Mohave Community College Libraries

Resumes & Cover Letters

pen and paper  What is a resume?                                      

The resume is one of the most important items in your job search toolkit. Think of yourself as the brand and your resume as a powerful marketing piece that sells your most important qualifications and how they relate to the position you want. To stand out among other applicants, you need a resume that markets your strengths and match for the job.

A great resume:

  • Grabs the attention of employers and recruiters
  • Sells your strongest skills and accomplishments
  • Shows how you’re a match for a position or project
  • And most importantly, gets you a job interview!

MCC Libraries' Resume Guide will help you create a resume that will stand out in today’s job market.

You'll find:

  • A step-by-step plan for what to include in your resume
  • Tips to write, format, organize, and polish your resume
  • Resume, cover letter, and reference page examples
  • Online resume tips, including using tools like LinkedIn and Facebook                                            

 

MCC Library Icon 

The guidelines, examples and associated rubrics posted on this site were developed by Mohave Community College Libraries in an effort to provide basic information and minimum standards to individuals creating their first professional resume. This webpage is not intended to be a comprehensive, all-inclusive volume that addresses all possible variations of resumes.

Mohave Community College Libraries provides services and tools to students and alumni but is not responsible for any representations or guarantees with regard to securing employment.                 

Your transferable skills are a major selling point; make sure you know yours.

An important part of what makes you valuable to an employer is your skillset. Transferable skills are used in many different careers, and help make you an attractive job candidate. But identifying skills - especially the transferable ones - can be difficult.

To identify yours, take a skills assessment test. Another option is to list the key tasks from your previous jobs, and highlight any verbs or action verbs, and include them in your resume. Some examples of transferable skills include:

Transferable Skill            

Example

Communication

Writing, speaking, listening, using communication tools like email appropriately

Critical thinking

Analysis, problem-solving, strategic planning, decision-making

Self-management

Good time manager, organized, motivated, responsible, reliable

Interpersonal

Understanding, diplomatic, discreet, supportive, assertive

Check out these sources to help you identify your skills and find the kinds of work they relate to:

  • The Skills Matcher helps you identify your skills. Use the Skills Matcher to create a list of your skills and match them to careers that use those skills.
  • Enter your previous occupation in mySkills myFuture to see types of careers your skills and experience will transfer to.
  • Look up your strongest skills in O*NET to see which occupations match them best.

pen and paper  Your qualifications

Potential employers want to see what experience and skills you can bring to their company. Before you begin writing your resume, review and list all of the attributes you possess. Consider both your basic career assets, such as jobs you've held and courses you've taken, and any related experience or special training. Don't forget to include your unique-to-you assets, like your strongest skills and values.  Being able to identify and describe your skills allows you to answer key questions at job interviews such as What can you do for my organization? and What problems can you solve?

Here are some examples of what you'll want to think about in each category:

Basic career assets: 

  • Employment history. Positions you've held or projects you've worked on, including volunteer or recreational activities.
  • Education, continuing education. Degrees or diplomas you've earned, and any additional courses or training you've received.
  • Technical skills. Computer or other technical skills you're proficient in, and would like to use in your next position.
  • Other information. Professional associations, service awards, publications or presentations, relevant hobbies or volunteer activities.

Unique assets you offer: 

  • Your strongest skills. Things that you’re good at and particularly enjoy doing. Pay special attention to transferable skills.
  • Your accomplishments. Achievements you’re proud of, whether they’re from jobs, school, or volunteer work.
  • Your values. Things that are important to you, such as helping others, learning new skills, or preserving the environment.
  • Your special knowledge and interests. Unique contributions you can make as a result of your career history, education and life experience.

⇒  Use the below worksheet to list your attributes and make sure to include them in your resume as appropriate

Analyze the Job Description

One good way to help your resume stand out is to analyze the job description before you start. Assessing what the prospective employer is looking for can greatly help get your resume noticed. 

paper and magnifying glass   Keywords - for brainstorming your Resume, Cover Letter, Interview   

The way to get your resume "through the front door" is to make sure you use Keywords.

With so many people looking for jobs these days, employers are scanning resumes (see ATS software tab) to see how your resume matches up to their job opening. Resumes that appear qualified will go the next step - usually a human resources worker will review your resume. If a resume does not match enough of their qualifications, your resume is toast!

