Skip to main content

Resumes/Cover Letters

Resumes and Cover Letters

Your resume should help you land an interview, serve as a reference during the interview, and remind the interviewer of your credentials and personality after the interview is over. Your resume is you—on paper.

A cover letter is a letter that accompanies your resume when applying for a job, whether advertised or not. Cover letters are a very important part of the job search process.

Resume Templates

A resume is an organized summary of your qualifications, your goals, your accomplishments, and your interests. It should tell the reader what you have accomplished (as related to what you want to do). A resume should demonstrate preparation and qualifications for a specific position or career field. 

Undergraduate Students
Refer to the template below, BEFORE drafting your resume, to view tips (based on employer feedback) for writing an effective resume.
Template with Pro Tips

Use the template below to create your engineering resume and the action verbs handout for crafting your descriptions.  This template is a way to get started with a format that is appreciated widely by Engineering employers; however, if you are going into a more creative field, you may wish to design your own format.
Engineering Template
Action Verbs for Engineers

Graduate Students
Refer to the template below, BEFORE drafting your resume, to view tips (based on employer feedback) for writing an effective resume.
Template with Pro Tips

Use the template below to create your engineering resume and the action verbs handout for crafting your descriptions.This template is a way to get started with a format that is appreciated widely by Engineering employers; however, if you are going into a more creative field, you may wish to design your own format. 
Engineering Template
Actions Verbs for Engineers 

Resume & Cover Letter Review: The English Language Support Office in collaboration with the Graduate Writing Service, offers individual appointments for multilingual international graduate students and professional students who would like to have their resume or cover letter reviewed. Make an appointment online.

Objective Statements

Opinions differ widely among employers on the value of including a career objective. In general, an objective on your resume can be helpful if it concisely describes your immediate employment goal, but it is not an essential component of a successful resume. An objective can be helpful if your resume doesn't clearly align with your career goals. You may prefer to incorporate an objective in a cover letter instead of on your resume, especially if you want to be considered for a range of positions.

An objective should convey specific information about what you are seeking, but those that are too narrow can limit your options. If you decide to include an objective, specify the type of position you are seeking. If you find it difficult to write a definitive statement of your objective, describe the skills you want to use or the functions you want to perform. If you have more than one career interest, prepare several resumes, tailoring them to different objectives. The following are three examples of effective objectives:

  • A position in financial services using well-developed research, analytical, and quantitative skills
  • A research position in health care, combining interests in policy and medicine
  • A position as a process engineer in the chemical industry utilizing strong design, analysis, and problem solving skills

Employer Perspectives

To develop your resume content and writing style for maximum effectiveness, you must understand that employers use resumes to:

Screen applicants
Employers will scan a resume quickly—in under 30 seconds—for evidence that a candidate will be of value to their organization. Your resume should be results-oriented and tailored to the employer's needs.

Develop interview questions
Statements on your resume often serve as the basis for interview questions.

Judge an applicant's communication skills
Because a resume is a written document, it gives the recruiter a taste of your written communication skills.

Remind them of a candidate's qualifications
Employers want to know how your experiences have prepared you for the job. Understanding the specific job or career field requirements will let you highlight your related experience and personal attributes, distinguishing yourself from other candidates.

To make your resume stand out among the hundreds, address an employer's concerns about your ability to do the job. Even if you don't have relevant experience, employers recognize that many personal attributes are transferable to the workplace. For example, a leadership position in a student activity translates into leadership potential in an organization. Specific, concrete information describing your activities and accomplishments will illustrate these qualities:

  • Initiative and self-motivation
  • High energy level
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Leadership potential
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Critical-thinking and reasoning abilities
  • Ability to handle competing priorities
  • Willingness to assume responsibility
  • Capacity to work as team player
  • Skill in dealing with stress
  • Persistence

Before writing a resume, always consider what employers are seeking in desired candidates. First, inventory your experiences and compile data about yourself. 

Second, analyze what you accomplished in each experience. Consider skills you developed and your level of involvement. Prioritize information and be selective, highlighting what is most significant and relevant about your background in relation to your career field and the needs of employers.

Third, write accomplishment-oriented statements introduced by action verbs. Convey through direct language that you are active and produce results while matching your achievements and skills to employers' needs.

Cover Letters

Purpose

The purpose of a cover letter is to express your interest in working for a specific organization and expand on the experiences and skills presented in your resume.  Tailor your cover letter to each position to which you apply.  Your introductory paragraph is especially important because this is where you will explain why you are interested in working specifically for this organization.  In order to write a convincing introductory paragraph, you will need to research the organization and think about why you are genuinely interested in the work that they do.  Do not use generic language in your cover letter that could apply to any position and/or any company within your field of interest.  For example, "I recently came across your internship posting in Cornell's Handshake database.  Based on the description, I think my skills and experience would be a great fit for this position. Your ability to solve clients' problems using new technologies is of great interest to me, and I am confident I could add value to your organization." This paragraph is unremarkable. Provide the reader with an incentive to want to know more about you and what you have to offer. 

Format

Refer to this Sample Cover Letter to view tips on writing an effective cover letter.

For more examples of cover letter types, and other correspondence to employers, view Cornell Career Services' Career Guide.