Resources and tips for commonly requested application materials
You can always contact us if you want help creating your application materials.
Your resume is a concise, targeted summary of your skills and experiences.
We recommend a chronological resume for undergraduate students. Begin with your most recent position and work backward. Include the organization's name, location, your title, and dates of employment or involvement, and several bullets describing your skills and achievements. You can include summer and part-time jobs, as well as volunteer positions, on your resume.
Font: Use an easy-to-read font, e.g., Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, or Garamond
Size: 10 pt. - 12 pt. Your name can be larger than 12 pt.
Margins: 1” or .75” all around
Dates: Uniformly formatted and not on the left side
Highlight: Use bold, italics, and capitalization to make certain words or sections stand out
Each hiring manager is looking for something different (in terms of the specifics) based on the needs of the job and the organization. How many resumes do you need to make?
- One, if: your search is focused on one type of position, a single version of your resume, along with a cover letter tailored to your employment target, may be fine.
- Multiple, if: you're applying to several fields (e.g., a finance version, a media and communications version, a community service version) or if you're applying to a broader range of positions. You need to tailor your resume and create a new cover letter for each position. This customization requires research about the organization and industry.
Here are three tips for tailoring your resume with examples:
- Match your skills and responsibilities to the ones listed in the job description. Read carefully through the full job description. Include work experiences that most closely relate to the responsibilities on your resume.
If the job description states: Serve as a significant role model for effective and appropriate work behaviors, procedures, and practices. Act as a liaison and advocate for participants.
A tailored resume will say something like: Advocated on behalf of approximately 960 students and 23 student groups as the primary representative to faculty and administration.
- Specify accomplishments from your previous experience that relate to those responsibilities. Show how your efforts produced a positive result for the organization, and make sure what you select had relevant and interesting results.
If the job description states: Coordinate fundraiser for students and their families, increasing organization’s reach and publicity.
A tailored resume will include an accomplishment like: Led graduate-student inclusive philanthropy campaign, garnering 73% response rate from graduating class—highest in school’s history.
- Indicate that you understand and can meet the needs of the organization. Research the organization to identify the problems and issues it might currently be facing. Read through the website and press releases, set up a Google alert, and read about their staff members and the latest news. How might your combination of skills and experience be of benefit?
If you discover: The company is growing rapidly.
A tailored resume will show that you can handle change and manage multiple priorities. Highlight project management skills or note if your previous organization has a culture like the one you are applying to.
- Email your resume and cover letter as one attachment with your cover letter as page 1 and resume as page 2. Convert to .pdf format so the appearance and layout won’t alter depending on the computer or program the employer uses to view it.
- Include your first initial and last name in the title of the document. For example, JBarnum_Application.
- Use your name and the position to which you’re applying in the subject line for your email. For example: Research Assistant application from J. Barnum.
- Include a short note in your email message to briefly introduce yourself, list the position to which you are applying, and indicate you have attached your application to the email and look forward to connecting with the employer to discuss your skills and experiences.
A cover letter introduces you to a prospective employer and explains why you are sending your resume. You should customize your cover letter for each job; generic template letters are not effective. The most effective cover letter answers the question: How do I meet the employer’s requirements for this position?
The most effective cover letter answers the question: why?
A strong cover letter showcases your communication skills. In an annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the ability to communicate is consistently ranked among the top 10 skills employers seek. Interestingly, they also said in the same survey that most candidates lack these skills.
Opening Paragraph—to begin your cover letter think about:
- Why you are interested in this field?
- Why you are interested in this organization and position?
- What the objective of your letter is: apply for a full-time position or an internship?
- How you discovered the opening and/or the organization, such as a personal referral or Handshake
Body of your letter – For this paragraph (or two) think about:
- Which skills do you possess that might be helpful for the position?
- Look at the job description to find out what the employer is looking for.
- Which experiences illustrate how and where you acquired these skills? For instance, you may have acquired a strong ability to prioritize tasks as a double major student-athlete.
- Which personal traits are relevant to the position and how can you apply them to the needs of the organization? For instance, perhaps you are committed to equal access to education.
Closing Paragraph – Make sure you are clear about:
- When and how you will follow up.
- How and where you can be contacted.
- Use this worksheet to plan your cover letter.
Business Letter Format
A professional cover letter needs to follow a standard business format. We recommend block-style formatting. Justify every line along the left margin. The header you use on your resume is acceptable for the title on your cover letter. View sample letters here.
Since most recruitment is online, you will likely upload your letter or send it as an attachment, preferably a PDF. Your letter should be one page long and maintain the same formality and quality as if you were turning in an important term paper. Alternatively, you can type your cover letter directly into the body of the email and include your resume (and, if requested, references or writing samples) as attachments.
