Documentation by L. Fargo (Revised 2-27-09)
When you’re looking for a job, it’s important to make a great first
impression. Your resume and cover letter are usually a potential employer’s
first look at you, and these simple documents can make or break your job
search. Recruiters and hiring managers usually glance at a resume for just
a few seconds before deciding whether to place it in the “Yes” pile or toss it
in the trash, so it’s important to make sure yours stands out. This class will
help you create polished, professional resumes and cover letters that
advertise your qualifications and grab the attention of potential employers.
Resume Templates in Word
In this class, we’ll be using Word templates to practice proper resume
formatting. These templates are perfect for getting the hang of resume
design, but you may not want to use them for your final product, at least not
without some alteration. Human Resources personnel have seen so many
resumes, it is easy for them to spot the ones that have been made with a
standard template. You want to stand out, so make your resume your own
by playing with the many formatting options available in Word.
Word 2003 has just three basic resume templates: Contemporary,
Elegant, and Professional. Word 2007 offers many more options,
including job-specific resume templates for professions from teacher to
corporate executive. NOTE: This class covers only standard resume
elements; you should do some research to see if your field requires a
specialized resume. The books and websites listed at the end of this
handout are a great place to start.
To access templates in Word 2007, click on the
Microsoft Office button in the upper lefthand corner of
the screen. Choose New from the list.
In the New Document dialog box, you can choose from Installed
Templates or (under the Microsoft Office Online heading) Resumes &
CVs. The Office Online section (which downloads templates from the
Microsoft website) offers Basic Resumes, Job Specific Resumes, and
Situation Specific Resumes. Pick a template that appeals to you and click
Create (or Download if you’re using one of the Office Online options). The
images in this handout show the Chronological Resume (Traditional
Design) template, which can be found in the Microsoft Office Online
collection of basic resumes.
NOTE: If you choose one of the Office Online templates, you may have to
click to “validate” your copy of Microsoft Office. Just click Continue to
download the template. Patron PCs at the library may not let you download
templates from the Microsoft website, but you can always use one of the
Basic Parts of a Resume
Name and Contact Information
First things first: at the very top of your resume, you should write your
name and your contact information. Write your name as you wish to use it
professionally; no nicknames, unless that is how you are primarily
You should include your full mailing address (with city, state, and ZIP code),
phone number (with area code), and email address. Make sure the phone
number you give is equipped with a professional-sounding outgoing
voicemail message. Preferably this should be a personal phone line that
only you will answer. For this reason, many people list their cell phone
numbers, as opposed to a home or work number.
Your email address should also be professional. Avoid cutesy usernames
that reference hobbies or other personal details (like “catlover13”). It is
best to use some form of your name as your email username, so it will be
easily recognizable. You may want to start a separate email account just for
Whatever email address you use, make sure you check the account
regularly. Computer skills are very important in today’s job market, and so
not having an email account or even not responding promptly to email
messages signals to an employer that you may not be technologically savvy.
If you need an email account, you can sign up for one online with a free
service like Gmail (www.gmail.com), Yahoo (www.yahoo.com), or Hotmail
Also sometimes referred to as a Goal, this is the part of your resume where
you state what you are looking for. This should not be just “to get a job,”
but rather should say something about your long-term career aspirations
and ideals. See the image on the next page for one example.
The objective is often considered an optional part of the resume. Some
people recommend listing an objective or goal only if you are changing
career paths or just starting out in your chosen field, while others think it
should always be listed. If you do choose to include an objective, make sure
everything on your resume supports that objective.
This is the section of the resume where you list your previous employment
history. If you have had many different jobs, list only the ones that are
relevant to the position for which you are currently applying. Write your list
in reverse chronological order (that is, your most recent job first, then
Include the starting and ending date for each job (in M/YY format), as well
as the employer name and location (city and state). Always include dates; if
you don’t, employers may assume that you are trying to disguise gaps in
your employment history. If you do have significant gaps, it is fine to make
provide a brief explanation of what you were doing during that time
(traveling, staying at home to raise children or take care of a sick family
member, etc.) in your cover letter. You can also include volunteer
experience relevant to your field, either in this section of your resume or in a
separate “volunteer experience” section.
