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Cover Letters & Resumes

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Your resume and cover letter are two of the most important tools to help you express your interest in specific job and internship opportunities. The purpose of a resume is to provide a snapshot of your education and experiences, while the cover letter is your personal introduction to a prospective employer outlining your interest in the position and expressing why you are qualified for the position. Use the guidelines and tips in this section to craft your materials.

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Resume Guidelines

Your resume is one of many tools to help you express your interest in specific job and internship opportunities. The purpose is to provide a snapshot of your education and experiences, giving the reader a concise picture of what you have to offer. Your resume is, in a sense, an advertisement of yourself.

Note: Applicants applying for jobs with the Federal Government through USAJobs are encouraged to use the USAJobs resume template.

Heading

Your heading should include your name, campus and/or home address, phone number, and Yale email address. The font size on your name may be larger than the rest of the text.

Education

  • Begin your resume with an education section, listing your Yale degree first and your high school education second. If you have studied abroad you may also list that in this section, beneath your Yale College experience.
  • Include the degree you are pursuing, your major, and anticipated graduation date. If unsure of your major, you may simply state your degree and anticipated graduation date.  Example: Bachelor of Arts, expected May 2020
  • In addition, you may choose to include related coursework, senior thesis or project, GPA. Honors and awards can also be included in this section or may be their own section.

Experiences & Activities

  • You may include general experience and activity headings, or targeted headings, such as Journalism Experience, Leadership, Research, or Community Involvement. Choose headings that will best group and highlight your experiences.
  • Within each section, list your experiences and activities in reverse chronological order with the most recent first.
  • With each experience or activity, include the organization or employer name, your title or role, location, and dates affiliated.  Example: President, Sustainability Club, Yale University, Fall 2014-Present
  • Provide concise explanations of your experiences and activities, focusing on accomplishments and results. Begin these descriptive statements with strong action verbs and avoid using personal pronouns. Resume Action Verbs (PDF)

Possible Additional Sections:

  • Skills (such as Computer, Language, or Laboratory skills)
  • Honors and Awards
  • Performances
  • Publications
  • Interests

Tip: Resume Formatting Tips:

  • Font size should be between 10-12 points; choose professional and easy to read fonts. Margins typically range between .5 and 1 inch.
  • Do not use pronouns (e.g. I, my, me, we, our).
  • U.S. resumes should not include personal information such as age, marital status, children, or religion.
  • Use reverse chronological order (most recent first).
  • In most cases, your resume will be one page.*
  • Bold, italics, and bullets can be used in moderation to accentuate and break up content.
  • Resume should be visually appealing and easy to read quickly.
  • Consistency is essential; for example, if you choose to italicize your title and bold the employer name for one experience, make sure you do the same for all experiences.
  • Group your information in a way that places your most relevant and substantial experiences higher on the page to assure they are seen.
  • Proofread several times to avoid spelling and grammatical errors, and do not use abbreviations or slang.

Cover Letter Guidelines

Each cover letter should be tailored to a specific job description and organization. Show how you meet the required qualifications for that particular job by emphasizing the two or three strongest reasons why you are a compelling candidate (something more than: “I could do that job.”).  Show what you know about the organization/industry, and demonstrate why you are a good fit. Use confident language, write in an active voice, and, except in rare circumstances, limit your letter to one page. Before you begin writing your cover letter, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the employer looking for in a candidate?
  • What skills/attributes do you want to highlight?
  • Why do you want to work for them?
  • Why this position?

General Format

  • Same font as your resume, sized within 1pt (larger, not smaller)
  • One page in length, left justified, margins ideally 1”
  • Top of Letter: Date, employer name, contact information
  • Formal Salutation (person's name, if possible)
  • End the letter with your name and contact information

Framework

  • Opening Paragraph: Introduce yourself.  Who are you? Why are you writing?  Connect yourself to that particular employer.  Why do you want to work for that employer?  Why that position?
  • Middle Paragraph(s): Identify 2-3 relevant experiences from your background to elaborate on.  Make them brief, and demonstrate your skills and experiences by way of example.  Include results.
  • Concluding Paragraph: Summarize qualifications.  Reiterate interest in the employer.  Invite them to speak further on how your qualifications align with their mission and purpose.
Tip: Cover Letter Tips:
  • Concise yet thorough
  • Vary sentence structure, well-written, keeps the reader’s attention and flows well
  • Focus on strengths and transferable skills
  • Tailor letter to the employer and position
  • Confident, not cocky
  • Do not simply restate your resume