Keywords are the link to the most important qualities and qualifications an employer is looking for. It's no secret - all the information you need is right in their employment listing. When applying for a job, print out the ad. Look for all the important points and highlight these keywords. The "important points" could be about the culture of the company, the qualities they are looking for, and qualifications required. Here is an example: 

Actual Job Description with Keywords Highlighted and Underlined

"Want to build your career with a world-class company? You will receive comprehensive classroom and on the job training that will prepare you to investigate the facts of a claim with the ultimate goal of bringing a satisfactory resolution. A Fortune 500 company, XXX is one of the largest providers of personal auto insurance in the U. S. Working at XXX means having extensive career path opportunities and the chance to work with diverse, bright colleagues in an innovative, dynamic atmosphere, where results are rewarded. We're looking for someone who can work effectively with customers who've been in an accident while keeping an eye on the details. Primary Job Responsibilities: - Investigate the circumstances surrounding auto accidents. - Estimate the cost of repairs and value of injury claims. - Settle the claim. Knowledge and Skills: - Bachelor's degree or equivalent combined relevant work experience and/or post-secondary education required. (Relevant work experience includes a position requiring critical thinking, problem solving, serving customers, negotiating, effective written/verbal communication. Valid driver’s license required. "

paper and magnifying glass  The underlined words in the above ad are keywords that describe the company and their culture:

  • Large, successful (Fortune 500) personal auto insurance company
  • Employs diverse, bright people
  • Innovative, dynamic work atmosphere
  • Values ambitious people who want to move up in the company
  • Training is an important component

 What you want your resume and cover letter to reflect: (1) experience you've had with larger companies; (2) if you are innovative, creative, motivated; (3) past training or schooling. 

paper and magnifying glass  The highlighted areas show the qualifications and skills they are looking for:

  • Customer service skills
  • Goal oriented and results driven
  • Detail oriented
  • Critical thinking and investigation skills
  • Negotiating and problem solving skills
  • Effective written and verbal communication skills
  • Bachelor’s degree in no specific major (or combined equivalent education and experience)
  • Driver’s license        

 Make sure that these skills are emphasized on your resume (and cover letter), placing them prominently near the top if possible. Give examples in your work experience, education, volunteer sections to reflect your expertise in these areas. Don't forget to include any personal qualities that are outstanding - achievements, awards, good grades; any experience you have related to your new profession. 

pen and paper  Design Elements

It is important that your resume is easy to read, and the design you choose plays a big part in that. A well-defined design suggests good organization. Avoid fancy or complicated fonts—simplicity is the key.

  • The length of the resume should be one or two pages.
  • Put your name in large letters at the top (16pt – 18pt). Contact info includes your name, address, phone number and email address.
  • Standard 1" margins
  • Use a simple, easy to read font such as Times New Roman, Ariel or Calibri. The recommended font size is 12pt - 14pt. 
  • Use section headings that are left justified, or centered and bold. 
  • Education and/or work history should be in reverse chronological order.
  • Use simple bullet points (such as the one used here) and keep your statements clear and concise.
  • Consistency: Keep all the elements of your writing the same: if you bold one title, bold all the titles; if you underline a title, underline all the titles.
  • Avoid using templates that are difficult to edit.

⇒  Resist the urge to use this opportunity to showcase your creative talents. Avoid including pictures of yourself, pets, or hobbies in your resume.

pen and paper Headings and Organization

A resume is formatted much like an outline with headings that highlight your education, experience, and skills. Each resume has anywhere from 5-6 headings under which information, used to market you, is summarized. 

Suggested headings:

  • Personal information: contains your contact information
  • Objective: focuses your goal and the goal of the job you are seeking
  • Summary of Qualifications: summarizes your experience and skills
  • Education: lists your complete educational background
  • Experience: summarizes past and current job descriptions and duties
  • Skills and/or Accomplishments: highlights and emphasizes your skills
  • Additional information: lists experiences not directly pertaining to any other heading

Heading Content

papersPersonal Information

This heading includes accurate and complete contact information. Do not include a picture or personal information such as marital status, age, hobbies, etc.

  • First and last name centered and in large font at the top
  • List your permanent address (when applicable): street, city, state, zip code – limit to two phone numbers
  • Use a personal e-mail address that sounds professional with no underline or link

Objective

This heading is an option that focuses a resume and is used to state what kind of job you are seeking. Write a focused objective that reflects not only your goal but the goal of the organization to which you’re applying.

