A resume is a marketing tool. It paints a picture of your skills, abilities, and experiences, and it showcases your qualifications to employers.
Because recruiters and hiring managers screen candidates by looking at their resumes, your resume must be up-to-date, error-free, complete, and targeted to the position you are seeking.
Employers will spend, on average, only 10 seconds reviewing your resume. The most important information on your resume must be clearly placed so that recruiters can find it quickly and easily.
Guidelines for one-page resumes:
- Individuals with less than 10 years of experience
- Good for networking
- Can be used for all professions
Guidelines for two-page resumes:
- Individuals with over 10 years of experience
- Consultants or those who do project work
- Critical content belongs on the first page
- White space matters — don’t crowd your information
- This format is often the standard in business
Curriculum Vitae or CV guidelines:
- For academic or research positions
- Uses/roles include professor, higher education administrator, researcher
- Typically two or more pages in length
Required Section Headings:
- Education – Top (recent grad) or bottom placement; includes degrees, majors, training/certifications
- Experience – Title options include Professional Experience or Work Experience; may sub-categorize based on the role being sought (e.g., Marketing Experience)
Optional Section Headings (based upon role and positioning):
- Professional Summary
- Skills Summary
- Publications and Presentations
- Awards, Honors, and Distinctions
- Volunteering and Community Involvement
- Professional Affiliations
- Use concise bullets beginning with action-oriented verbs
- Ensure that verbs are past tense unless you are currently in the role
- Avoid personal pronouns like “I,” “my,” or “we”
- Use a readable font like Times New Roman, Garamond, Helvetica, or Arial
- Do not use a font size smaller than 10 point
- Use technical language but only if relevant in your field
- Avoid acronyms and jargon
- Review the role description carefully, noting the tasks expected and skills needed
- Customize your skills and experience to fit each role that you’re targeting
- Research role-specific keywords and skills and, if appropriate, incorporate into your resume
- Include target industry, function, or company terminology
- Ask another person to review your resume to catch errors
- Spell check online and in hard copy (Spell check can’t distinguish “its” from “it’s”)
- Align all bullets and margins
- Follow the same format for all dates
- Use the same font, typeface, bold and italics throughout
- Proofread one more time to create an error-free resume
People who write good cover letters make it clear that they’ve
- taken the time to craft a personal response
- tailored the letter to the specific role
Goals for Your Cover Letter
You have created a character (a version of yourself) so compelling that the reviewer has to meet you. To achieve that goal, you need to
- Celebrate what you will bring to the organization without bragging.
- Demonstrate that you have the “soft skills” that all organizations need.
- Show that you’re a team player — you roll up your sleeves and help out as needed.
- Let the organization know that you’re a self-starter and a lifelong learner.
You have shown that you know something about the organization. You need to
- Write about the organization in a way that shows that you have done your homework.
- Indicate what it is about the organization that interests you.
- Show how you can contribute to the organization in your areas of interest.
You have responded to the actual job description. You need to
- Demonstrate that you’ve read and thought about the job description.
- Show how your gifts and skills fit what the organization is looking for.
- Talk about your skills in a way that reflects the structure of the job description.
- If technical skills are required, address that requirement directly.
You have demonstrated how well you write. You need to
- Communicate beautifully — organizations need good communicators.
- Make sure that there are no typographical or grammatical errors.
The Four Parts of Your Cover Letter
Part 1: A brief introductory sentence
- The goal of this sentence is to indicate the role for which you are applying.
- This sentence typically begins, “I am writing to apply . . . “
Part 2: The remainder of the first paragraph
- The goal is to show
- Why the organization interests you. (it’s about them — not about you!)
- Why you would be a good fit for the role.
- Describe how you learned of the position (and if a person referred you to the role AND you have permission to use the person’s name, you should refer to the person by name).
Part 3: The main body of the letter (1-2 paragraphs)
- The goal is to show how your experiences and skills fit the role and the skills required.
- Describe your qualifications by following the outline that you prepared when you reviewed the job description.
- Include your greatest accomplishment — the one that relates most directly to the role.
- Discuss why the organization would want to hire you. What do you have to offer that would make you a top candidate?
Part 4: Brief closing paragraph
- The goal is to show how much you would like to become part of the team.
- Refer the reviewer to the enclosed resume.
- State that you hope to hear from the organization and to speak with them further.
- Close with a statement indicating that you are excited about the role and that you will follow up.