For each listed job, briefly describe your responsibilities. Some people like
to use bullet points for this, but it is not necessary and may take up too
much valuable space on your resume. It is usually recommended that you
use past tense for previous positions and present tense for any position you
In this section, list schools you have attended (in reverse chronological
order) and degrees\certificates you have earned. Include the name of the
school, starting and ending dates (again, in M/YY format), and degree
achieved. If you are still in school, write when you expect to complete your
degree (“degree expected M/YY”). If you had an especially good GPA (or
you graduated very recently), you may want to list that as well, along with
any honors you achieved. If you have graduated or are attending college,
you don’t need to list your high school diploma, since employers will just
assume that you have one.
NOTE: If you recently graduated from school and are starting off on a new
career path, you may wish to put your education section before your work
experience on your resume. Otherwise, list your employment history first.
If you have special skills that are not highlighted by the job descriptions in
the Experience section of your resume, you may want to create a separate
Skills section. Computer skills are especially important, so list any
operating systems (PC, Mac) and software programs (Word, Excel,
Photoshop) that you have experience using, as well as you typing rate if it is
particularly impressive (take a free test online at www.typingtest.com). You
may also list foreign language skills or other special training\experience that
you think might be relevant to the job for which you are applying.
Some people write “References available upon request” at the bottom of
their resumes, but this is generally considered to be unnecessary. Any
potential employer knows that they can ask you to provide references.
Before submitting a resume, though, make sure you have at least three
trusted professional references lined up and have taken note of their correct
contact information. If you are being seriously considered for a position, you
will be asked for references, so it is best to be ready.
What Else to Include
Depending on your field and the job you are applying for, you may wish to
include other accomplishments on your resume, such as publications,
conference presentations, or memberships in professional organizations.
Don’t list everything: just pick and choose the most impressive
accomplishments that you feel will illustrate your qualifications and make
you stand out from other applicants.
Resume Style Tips
• All document margins should be 1 inch. To check this in Word 2007, go
to the Page Layout tab and click Margins. The Normal option should
• There should be no more than 2 font faces in the document. Choose
standard fonts like Times New Roman or Garamond. No “creative” fonts!
Also, don’t use more than 2-3 font sizes in your resume: ideally, you
should have one size for your name, one for the section headings, and
one for everything else. Too many font changes will make your
document appear cluttered and unprofessional.
• Use the Tab key on your keyboard or the Increase Indent button in
Word (look for it in the Paragraph section of the Home tab in Word
2007) to make sure there is uniform spacing throughout your resume.
• No matter what, your resume should be only one page long (unless you
are asked to submit a CV or curriculum vitae instead, which can cover
multiple pages). You don’t have to list every single one of your previous
jobs and special skills; highlight only your most important abilities and
experience which are relevant to the job in question.
• A few formatting tricks to save space: adjust the spacing between words
(this is known as kerning) or the spacing between lines to condense text
slightly. These settings can be changed using the Font and Paragraph
groups of the Home tab in Word 2007. Always apply any altered
formatting to the entire document, so it looks uniform.
Basic Parts of a Cover Letter
Your resume should always be accompanied by a cover letter, whether the
employer requests it or not. Writing a cover letter is simply good business
etiquette, and it gives you a chance to properly introduce yourself to your
Cover letters should be written in business letter format. To practice the
correct formatting, we’ll use one of Word’s ready-made business letter
templates. To access the templates, click on the Microsoft Office button
and select New. You can choose a letter template from the Installed
Templates section, or look at more options under Microsoft Office Online.
The Office Online section has a Letters heading, and a specific category for
Cover Letters. The images in this document show the Resume cover
letter in response to technical position ad template.
Include the same contact information on your cover letter that you listed on
your resume, including phone number and email address. Follow this with
the current date and then the contact information of the person to whom
you are addressing the letter.
Always address your letter to someone. Hopefully the appropriate person
(usually the hiring manager or human resources coordinator) will be
identified in the job listing, but if not, take the time to do some homework.
Call the company to ask who the letter should be sent to, or look around the
company website to find the correct name and title. Avoid addressing your
letter “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” at all costs!
When applying for several jobs at once, you can create a form letter to send
to more than one potential employer. Just make sure that you change the
name, address, job title, and any other identifiable details on each letter.
Cover Letter Content
Begin your letter with “Dear Mr.” or “Dear Ms.” and the recipient’s last
name, followed by a colon. Keep your letter as brief and to the point as
possible. You should never go over one page, and it is better if your letter is
shorter than a page.
In the first paragraph, identify yourself and what you want. Mention the
position you are applying for and why you are applying (i.e. you are
responding to an ad, a professional contact referred you, etc.).
