Resumes & Professional Correspondence
A resume is an organized summary of your qualifications, goals, accomplishments, and interests. It should tell the reader what you have accomplished, as it relates to what you want to do. A resume shows that you are prepared and qualified for a specific position or career field. It's important to tailor your resume to each opportunity of interest.
Review the Engineering Employer Preferred Resume Format with Pro Tips to view tips for writing an effective resume. These tips come directly from engineering employers who recruit Cornell talent.
View the Engineering Employer Preferred Resume Format w/out tips to see what a one-page engineering resume may look like. This template is a way to get started with a format that is appreciated widely by engineering employers.
If you are going into a more creative field, however, you may wish to design your own format. View the Creative Resume Format with Pro Tips, and the sample Two Column Resume for additional suggestions.
On your resume, every bullet point should start with a strong action verb. Use the Action Verbs for Engineers (pdf) handout as a reference when writing your descriptions.
Opinions differ among employers on the value of including a career objective. In general, an objective on your resume can be helpful if it 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 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 an employer to consider you for a range of positions.
If you decide to include an objective, specify the type of position you are seeking. 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 healthcare, combining interests in policy and medicine
- A position as a process engineer in the chemical industry utilizing strong design, analysis, and problem-solving skills
5 Tips to Craft an Effective Resume
Tailored Cover Letters
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 it is where you will explain your interest in working for a specific organization. To write a convincing introductory paragraph, you will need to research the organization and think about why you are genuinely interested in the work 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.
While not all applications require a cover letter, a well-written, tailored cover letter can strengthen your application and make you a more competitive candidate. Refer to the Cover Letter Guide (pdf) to view sample cover letters for various industries. View the How to Write an Effective Cover Letter Video for additional tips.
A portfolio is a way to display examples of your work and showcase your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments. It is also a great way to show your approach to a problem or your thought process. Some employers will require a portfolio as part of their application. There are many methods for creating a portfolio, and the options below are a few suggestions, not an exhaustive list.
Create a slide deck on PowerPoint or Google Slides. For each project or work sample, include a slide or two with pictures/videos, followed by a couple of paragraphs summarizing the process and your learnings. Upload the slide deck and link it to your resume, LinkedIn profile, website, etc.
Assemble your portfolio as a website using platforms such as SquareSpace, PortfolioBox, or Wix. These tools range in price and functionality. In selecting a template, use once that focuses on the content of your work. If you are including CAD renders and/or video animations, use rich, visual templates.
Use Digication, the ePortfolio tool supported by Cornell.
Upload your work samples into Google Drive or Dropbox. This option is not as immersive for the reader. Don't forget to provide context for each of your work samples/projects.
Cornell Computing and Information Science (CIS) offers several resources for creating an effective web portfolio. Visit their website and view the Personal Web Portfolios presentation (pdf) for tips and guidelines, and to see examples of portfolio designs.
How you communicate with employers and alumni will leave an impression, make it a good one! Before reaching out, review our Professional Correspondence guidelines on how to communicate professionally and effectively. While we include sample text, your outreach should sound like you, so don't copy and paste. The guidelines include examples for how to request a deadline extension, negotiate an offer, accept or decline an offer, and request an informational interview.