Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

7.4: Résumés and Cover Letters

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Learning Objectives

    1. Understand the purpose of a résumé.
    2. Create a résumé using STCC Optimal Resume™. 
    3. Know how to prepare a good cover letter.
    4. Explain ways of gaining work experience before you graduate.


    Every student needs a résumé, whether you are searching for an internship, a part-time job while you are in college, or a full-time job after graduation.  A résumé is a one (preferred) or two-page document summarizing your relevant skills and qualifications that you share with an employer when applying for a job.  The purpose of a résumé is to get you invited for an interview. Unfortunately, too often a résumé is a reason to exclude a candidate. Poor grammar, misspelled words, lengthy listings of irrelevant experience, and messy formatting motivate hiring managers to move quickly to the next candidate. There is no such thing as a perfect format for a résumé, though hiring managers and recruiters generally agree on the following principles:

    • A short résumé is generally better than a long one. One page should usually be enough—two pages if you have a lot of experience.  Use an easy-to-read font like Arial, Tahoma, or Times New Roman in size 11 or 12.
    • Focus on your accomplishments, not just the positions you held. Your résumé should point out your strengths. Use dynamic verbs, as described on (
    • Most recruiters and hiring managers look for résumés online and review submitted résumés with software that looks for keywords. To help your resume get noticed by Human Resources and electronic applicant tracking systems (ATS), tailor it to each position you apply for. You can do this by printing the job description and highlighting key requirements and skills, also known as “keywords."  Be sure to include the “keywords” and any other relevant information on your resume. (STCC Career Services)
    • Keep information easy to scan and to find.

    Deciding what to include in your résumé is where most of the work comes into play because it is in the careful wording of the body of your résumé that you can really sell yourself for a position. Ideally, you should revise your résumé for each position you are applying for, particularly to include any accomplishments that you would not include in your “general résumé” but that are relevant to that particular job. Do not be discouraged if you have very little practical job experience to include on your resume.  That is why you are in college: to gain that experience.

    Following are two examples of resumes provided by the STCC Career Services Department.  Later, you will learn to create your own resume using an online tool called Optimal Resume.  


    Cover Letters

    A cover letter is sometimes requested by employers along with your resume and job application. In your cover letter include the position you are interested in, how you learned about it and your skills/qualifications/experience highlights that are relevant to the position. If you are transitioning into a new career, a cover letter is a great place to explain this. The purpose of a cover letter is to entice the recipient to read your résumé. The following sample cover letter is provided by STCC's Career Services Department.


    How to Gain Work Experience Before You Graduate

    While you are thinking about your resume, it is a good idea to consider how you can begin developing future job skills.  One way is to become involved in student clubs, organizations, and special interest groups at STCC.  Information about organizations can be found in the Career Services brochure. 

    Internships and on-campus jobs allow students to gain major-related work experience in a variety of majors and can be paid or unpaid. For more information, look at your degree requirements and contact Career Services or the Department Chairperson. You can also visit Internship Benefits, Requirements & Application (  Career Services continually receives new full and part-time job listings from employers that can be found on the Career Services website at: Jobs and Career Fairs (

    Volunteer Experience is also an excellent way to develop career skills.  Volunteering through the Southwest Center for Service-Learning & Civic Engagement allows students to use their skills and training to help meet local community needs. Learn more at:   Career Services continually receives new full and part-time job listings from employers that can be found on the Career Services website at: Jobs and Career Fairs (

    Key Takeaways

    • The purpose of a résumé is to secure an interview.
    • A good résumé is action-based and focused on accomplishments.
    • The purpose of a cover letter is to entice the recipient to read your résumé.
    • You can use Optimal Resume to create your custom resume.
    • You can build work experience before you graduate.


    1. If you are a student who has no work experience, what kinds of accomplishments can you use to illustrate your skills? Discuss this with a partner or group.
    2. Create your own resume! To write your resume, use Optimal Resume™, a free online resume-builder that will allow you to see samples and create your custom resume. 
      • Instructions:
        • Visit
        • Select “NEW USER”
        • Enter your southwest email address to request a system password
        • Browse resume samples by industry and get started creating your own custom resume.

    If you are having difficulty with creating a resume, contact Career Services for help. (


    Career Services.  Career Development at Southwest. 2021.

    This page titled 7.4: Résumés and Cover Letters is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Lisa Coleman, Thomas King, & William Turner.