It would help if you labeled all attachments with your name for easy identification; also, include your name and the position for which you are applying in the email's subject line.
- Customize your background for a specific job. Your letter guides the reader by summarizing the skills and experiences relevant to a particular opportunity.
- Demonstrate your research, writing, and analytical skills. Your letter allows you to communicate your knowledge of the employer, industry, and career field.
- Convey your motivation and professionalism. Your letter reflects your personality, enthusiasm, and interest.
- Express appreciation for the employer’s time and consideration in reviewing your candidacy.
- View sample letters to see how others customized their letters for particular positions and employers.
Effective cover letters are marketing tools for your job or internship search. Since marketing is about understanding and meeting the needs of a specific audience, your letter should focus on the needs of a particular employer. These needs or requirements are typically described in the job posting, which can help you tailor your background to fit each opportunity.
We offer guidance on building the different elements of a cover letter in addition to answering common questions, and providing helpful tips on this worksheet. The quality of your writing will impress an employer and distinguish you from other candidates.
- Address a specific person. A quick telephone call to an employer can help determine your recipient's name and the correct spelling of your recipient. If you can't get this information, address the letter to "Dear Hiring Manager" or "Dear Human Resource Manager."
- Use a subject line in place of the salutation (e.g., Application for Research Analyst Position). Do not address the letter to "Dear Sir," "Dear Madam," or "To Whom It May Concern." When addressing a woman, use "Ms." Instead of "Mrs." There is no need to use the first name in the salutation: Dear Ms. Smith, not Dear Mary Smith.
- Keep it brief. A cover letter is intended to complement your resume, not repeat its content. Limit the letter to one page. Communicate your enthusiasm but keep sentences short and precise. Use active, not passive, verbs. For example, use “investigated,” “gathered,” and “evaluated” instead of “was responsible for investigating, gathering, or evaluating” ee here for an extensive list of action verbs.)
- Demonstrate your interest. Show what you’ve learned about the employer and/or industry. This is where your research and networking will pay off. Include why you would be an asset to the company, your unique qualities, and how they would benefit from having you on their team. You should also highlight relevant experience, expertise, and essential information that would interest hiring managers, like your fluency in Spanish or your knowledge of SPSS.
- Use language from the job description when possible. When a company posts a job description, they tell you what they need. Use that same language to be relevant when explaining why you’re an ideal candidate for the position. Using the same language and keywords from the job description doesn’t just help humans read your resume; it also helps if your application is initially processed by an applicant tracking system (ATS) or a resume parser.
- Write in your own style. You can adopt a conversational tone if your writing is flawless and grammatically correct. Avoid bland, overused statements such as “Enclosed, please find my resume for your review” and “Please do not hesitate to call me.” Put yourself in the reader’s position. Focus on the reader by using the words “you” and “your.” Avoid excessive use of “I” and “me.” Count the number of sentences that begin this way and edit accordingly.
- Communicate what you can contribute to the reader’s organization rather than what you expect to get. For instance, “I can communicate easily with your clients because I’m proficient in Spanish” is better than “I hope to improve my Spanish skills by communicating with your clients.”
- Pay attention to detail. Employers value effective and careful communicators, and your writing skills are reflected in your cover letter. Grammar, spelling, or typographical errors will send you quickly to the discard pile. Ask a Career Advisor to proofread your letter for content, clarity, and correctness. First impressions count. The average employer receives thousands of letters annually from job applicants. Make yours visually appealing. Use the same font as your resume (e.g., Arial, 10 point)
- Print a hard copy on the same paper stock as your resume—white or cream color is preferable. Sign a hard copy letter with blue or black ink.
- Write your full name at the bottom of the letter if sending electronically.
Unless an employer indicates otherwise, you may follow up with a phone call or email within 5-10 days of applying. Express your continued interest and inquire about the status of the hiring process or the recruiter’s timeline for filling the position. Rather than simply asking if your resume has been received, this approach is more apt to create a dialogue.
Most job search correspondence can be categorized as follows:
- Thank you Notes — Always send a thank-you letter after interviewing for a position or meet with someone for career-related advice. Doing so will demonstrate your appreciation for the other person’s time.
- Acceptance Letter or Declination Letter — Confirm that you accept or decline an offer
- Networking Email — Request career information or an informational interview (further details on networking emails and on email etiquette).
A curriculum vitae (or a vitae or CV) comprehensively describes your academic and professional credentials and achievements. Some employers use the term CV instead of resume.
The primary differences between a resume and a CV are length, specialized content, and audience. A resume is usually one page, while a CV is often two pages or longer. A resume summarizes your skills, experience, and education, while a CV expands upon these accomplishments and contains more detailed information and descriptions. A CV may have sections devoted to teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, specialized skills, professional affiliations, and/or memberships.
