer's attention quickly. This section identifies the position you are seeking. This letter does not describe how you heard about the opening. You vaguely describe why you are interested in this job. This section is bland and might not catch someone's attention fast enough. This section does not clearly identify what position you are seeking. There is no description of how you heard about the position or why you are interested. This letter definitely will not grab an employer's attention and keep him or her reading.
Section 2: Identification of skills and experiences as related to position This letter identifies one or two of your strongest qualifications and clearly relates how these skills apply to the job at hand. This letter explains specifically why you are interested in the position and this type of job, company, and/or location. This letter identifies one of your qualifications, but it is not related to the position at hand. This letter restates what is on your resume with minimal additional information. You explain why you are interested in the position but are too vague. This letter does not discuss any relevant qualifications. You have not relevated your skills to the position for which you are applying. This letter does not state why you are interested in the position, company, and/or location.
Section 3: Closing This letter refers the reader to your resume or any other enclosed documents. This letter thanks the reader for taking time to read this letter. You are assertive as you describe how you will follow up with the employer in a stated time period. You thank the reader for taking time to read this letter. You do not refer the reader to your resume or application materials. This letter assumes that the employer will contact you to follow up. This letter does not thank the reader for taking time to review this letter. There is no reference to a resume or other materials. This letter does not mention any plan for follow up.

by Amy Diepenbrock. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.

Our Cover Letter Checklist helps you identify the elements of a strong cover letter.

Resume guide: what information should I include in my resume?

Resume writing is an art, not a science. There are no “wrong” or “right” resumes, but there are poor and excellent resumes and everything in between. You should evaluate your resume from two different points of view – Content and Format Appearance. Here are some general guidelines.


The heading is placed at the top of the page and includes your name; address (optional); a cell phone number which you check frequently and one email address you check daily.

*Tip: Make sure your email address is professional!


While you are still a student you should list “Education” before “Experience” on your resume unless you have exceptional work experience in your background.

  • List the name of the school and where it is located (city and state only).
  • Include the degree you earned or will earn and the date of graduation (month and year only).
  • When listing University of Massachusetts Dartmouth you may preface the degree with the words “candidate for” and then your  expected year of graduation.
  • GPA is optional: Include GPA if it is above a 3.0. If you have attained Dean’s List, be sure to indicate that on your resume. If you have made it every semester, use the word “consistently”. If you have made it sporadically, do not put the semesters on your resume.

Other schools

You can list Study Abroad schools if it’s not UMass Dartmouth.

Listing a school you attended but did not graduate from is optional but if you do put it on your resume state what your major was and  the dates attended (month and year). Consider listing it if you obtained your Associates Degree or a certificate or if you have work experience from that school that you would like to include on the resume.

Listing your high school is optional. If you received honors or were involved in athletics or other activities you may want to include it. If you are trying to “fill the page” you could also include it. If you’re hoping to work in the school, you would want to include it. By the time you are a college Junior, you should have new experiences to add to your resume and should remove high school information.


Include all your work experience; internships, professional, part time and summer jobs, work-study, volunteer, and military service. Your work experience is listed in REVERSE chronological order with your current or most recent employer first.

Include the company's or organization's name and address (city and state only), your starting and ending dates (month and year are sufficient), and your job title.

Next, describe your job using action statements. The goal is to tell the employer what you did as clearly and concisely as possible. This is your opportunity to let the employer know what you have done in the past and what skills you will be bringing to the job. You need not include every task, just the ones that may be important to the reader. There are some generally accepted rules:

  1. Start every action statement with an action verb (example action verbs in this book!)
  2. Never use personal pronouns such as “I” “we” “I researched and created a marketing plan…” or “I attended divisional meetings…”
  3. Avoid unnecessary words such as, Job Title: Waitress. Just saying Waitress is enough. Non-gender specific Wait Staff or Server is even better.
  4. Use the appropriate tense. Use the present tense if you are describing a job you still hold. Use the past tense if you no longer work for the employer.
  5. Don’t use phrases such as Responsible for or Duties included. Tell the employer what you actually did, not just what you were supposed to do. Even better, find a way to let the employer know what you did and how well you did it.
  6. Avoid repeating the same job description or key phrases over a series of jobs. Try to highlight growth by stating only additional skills, new accomplishments, or higher levels of responsibility.
  7. Answer what, when, where, why, for whom, how, and how well did I do. You won’t answer all questions for every bulleted statement, but it is a good technique when brainstorming.


You should consider including a Skills and/or Qualifications section on your resume. Many of you will have impressive computer skills and these are very marketable.


  • Word processing
  • Spreadsheets
  • Databases
  • Operating systems
  • Programming languages
  • Network administration
  • Internet
  • Presentation graphics
  • Desktop publishing/graphic design
  • Social Media
  • Other qualifications you should include are language skills (fluent, conversational), licenses, and training (Real Estate, CPR, First Aid, etc.)