  • Keep it simple and specific
  • Include specific examples of your strengths, abilities, and qualifications (i.e., “public speaking experience and customer service skills,” not “experience and skills”)
  • Omit it if you can’t change your resume objective for every job opening you apply for

certificate   Summary of Qualifications

This heading is an option that can be used instead of, or in addition to, an objective. The summary of qualifications is a statement that summarizes your experience, areas of expertise, and skills.

  • 4-6 bulleted descriptive phrases
  • Phrases summarize the most important skills and experience you want to emphasize
  • Most summaries include the number of years experience you have in the field

graduation cap and diploma   Education

This heading includes complete and accurate information regarding education. Do not include primary or secondary education (middle school or high school). 

  • List your most recent education first
  • Spell out complete school name and bold (i.e., Mohave Community College)
  • Include location of school (i.e., Lake Havasu City, AZ)
  • Include expected graduation or date graduated (i.e., May 2015)
  • Spell out complete degree name (i.e., Physical Therapist Assistant, AAS)
  • Include major(s), minor(s), and concentrations of study
  • Include relevant course work that distinguishes you or is not an expected part of your major

post it notes  Experience

This heading includes a summary of your job descriptions and duties. Try to include statements of achievement and contribution as well as present your experience as it relates directly to your skills and experience the employer needs.

  • List most recent jobs first
  • Spell out and bold company names and include location (i.e., Lakeside Physical Therapy, Lake Havasu City, AZ)
  • State your job title, dates employed (preferably just years), and job description
  • Use short phrases and/or bullet points, not full sentences
  • Use action verbs/words to start each phrase or bulleted point
  • Use present tense to describe your current job and past tense for previous jobs

skills sign   Skills or Accomplishments

This is an optional heading that is specific to the position you’re applying for. Include this heading if you have a short work history and need to add to your resume.

  • Use to emphasize your skills instead of your work experience
  • Use if you’re changing careers and need to highlight transferable skills
  • Highlight the accomplishments that benefited your previous employers

resume  Additional Information

This heading includes leadership accomplishments and other information that does not precisely fit the needs of your resume or identified headings. This section may be placed before or after the work experience section depending on which section best represents you for the position.

  • Activities, skills, and accomplishments that could be listed:
    • Volunteer work
    • College activities
    • Internships
    • Certifications
    • Associations
    • Training
    • Relevant courses
    • Military service
    • Honors 

arrows and target  Your accomplishments show the employer what you can achieve

The first thing an employer wants to learn from a resume is “how could this person help my organization?” You can help the employer find an answer by including your accomplishments.

Think about what you did in past jobs. What problems did you solve? What solutions did you come up with? What benefits did this have for the business, customers, or employees?

Use these questions to start listing your accomplishments:

Challenge

Action

Result

Beth was asked to look at the company’s online project file system, which was disorganized and hard to use.

She analyzed the system and reorganized it so information was more logically arranged and easier to find.

She made coworkers’ work easier, which saved them time and allowed them to serve customers more effectively.

Here’s how Beth expressed the accomplishments from the table above:

“Led a project to streamline and reorganize the company’s SharePoint project file system, making it easier and faster for employees to find information and serve customers.”

"Accomplishment statements" show your strengths, instead of telling them. An employer may or may not believe you if your résumé includes the words “high achiever.” Employers will know you are a high achiever if your résumé includes specific examples.

arrows and targetHow to write "accomplishment statements"

Always start with an action verb.

Good: “Responsible for leading team for classroom assignments.”

Stronger: “Directed team of 3 classmates to complete assignments on time.”

Use colorful and unique action verbs.

Good: “Started a new program.”

Stronger: “Created and implemented a new recycling program with 80% participation of employees.”

Attempt to quantify at all times.

Good: “Handled cash transactions.”

Stronger: “Handled $1,000 in transactions weekly.”

State the benefit to the employer first, then what you did to accomplish that result.

Good: “Developed a marketing strategy that increased student involvement 15%.”

Stronger: “Increased student involvement 15% using a creative marketing strategy.”

pen and paper   Reference Page 

  • References should be on a separate document and use the same format style and headings as your resume and cover letter.
  • List three to five references.
  • Include your reference's name, job title, company name, address, e-mail address and at least one phone number
  • Always ask permission to use individuals as your references about your job search.
  • Former/current supervisors, co-workers, or instructors are good references. Be sure to ask only those people who will represent you in a positive light. Family, friends, and peers are inappropriate.
  • Bring this list with you for interviews and also have it on hand when filling out applications that ask for references.