If you have a master’s or doctoral degree, you must submit a CV when applying for teaching or research positions at colleges, universities, or research institutions. You can use a CV to apply to graduate school or research positions. Find country-specific resume/CV advice and samples in GoinGlobal, an online database of industry trends, job search information, and cultural advice in 40 countries.
Is it informative?
- Is the information in the CV presented in a logical order?
- Are all the primary subheadings present: education, teaching experience, research experience, presentations/publications, and service?
- Are your works in progress included? These might include your current degree program, teaching and research responsibilities, and draft publications.
- Does the CV contain only essential, relevant information for an academic position?
- Is the information presented as concisely as possible?
- Is the information elaborated on in sufficient detail?
- If you were leading an interview based on this CV, which two questions might you ask?
- What additional information might you like to have?
Is it attractive?
- Does the CV look neat? Look for appropriate spacing and clear headings.
- Is the CV easy to read?
- Are your eyes drawn to important information?
- Are the sections of the CV presented in a similar format and style? Look for active verbs, consistent use with typeface choices, and parallelism within sections.
- Are there any distracting grammatical, typographical, or spelling errors?
Occasionally you will be asked to provide writing samples as part of your job or internship application. This practice is common for journalism or PR internships and research assistant positions with a think tank or policy journal. You may submit these samples via email as attachments with your resume and cover letter, or you may need to paste the samples into online application systems.
Make sure your samples match the genre of the writing that the position would involve whenever possible.
- For a journalism job, submit clips and actual news articles published in a campus newspaper or other publication.
- For a research position, submit an in-depth policy analysis or other issues.
- For a job in PR, submit press releases that you have drafted from a previous internship or as part of a campus group. If you don’t have any, you can write a press release for an upcoming event or timely piece of news. In this case, make sure you specify that it has not been submitted to media outlets but is a sample press release.
If you are deciding between two papers with one better written than the other, but your weaker paper is topically more relevant, choose the better-written paper. The other option is to rewrite the relevant paper to make it stronger. If you have questions, you may consult with a career advisor.
Most employers will specify how many pages or how many clips they want. If they don’t, submit 2-5 pages. This can be a combination of one or more writing samples. If you want to use a paper longer than 5 pages, provide an excerpt with a notation at the top that tells the employer that it is an excerpt from an x-page paper. Specify the topic and explain which section of the paper this excerpt is from.
Make sure you do not send in papers with your professor’s comments/corrections. Provide clean copies of your writing and revise them as necessary. Unless it is a clip, your writing samples should be double-spaced.
A reference is a person who will give a strong positive statement about you and your work-related qualities and experience. They usually share this statement via email or phone. Occasionally, you will receive written references in letter format. The most common way to share references with potential employers is with a reference list. A typical reference list includes three to five references.
A letter of recommendation is a written statement supporting your application for a specific internship program, fellowship, or graduate school. It differs from a reference in that it is always written and addressed to a particular program. Many organizations that require a letter of recommendation will provide a form with a confidentiality waiver.
When deciding whom to ask for a reference or recommendation, consider the following:
- Is the individual willing to provide strong, favorable information about you?
- Is the individual's academic or professional area relevant to your work or area of study?
- Does the individual know you well enough to say substantive things about you?
- Does the individual have the time to serve as a reference or write a letter?
Do not simply drop a reference form in a professor's box or email them an informal email. If particular circumstances mean you must ask for a reference or recommendation on short notice, be sure to ask if the individual is willing and able to meet your tight deadline. Good reference and recommendation sources include people who have a favorable impression of you in the workplace, classroom, or on campus:
- Current or previous work supervisors
- Faculty, especially if you have taken more than one course from them
- Campus administrators, advisors, coaches
- Business colleagues, vendors, customers
- Leaders in organizations you've volunteered for
Always ask the person before you list them as a reference. Make sure your reference knows what to talk about and that it is positive.
Provide references with:
- An updated version of your resume.
- Some background on the experience or situation you shared so they can speak intelligently about you. You might say, "As you may recall, I supervised all sailing lessons for campers and wrote the weekly newsletter during the summers of 2019-20."
- The job description and name of the organization to which you are applying.
- At least two weeks' notice to serve as a reference and one month to prepare a letter of recommendation.
- Use the same color/quality of paper for the reference sheet as you do for your resume.
- Add your name at the top of the page in case it gets separated from your resume (or use the header from your resume).
- Describe how you know your reference with a short phrase: "Ms. Mitchell was my manager at XYZ Company and can describe my customer service and social media achievements."
- Keep references informed of your progress, including when and to whom you have given your reference sheet, especially if the interviewer indicates they will be contacting them.
