University of Wisconsin–Madison

Resumes and Cover Letters

Résumés and cover letters are an important part of your job search because they create a first impression to potential employers. Employers base their decision to invite you for an interview on the information you provide in your résumé and cover letter. The résumé and cover letter tell a concise version of your story and why you are a strong candidate for the job. Employers commonly spend 30 to 60 seconds reviewing each résumé/cover letter before making a go/no go decision, so consider how best you can get their attention in a clear and effective way.

See the table below for tips on résumés and cover letters.

  • Do not include any false or misleading information on your résumé.
  • Check for typos! Many employers will immediately disqualify a candidate who does not proofread. Always have someone else review your résumé before submitting it to a potential employer.
  • Keep the length to one page and no more.
  • Tailor your résumé to the job. Include information about your skills, experiences and education that is relevant to the position.
  • Use action verbs; begin each phrase with one. Do not use the phrases, “responsible for” or “duties include.”
  • Organize your résumé so that it is easy to read and comprehend. Use a single font that is easy to read and a clean format. See the Economics Example Resumes for ideas on how to format your résumé.
  • Demonstrate your accomplishments. For example, explain how you improved a process, saved money, or achieved other specific results.
  • Use numbers. For example, if you raised funds, include the amount. If  you tutored students, indicate how many and how often. Employers are interested in knowing the specifics of your accomplishments.
  • Avoid using acronyms, unless they are specifically defined. Do not use jargon. If possible, have an industry professional critique your résumé.
  • Do not include personal information (such as age, gender, marital status), photographs, or references on the résumé. References are provided to employers on a separate document if they are requested.
  • Do not include information about high school unless you are a college freshman, if your high school has a strong alumni network, or if your high school accomplishments are unique.

View a variety of sample resumes.

View a sample list of job references.

Refer to the Letters & Science Career Services website for additional samples and tips for creating a résumé.

Your cover letter is an opportunity to tell the employer why you are the perfect candidate for the position. A cover letter should always be included with a résumé. The cover letter consists of three to four paragraphs tailored to the specific position and describes how your skills, experiences and education have prepared you for the job.

  • Include the name and title of the recipient in the salutation, unless it is unavailable. Be certain that you have the recipient’s correct gender and spelling of his or her name.
  • Use the same font and style as your resume for consistency.
  • Do not send the same cover letter for every position. Tailor the content of your letter to the position.
  • Do not repeat the information on your resume in the cover letter. The cover letter should provide additional, complementary information to your résumé.

Refer to the Letters & Science Career Services website for additional samples and tips for writing cover letters.