Oklahoma City University | Writing a Resume Skip to content

Writing a Resume

Writing Your Resume and Cover Letter

Make the right first impression!

First impressions are critical, employers often spend less than 30 seconds scanning your resume and cover letter.

  • Think of a resume as a marketing tool that convinces an employer you are the right solution for their workplace needs.
  • A cover letter is how you introduce yourself to an organization. This document accompanies your resume to highlight your skills and what sets you apart from other candidates.
  • Resumes and cover letters should be tailored to the organization and job that you are applying to.

Do you want a resume and cover letter that make an impact and grab the employer's attention? Then you need to:

  • Be concise, consistent, and easy to read.
  • Emphasize the significant accomplishments you have accumulate so far, as well as potential contributions to the employer.
  • Focus on the skills and requirements as related to a specific field or position.

A few tips to get started writing your resume and cover letter:

  • Professional format: Use a reverse chronological resume format, most relevant information goes first. Use an easy-to-read font (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Cambria or Garamond) and keep it to 10 pt. to 12 pt. Note that your name and contact should be larger than 12 pt. Ideal margins are .75” all around, and no smaller than 0.5”. Match the font style of the cover letter and your resume.
  • Transferable Skills: As a student you have more experience than you think: Critical Thinking, adaptability, time management, working with diverse groups, etc.
  • Emphasize your skills, interests, experiences: This includes your education, part-time jobs, internships, activities, honors, language skills, and community service.
  • Timeline: Create a rough outline covering the past three-to-five years at the beginning of your career.
  • Do your research: Find out everything you can about the company, check their website, news, etc. Ask yourself, "What does this company value and how will they benefit by hiring me?”
  • Use keywords: Thoroughly review the job description, understand the "lingo" of the company, and list items and industry language that you are prepared to discuss in an interview. Look for ways to highlight and align your experiences with their mission, quarterly information, or even community outreach projects.
  • Find a way to get started: If you don’t have a specific job yet in mind, start by visiting job-posting sites.

  • Sections: Use common headings such as Education, Professional Experience, Honors and Awards. Review the sections of a resume and guidelines before you start writing it.
  • Be concise: Express your qualifications and accomplishments succinctly. Use the APR method to form accomplishment statements: Action/Project or Problem/Result
  • Length: Current students and recent graduates should stick to 1-page. If you have extensive professional experience, are applying to select federal jobs or targeting academic positions/fellowships, you may create a 2+ page resume or a Curriculum Vitae (CV).
  • Include only what is necessary: Do not include your picture, age, gender, religion, political affiliation, ethnicity, marital status, social security number, references or salary expectations/history.

Blank page syndrome?

  • Your documents must be PERFECT: No typos, misspellings, or factual errors.
  • Be the solution and support your claims: Point out how you are uniquely suited for the job by including relevant qualities, skills, and experiences. Use facts, examples, or evidence of your achievements to support your claims.
  • Tailor your documents: Focus on the needs of the employer, and use the announcement or job description to tailor your cover letter.
  • Address your cover letter to a specific individual or hiring committee: Avoid using "To Whom It May Concern." Learn the name and title of the person hiring for the position. If that is not possible, go with, "Dear Director of Human Resources" or "Dear Hiring Manager."
  • Quantify and provide a scope of your work: For instance, the statement “Can initiate and accomplish tasks with little direction” can be improved by transforming it into, "Independently began operation of organization’s website.”

Common Mistakes

  • Keep it real, make it simple: Avoid exaggerations, abbreviations, and acronyms. Spell everything out. Do not lie!
  • Professional writing: Creativity is good, up to a point. Do not try to be funny in a cover letter, keep it simple and connected to the job. Your documents must be typed, no handwriting!
  • Length of cover letter: Trying to say too much is a marketing mistake in this case. Keep your cover letters 3 to 4 paragraphs long, at least at the beginning of your career,
  • Make it reader-friendly: Pick the right font and the right size, a professional and easy-to-read one would suffice. Remember, if your prospective employer cannot read your documents with ease, they might not read them at all.
  • Be thorough: When sending your documents, do not send a cover letter without a resume, or a resume without a cover letter. Double-check everything!

Before you hit "Send" remember to:

  • Double-check: ask yourself, "Have I efficiently conveyed the right skills, abilities, and accomplishments?" Make sure you have.
  • Proofread: Check your spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Typos are unacceptable.
  • Ask for help: Have your resume reviewed by Career Services (link to webpage) and others within the field you are interested in.
  • Get the technical details in order: If you typed your documents on a Word document, convert them to PDF before uploading or sending them. Save as YourNameResume.pdf. and YourNameCoverLetter.pdf. Keep your resume template as a Word document to update and change as needed for future use.

These samples are for illustrative purposes, to provide you with ideas for formatting, content, and ways to highlight your own skills and accomplishments.

Back to Top