In the middle paragraph (or paragraphs), explain what you have to offer
that makes you ideal for the job in question. Use this area to highlight the
strengths of your resume, but do not simply reiterate what you have already
listed there. Make explicit ties between your skills and the requirements of
the job in question.
In the final paragraph, conclude with how you will follow up with the
recipient (by phone or email, within a specified period of time). If you would
like to request an interview or will be in town during a specific time, mention
that here as well. List what you have included with your letter (resume,
application, writing sample, portfolio, etc.) if applicable. Finally, thank the
recipient for their time and consideration of you for the position. Your letter
should end with a formal closing statement such as “Sincerely”, your
signature in ink, and your full name in type.
More Resume and Cover Letter Tips
• Don’t lie, exaggerate, or embellish on your resume or cover letter!
You should accentuate the positive (and leave off the negative), but
never be dishonest.
• Proofread everything! One spelling error or awkward phrase can cause
your application to be thrown out. Don’t rely on Word’s spelling and
grammar check feature; read and re-read your cover letter and
resume to make sure everything is perfect. You may also want to
consider allowing a trusted friend or family member (or several) to
read your documents before you submit them.
• Don’t use the word “I” on your resume, and limit its use in your cover
letter. Focus on what you can do for the employer, not what they can
do for you.
• Customize your resume and cover letter for each position you apply
for, so you can emphasize certain skills and experience. Only include
what is relevant to the position in question.
• Avoid vague words like “articulate”, “committed”, “hard-working”, and
“organized”, and so on when describing yourself and your
accomplishments. Instead, use specific action statements that
illustrate your qualities and stress your concrete accomplishments.
Check out this website for a list of excellent “action words” to use:
• If you can afford it, print your resume and cover letter on higher-
quality paper (20 to 50 lb bond paper with 100% cotton fiber is most
often recommended). However, don’t use fancy stationary or colored
inks; this will give the impression that you are not serious.
• Make sure your resume and cover letter are cohesive. Font, style,
formatting, paper – everything should match.
• If you are asked to submit your resume and cover letter electronically,
make sure you do it in a compatible file format. Your best bet is to
save your resume and cover letter as Word documents. Unless you
are specifically directed to, do not cut and paste your resume into an
email or online form, as all the formatting will be lost. Instead, attach
the document to the email or form. NOTE: When using Word 2007,
the default file format is .docx. These files cannot be read by
computers without Word 2007, so always make sure to save your files
in .doc format instead if you are planning to send them to someone
else. To do this, go to the Microsoft Office button and click Save
As, then select Word 97-2003 Document.
• Look at examples of other resumes and cover letters to get ideas for
writing and refining yours. You can find many samples in the books
and websites listed on the next page.
Learn More About Resumes & Cover Letters
Bennett, Scott. The Elements of Resume Style.
New York: American Management Association, 2005.
Farr, Michael. The Quick Resume & Cover Letter Book.
Indianapolis: JIST Publishing, 2008.
Schuman, Nancy. The Everything Resume Book.
Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2008.
Walsh, Richard, ed. The Only Resume and Cover Letter Book You’ll
Ever Need. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2007.
Yate, Martin. Knock ‘em Dead Cover Letters.
Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2008.
About.com: Job Searching
CareerLab: 200 Cover Letters for Job Hunters
Monster Career Advice
Purdue Online Writing Lab: Workplace Writers
The Riley Guide: Resumes & Cover Letters
What Should I Take Next?
This class is part of the Employment Series at the Heights Libraries. Check
out the other classes in the series for more job hunting help, or take one of
our basic computer classes to add some technology skills to your resume.
Basic Computer Skills for Job Seekers
Learn the basic computer skills vital for securing a position in today’s job
market. We will cover email, Internet browsing, Word, Excel, and
Getting Ready for the Interview
Hear a professional career counselor present a session on preparing for an
interview. This includes managing stress during the job seeking process and
helping hints to get the interview.
Online Job Applications
Learn how to fill out online job applications and search the region’s largest
and most diverse companies’ online job postings.
Searching for Jobs Online
Explore popular job search engines and learn how professional networking
websites like LinkedIn can help you market yourself to potential employers.
Getting Started with Word
Learn about toolbars, cutting and pasting, formatting, page set up, printing
and saving your work, and much more.
Getting Started with Excel
Learn budgeting, inventories, survey results, and other financial applications.
Check the current issue of Check Us Out or visit the Heights Library’s
homepage (http://www.heightslibrary.org) for specific dates and times.