- List a phone number where you can be reached.
- Thank the reviewer for taking the time to review your application.
- Sign your cover letter by hand.
Follow the steps below to create a strong LinkedIn profile:
Display your photograph
Use a photo that is professional, appropriate, and clearly recognizable as you. You want people who’ve met you in person to recognize you when they respond to your request to connect.
Write a strong headline
Draft a short description of who you are and what you do. Your headline will be the first piece of information, other than your photo, that people will see. Use your headline to leverage your skills, interests, and aspirations.
Draft a “summary” section
Write this section in the first person, using the word “I.” Structure your summary around the following questions:
- WHO are you? What is the core field that relates to your career path? What are you currently doing that relates to this field? Include recent or current employment, volunteer or project work in your area of interest, and unique qualities or characteristics, including deep beliefs about your field. (e.g. “I am a firm believer in excellent education for everyone, regardless of their background.”)
- WHAT experiences have you had? What are the skills that will prepare you for the field you want to enter? Use keywords specific to the job or field. Keep this section short. Your resume will provide the details.
- WHERE will you go next? End with career-related goals for the future.
Create a personalized URL
Go to the right of your profile, and click “Edit your public profile.” On the right side of the screen, click “Customize your public profile URL.” The window below will open and give you the option to change your URL. Choose a concise URL to place on your resume, email signature, and/or business card.
Use LinkedIn to connect with other Oles
Over 23,000 St. Olaf College alumni are active on LinkedIn, and nearly 6,400 Oles are members of the St. Olaf College Alumni Group on LinkedIn, which is administered by the Alumni and Parent Relations office. Consider joining LinkedIn to expand your network.
To search for Oles you may want to contact:
- Go to the St. Olaf College LinkedIn page.
- Click “Alumni” on the left navigation.
- From here, you can search alumni using a variety of filters. Scroll to the right for a complete view of all filters.
- By clicking on a specific place, company, or industry, LinkedIn will modify the search to reflect the St. Olaf alumni that fit that criteria.
You can find out
- What year they graduated
- What they studied
- Where they are located
- Who their work colleagues are, and
- What skills they have
From the St. Olaf College Alumni Group on LinkedIn, you can post articles of interest, promote jobs to other Oles, and review and comment on the posts of other alumni.
A recommendation is a written statement supporting your application for a specific fellowship or for a graduate or professional degree program. A recommendation differs from a reference in that it is always written and is addressed to a specific program. Many organizations requiring a letter of recommendation will provide you with a form that includes a waiver of your right to read the recommendation, thus confirming that the comments of the recommender will be confidential.
A reference is a person who will give a strong positive statement about you and your work-related qualities and experience. This statement is usually shared via email or phone or through an online form. Employers typically ask for a list of three references with their contact information.
Choosing an Advocate
When deciding whom to ask for a reference or recommendation, consider the following:
- Is the person willing to provide strong, favorable information about you?
- Is the person’s academic or professional area relevant to your work or area of study?
- Does the person know you well enough to say substantive things about you?
- Does the person have the time to serve as a reference or write a letter?
- Current or previous work supervisors
- Former professors, campus administrators, advisors, or coaches
- Business colleagues, vendors, or customers
- Leaders in organizations where you volunteer
Before requesting a reference or recommendation, prepare the following information:
- A description of the job, field, program or fellowship to which you are applying
- A reminder for the person of how you know each other and why you are asking for a recommendation or reference at this particular time
- A copy of your resume
- Accomplishments or projects that you have completed for an employer, or copies of exams or papers that you have written for an instructor
- A copy of any writing samples or personal statements, or elements from a portfolio, that you will be submitting along with your application
- When relevant, the form for recommendations/references with information about you (and, to the extent appropriate, about the recommender/referee) filled in on the form. Many recommenders/referees will choose to write their recommendation/reference on the formal letterhead of their organization instead of filling out the institution’s form. (Many institutions permit recommenders/references to upload such documents onto the institution’s website.) Alternatively, you can ask if the recommender/referee would like a stamped, addressed envelope to mail the document directly or would prefer to return the letter in a signed, sealed envelope for you to send.
It is wise to allow someone at least two weeks’ notice to serve as a reference and one month to prepare a letter of recommendation.
- Keep references informed of your progress, including when and to whom you have given your reference sheet, especially if the interviewer will be contacting them.
- Send a thank you note to each person who has acted as a recommender or referee.