⇒  Use the below worksheet to format your reference page

Sample Student
Palatine, IL 60067
847.555.5555
samplestudent@gmail.com
www.linkedin.com/in/samplestudent

References


Jane Smith
Associate Professor
Harper College
1200 West Algonquin Road
Palatine, IL 60067
847.925.0000
jsmith@harpercollege.edu
Former Professor

Donna Martin
Marketing Manager
Academic Data Network Computer Center
1111 West Oak Street
Palatine, IL 60067
847.555.1111
dmartin@fakeemail.com
Former Manager

Tim Zanuth
Staples
1234 Main Street
Palatine, IL 60067
847.555.1234
t_zanuth@fakeemail.com

resume  The Cover Letter, Example

John Doe
123 Acoma Blvd.
Lake Havasu City, AZ  86403
(123) 456-7890

yourname@email.com

January 30, 2015

Ms. Jane Smith
Physical Therapy Dept.
Company Name
1234 Main St.
Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403

RE: Physical Therapist Assistant position

Dear Ms. Smith

I am applying for the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) position at Lakeside Family Therapy advertised on your website on January 12, 2015.

Currently, I am a student in the Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) program at Mohave Community College with an expected graduation date of May 2015, and I believe that my experience and education will be an asset to your physical therapy department because:

  • I will be eligible to take the National Physical Therapy Exam for PTA on July 8, 2015
  • I have over 900 hours of clinical experience as a physical therapy aide and over 80 observation/volunteer hours
  • As a healthcare provider, I am dedicated to helping patients achieve their goal in a timely fashion
  • My previous work experience reflects a self-starter attitude and willingness to work as a team player

I am looking forward to meeting with you to further discuss this work opportunity. At your convenience, you can contact me at (123) 456-7890 or via email at youremail@email.com.

Sincerely,

John Doe

resume  The Cover Letter, Dissected

Career ePortfolios

A career portfolio is a curated collection of a job candidate's best work. Writers would collect their best articles; web designers would have samples from their best websites; and teachers would put together the student work samples and lesson plans they're most proud of.

A portfolio provides tangible evidence to potential employers of your accomplishments, skills, and abilities. It shows the scope and quality of your experience and training.

By developing an ePortfolio, you will be able to:

  • Document your interests, skills and abilities
  • Search and apply to jobs, graduate and professional schools
  • Formulate and set goals in your personal and professional life
  • Demonstrate your skills and qualifications

Designing Your ePortfolio 

If you're creating an online portfolio, present your credentials and personal information in a functional, user-friendly, and aesthetically-pleasing manner. Consider including an "about me" page with information on your background and a PDF of your resume with your contact information redacted.

WordPress and Squarespace are great tools to build an online presence for your work. You may also find that there are online options that cater to people in your field. For instance, journalists might use sites like Muck Rack to showcase their writing clips. Designers might want to take advantage of portfolio sites like Behance and Dribble. Other options include Google's Sites, Weebly, and Wix

Career ePortfolio Tips and Resources

Follow these tips to create a professional, targeted, and customized career resource that showcases your unique value to an employer.

  1. Be concise  provide pithy information about yourself, your work, and your professional achievements. Only include sections that represent you and market your skills and abilities best (no space fillers!).
  2. Be organized  your e-portfolio should be easy to navigate and browse. Make the most important information available in the fewest possible clicks. The links, graphics, sound, flash player, video components, etc. should all work properly. Test them before sending your e-portfolio URL to potential employers.
  3. Tailor it – customize the content to align with the type of work you’re planning to pursue. It’s not feasible to tweak your e-portfolio to mirror the specific job requirements of every opening you might apply for; instead, consider the types of jobs you’ll be pursuing and then showcase strengths that apply across all of them. Don’t include everything you have done, but rather ensure that your career e-portfolio reflects the most positive aspects of what you have done that would interest potential employers you’d like to target.
  4. Be professional – your e-portfolio is a professional extension of your resume and cover letter. Ensure that it is free of any grammatical or spelling errors. Keep it simple, clean, and easy to navigate. The background, fonts, color, and size and style of the text should be clear and easy to read.
  5. Market it – include the web address of your e-portfolio on your resume, cover letter, in the signature of any email that you send related to your job search, on your LinkedIn profile, on your networking card, and anywhere else that may boost your professional visibility.