As a Bemidji State student, you may be applying for a new job, an internship, a graduate school program or any other professional or academic opportunity that requires you to present yourself in a professional manner, which includes your writing. These tips will help you understand and develop formatting and content for cover letters, CVs and resumes.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a professional and impressive cover letter, CV or resume that will help you land your dream job, internship or academic program.
A cover letter is a crucial part of your application and is meant to introduce you to a prospective employer, graduate school program or any other entity. As readers will form their first impression of you from your cover letter, it is essential that the letter is well-written and to the point.
In your cover letter, you should:
- Explain any relevant experiences and skills that showcase your potential and ability for the position
- Take the time and effort to individualize your application
- Demonstrate your written communication skills
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter
- Address the letter to a specific person
- Include the position you are applying for
- Write in a formal, professional manner
- Create a header that includes the address of the recipient, the date and your contact information
- Detail your experience and qualifications without simply listing off items or repeating your resume
- Proofread several times for spelling, grammatical errors and organization
- Avoid contractions
- Try to close with a reminder of your strengths as a candidate and a request for a follow-up response or interview
- Provide your contact information again
- Type your name at the bottom of the letter and sign and print your name by hand between the closing and your typed name
- Limit the letter to one page, with one paragraph of introduction, one to three paragraphs detailing your qualifications and one conclusion paragraph
Formatting a Cover Letter
- Use a standard font type and size and standard margins (1-1.25 in.)
- Leave spaces between the addresses and date in the heading
- Single-space the letter
- Align the paragraphs to the left (you don’t need to indent the first line of each paragraph) and leave a space between each paragraph
More Cover Letter Resources
A CV, or curriculum vitae, is a more detailed resume and is usually used in academic, educational, scientific and research settings. Your CV should include your publications, teaching and research experience, any grants or fellowships received and any other academic recognition. In some cases, it is appropriate to include personal information (age, sex, marital status), but be sure to confirm this for your specific application before you do so. If you aren’t sure whether to submit a resume or a CV, try to find out from the person or organization to which your application is being sent.
CVs are often expected in international applications (outside of the Americas) and can be tailored for a specific position or application.
Tips for Writing a CV
- Most of the standards for writing and formatting resumes also apply to a CV
- Include more information on a CV, but be sure not to sacrifice organization and clarity for details
- Create more specific categories and take the time to write clear summaries instead of simply listing off your experiences
More CV Resources
A resume is a concise summary of your education, employment history and experiences relevant to the specific position you are applying for. Because employers receive hundreds of resumes, you should design your resume to be skimmed quickly, formatting it in such a way that your important information stands out and can easily be found by the reader.
Tips for Writing a Resume
The information you include in your resume should be carefully selected to convince prospective employers of your abilities and qualifications.
The following are standard categories included on a resume:
- Personal Information: Include your name, address, phone and email in the identification section
- Career or Professional Objectives: Include a specific objective that can help employers match their needs to yours
- Avoid “I” centered objectives
- Focus on what your goals could mean to a prospective employer
- Education: Include, in reverse chronological order, all degrees you have earned, where you earned them and any other minors or areas of study; it is not necessary to include your GPA but leaving it off may cause an employer to assume it was poor
- Experience: Include all paid and volunteer work experience
- Detail specific tasks and responsibilities and use vocabulary that shows your understanding of the position or field
- As you gain more relevant work experience this section can come before Education
- Activities and Honors: Include anything that is especially relevant to the position you’re applying for in the Activities and Honors section (optional)
- This section is optional and should not take precedence over any of the others but showing your additional activities
- Honors can be an effective way of impressing a prospective employer
- References: Sometimes simply including a sentence that says “References available upon request” is sufficient
- If the application calls for references to be included on your resume (or if you’re not sure), then include the names, titles and contact information for those people who have given you permission to use them as references
- Three to five references are generally accepted
Important Note: Interviewers are not allowed to ask you for personal information (such as age, marital status or health), so you should not include such information on your resume.
Formatting a Resume
- Use a standard, easy-to-read, font type and size, single-spacing and standard margins (1-1.25 in.)
- Develop and use a consistent system of headings and subheading to indicate the sections of your resume
- Use formatting (like bulleted lists) that facilitates speedy reading instead of writing in paragraphs
- A lot of white space is an indicator of an easy-to-read page
- Make sure your contact information is easy to find; it should be the first thing at the top of the first page
- Keep your resume no less than one full page and no more than three full pages (some circumstances may call for longer, more specialized resumes)
- Make sure that your resume is up-to-date and truthful
- Prospective employers will often do background checks and when they do, they should only find out what you have already told them