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Resumes and Professional Documents

A student working on a computer.

Write your first resume or cover letter, or update what you already have.


A resume, or résumé (pronounced rez–oo-mey), is a professional document that summarizes a person’s education, qualifications and previous experiences that are relevant to a specific job application. There are many different opinions about how resumes should be formatted or what content should be included, so it is important to think of your resume as your first impression to employers. If you are looking to draft your first resume, we recommend following the tips on this page.

  • Start by making a comprehensive list of your jobs, projects, awards, skills, activities and volunteer experience.
  • Narrow down which of these are the most relevant to the position you are seeking.
  • Consider Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial in 10- to 12-point size. Only use black font.
  • Be consistent throughout the entire document with formatting such as punctuation, bold and italics.
  • Use bullet points to help make your resume easy to skim.
  • DO NOT write in complete sentences or paragraphs. These take longer to read and could alienate employers.
  • DO NOT include personal information (e.g., race, marital status) or a portrait. This could lead to unconscious bias or discrimination.
  • DO NOT include the phrase “references available upon request.” This is assumed.
  • DO NOT use a software template or wizard. They are very difficult to edit or reformat. Start with a blank document or use a resume sample as a formatting reference.
  • DO NOT exceed one page if you are still completing your undergraduate degree. Resumes should never exceed two pages, and exceeding one page is only recommended if you have more than five years of relevant professional experience and an advanced degree (i.e., master's or doctorate).

Use this helpful resource to double check your resume before you apply for your next job.

Cover Letters

The purpose of a cover letter is to catch the recruiter’s attention and interest, not to reproduce your resume. As an introduction to your resume, cover letters demonstrate your communication skills and should point out your strongest qualifications related to the position you are seeking. The ultimate goals of a cover letter are to clarify:

  1. Why you are interested in the position and working with this employer.
  2. Why you are a good fit for the position based on prior experiences and career goals.
  • Cover letters should be no longer than one page.
  • Do not overuse “I” to begin sentences; vary the sentence structure.
  • Each cover letter must be individualized to the position and/or organization to which you are applying.
  • If a job announcement does not give a name, an attention line should replace the salutation. For example, use “Attention: Human Resources Director” or “Dear Hiring Manager:” Do not use “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.”
  • Use the same header with your name and contact info on your resume, cover letter and reference sheet.

Use this helpful resource to double check your cover letter before you apply for your next job.

Personal Statements

A personal statement is often required for admission into graduate school. The school faculty use the statement to learn more about a student and to measure the applicant’s ability to think critically, build arguments and transfer thoughts concisely into writing. A personal statement can also assess an applicant's uniqueness, originality and enthusiasm for the academic program. Graduate schools are generally looking for information such as:

  • What do you want to study at graduate school and why?
  • What experience do you already have in your field?
  • What would you like to do with your degree once you have achieved it?
  • Avoid unnecessary information, clichés and controversial subjects. Do not restate your resume or write an autobiography.
  • Do not use the same statement for different applications.
  • Evaluate your experiences rather than recounting them.
  • Follow the directions. If the prompt asks for 300 words, do not write 500.
  • Be yourself; do not try to be the ideal candidate. Write about what you know.

Use this helpful resource to double check your personal statement before submitting your application(s) to graduate degree programs.

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

In the United States, a resume is commonly used to apply for jobs in the private sector and industry. No more than two pages, a resume is a brief summary of your experience and qualifications that are most relevant to the job for which you are applying. 

A Curriculum Vitae (pronounced VEE-tye), also called a CV or vita (VEE-tah), is used in the United States to market your scholarly background. It is a comprehensive, detailed biographical account of your academic and professional experience and credentials. CVs range from two pages to 10-plus pages, depending on your experience. In the United States, it typically is used for:

  • Graduate or professional school applications.
  • Faculty and administrative positions in higher education.
  • Science and research positions.
  • Proposals for grants and/or fellowships.
  • School administration (superintendent, principal).

Most application instructions will ask for either a CV or a resume. If you are uncertain, call to ask which would be most appropriate.

Use this helpful resource to start drafting your CV and double check your document before submitting.


  • Be sure to ask your references for a strong recommendation before listing them. Sooner is better than later - some faculty will appreciate at least two weeks advanced notice before any application submission deadlines.
  • Give a copy of your resume and ask if they would like any other information. Some also appreciate knowing the positions/employers for which you are applying.
  • Thank them for their time and assistance.
  • If some time has passed since you last received permission to list a reference, don’t assume that you may use them again. Always check back with them before you give out their name and contact information.
  • Your references should not be included on your resume, but on a separate document. Three or four professional references are usually expected.

Use this helpful resource to start drafting your list of references and double check your document before submitting.