- Send a thank you note to each person who has worked on your behalf.
Interviewing is a skill. The more you practice, the better you’ll do. Contact us to schedule a mock interview.
Assess yourself and develop career objectives. Employers look for various transferable skills and candidates who have carefully considered their goals and can connect them to a position and organization.
- Research the employer
- History, current position, and prospects. Begin with the employer’s website and proceed to trade journals, professional organizations, and media coverage.
- Mission, culture, and challenges. Get a 360-degree perspective with these career exploration tools.
- The nature and format of the interview. Ask the recruiter if you will meet with a single individual from HR, the hiring manager, and/or potential co-workers. Will there be case questions (typical of consulting or technical interviews)?
- Reflect on your fit with the organization. Compare your employer research to your understanding of where you might fit in the organization. Most importantly, think about how you can contribute to the organization’s goals.
- Determine whether you can do the job and whether the position is correct for you. Be ready to say why you are a good fit.
- Why are you interested in this organization? This field? This specific position?
- Why are you the best person for this job?
- Be prepared to discuss every bullet point, from internships and employment to coursework and activities. Experienced candidates should be ready to discuss graduate or professional school experiences and any gaps in work history. Think of questions to ask the employer that will convey your research, interest, and enthusiasm.
If you’ve done your homework and are sincere about your interest, you’ll be prepared to differentiate yourself from your competition.
- Remember your goals and the employer's goals
- Conduct Informational Interviews. Speak with alumni and others who work at the organization or in the same industry. Find individuals in the Fort Lewis College Career Network on LinkedIn.
- Review your resume
- Develop scripts to respond to typical questions and rehearse your answers alone, with a trusted friend, or with a Career Advisor in a mock interview to ensure a professional, articulate performance. Practice. Practice. Practice. Don’t postpone your practice! Allow enough time to improve based on feedback.
- Take a test drive if you are uncertain about how to get to the interview location. Consider unexpected factors such as traffic/public transport delays, parking, and/or money for meters. Check the weather and prepare accordingly.
Choose your interview outfit
Review proper interview attire for Men, Women, and those beyond the binary. Model your outfit for a friend at least two days ahead. Business attire is appropriate for all interviews unless you’ve been instructed differently. You may note some interview attire guidelines portray traditional gender roles: Remember, you are the final judge of what will work for you. Job seekers should dress professionally for the gender they choose to present at work or in gender-neutral attire. The most crucial consideration for attire appropriateness is that clothes are professional, fit well, and be consistent with organizational culture.
- Start strong. Arrive prepared. Bring extra copies of your resume in a portfolio and arrive 10-15 minutes early, so you don’t appear rushed or hassled. The interview begins when you cross an employer’s threshold, sometimes earlier. Behave respectfully toward everyone you meet, from administrative assistants to managers.
- Present a positive image. Offer a firm handshake and greet the interviewer by name. Pay attention to nonverbal communication, especially eye contact and physical posture, and display energy and enthusiasm in a way that fits your style.
- Be ready for small talk. You’re being evaluated from many angles, including informal conversation. Watch your grammar and diction.
- Keep up the momentum.
- Ask questions when you need clarification or want to know more. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the job, the requirements, and the challenges.
- Never criticize a former employer, and don’t bring up salary or benefits in the first interview.
- Be prepared to discuss your qualifications as well as anything negative. Talk with a career advisor for advice on addressing issues like a low GPA, few outside activities, no related work experience, lack of an obvious fit, or gaps in work history.
- Conclude with confidence
- Remain enthusiastic and courteous. As the discussion ends, the interviewer assesses your overall performance.
- Ask about the next steps in the hiring process. Ask the interviewer when they expect to be making a decision.
- Wrap up. Shake the recruiter’s hand, thank them for the opportunity to interview, and request a business card. Doing this will give you the contact info for your thank you letter.
- Capture the details while your memory is fresh
- Jot down the pertinent facts and make a note of any questions.
- Send thank you emails within 24 hours.
- Email every person who interviewed you. Use the subject line “Thank you from [Your Name].” A handwritten/typed note may stand out positively, but the employer won’t receive it as quickly, which could be risky.
- Mention specifics from your interview. For instance, “I enjoyed our discussion about [topic]” or “I appreciate the info you shared about [something you learned].”
- Reiterate your interest in the position. Remind the interviewer of the top skills you would bring to the job. Use this as an opportunity to clarify or mention something you might have overlooked in the interview.
- Be professional. Ensure that your message is formal and professional, whether you send it via email or snail mail.
- Consider your next steps.
- Depending on the speed of the hiring process, you should make an additional follow-up call or send a message about 5-7 days after your interview. Make an appointment with a career advisor for help strategizing.