Other possible sections for your resume

  • Collegiate Activities
  • Project Work or Course Work
  • Related Experience
  • Internship Experience
  • Community Service
  • Research
  • Professional Certifications or Licensure
  • Publications
  • Major Accomplishments or Achievements
  • Professional Memberships
  • Professional Development
  • Presentations/Public Speaking
  • Presentations/Workshop

The format and appearance of your resume

How do I arrange the information on the page? What should a well-designed resume look like? There are no hard and fast rules about how to format your resume. The appearance of the document is very much a matter of personal taste. Here are some >recommendations for your consideration:


One (1) Page (After college once you have made a couple career moves, then 2 pages is more acceptable) If you need two pages due to extensive leadership, research, and experience then every page of information should have your name on it.

Page layout: never use a resume template!

Be creative. Don’t look like others. Remember, the goal is to make your resume attractive, neat and easy to read. Don’t overdo “special effects”. Avoid making your resume look cluttered or too busy.


Use 8 1/2 by 11-inch resume quality paper. The color should be white or off-white. Print your resume on a quality printer or take it to a copying service when bringing it with you to an interview. Otherwise, almost all applications will be uploaded directly to a company's website or through an online job board.


Be consistent throughout your resume. Double check spacing, font type and size, special effects such as bolding or italics, tense, abbreviations, etc. Don’t use abbreviations except for state abbreviations (RI, MA, CT, etc.)


Putting information into bullet form is a matter of personal preference. The bulleted information can be put into paragraph form by using periods (even though you use incomplete sentences) commas or semi-colons to separate the phrases.


Use a font that is compatible with Windows and Mac, and with all versions of Word. Compatible fonts include: Arial, Arial Black, Georgia, Impact, Lucida Console, Palatino, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana.

One final thing

The last thing you should do is look at your resume as a whole and visually assess its appearance. Is it well organized and easy for the reader to find and focus on important information? Is it attractive? Will someone want to read it?

Read your resume one more time, read it carefully! There can be NO spelling errors or errors in factual information. In short, is it perfect? Ask a friend to proofread it too. Ask lots of friends to proof it. Remember you will have devoted four or five long years to your education by the time you graduate. After spending so much time, effort and money, do you really want to just "throw together” the document that summarizes and advertises your achievements to the hiring world? Take the time to do it right.

Sample resume (PDF)

Action verb list (PDF)

Resume rubric

  Resume should effectively land you an interview Resume could land  you an interview (borderline case) Resume is average, needs improvement to rise to the "top of the stack" Resume needs significant improvement and would be discarded during screening
Format This resume fills the page but is not overcrowded. There are no grammar or spelling errors. It can be easily scanned. This resume almost fills the page, but has some uneven white space. There may be a single spelling or grammar error. The font and spacing of this resume are not appealing and cannot be easily scanned. There are spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. This resume is either one-half page or two to three pages long. The font is too big or may be hard to read. There is more white space than words on the page. There are multiple spelling and/or grammar errors.
Education Section This section is organized, clear and well-defined. It highlights the most pertinent information and includes: institutions and its location, graduation date, major, degree, GPA, study abroad (as appropriate), and any relevant course work. This section is well organized and easy to read. it includes institution and its date, major, and degree. GPA and "extra" information, such as study abroad and course work are missing. Information such as institution and its location graduation date, and major are included, but degree and GPA are not listed. This section is not well organized and there is no order to how information is formatted. This section is missing the most crucial information. Institution is listed, but not its location and graduation date is missing. The major is included, but not degree. No GPA is stated.
Experience Section This section is well-defined, and information relates to the intended career field. Places of work, location, titles and dates are included for each position. Descriptions are clear and formatted as bullets beginning with action verbs. (This section could be split into related and other experience.) Places of work, location, titles and dates are included for each position. Descriptions are formatted as bullets beginning with action verbs, but are not detailed enough to help the reader understand the experience. Information does not related 100 percent to the intended career field. Descriptions are not presented in bulleted lists that begin with action verbs. Instead, complete sentences in paragraph form are used to described positions. Places of work are included for each position, but not locations, dates and titles. There is no order to the descriptions of each position. Descriptions are not detailed and don't illustrate the experience. No locations and dates of employment are listed.
Honors Activities This section is well organized and easy to understand. Activities honors are listed and descriptions include skills gained and leadership roles held. Dates of involvement are listed. This section includes all necessary information, but is difficult to follow. Leadership roles within organizations are listed, but skills are not defined. Dates of involvement are listed. This section is missing key information such as leadership positions held or dates of involvement. Organizations are listed; the organization, not individual involvement in each, are described. This section is missing or contains very little - information. Organization titles or dates of involvement or dates of involvement are not included, and there are no descriptions.

Our Resume Checklist provides the fundamental elements of an effective resume.

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