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Writing a Resume and Cover Letter

The Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) developed the following sections to help you craft a resume and cover letter that will stand out to potential employers.  The Resume Writing Tips outline general considerations to keep in mind as you write your resume; the Resume Section Breakdown lists and describes the possible sections your could include on your resume; and the Cover Letter Writing Tips provides some general questions that a strong cover letter will answer.  If you have any questions, need additional assistance, or would like the CCPD to review a draft of your resume and cover letter, please email CareerHelp@wku.edu or call (270)-745-3095 to schedule an appointment. 


Resume Writing Tips

  • Keep it short and sweet.  Resumes are clear, concise, and free of errors.  The entries are written in scannable chunks that use action phrases to express relevant experience alongside resultant skills and substantiating accomplishments.

  • Make every line impactful.  Be brief while being descriptive.  Use keywords to highlight the essential qualifications you possess.  Translate experience into tangible skills and outcomes.

  • Flaunt community service and extracurricular activities. Every college graduate received a diploma. What else did you do in college to set you apart from your competitors?  What have you done since college?

  • Customize your resume for each position.  Your resume should assert that you are the best candidate to fill the vacancy.  Research the position and the organization.  Consider how the persona you are projecting fits the employer’s needs.

  • Be honest and don’t exaggerate.  You should be prepared to elaborate on anything you include on your resume.  Focus on the marketable skills you possess and the employer desires.

  • Provide your online presence.  First, consider the professionalism of your online presence.  Then, include anything that may be relevant and demonstrates your work and individuality, such as a blog or website.

  • Consider a modernized resume.   Modernized graphic resumes are not widespread, but they can be especially beneficial under appropriate circumstances.  If you are unsure which format to use, this article from The Balance can help you determine if you need a more modernized resume.


Resume Sections Breakdown

  • Objective – Create a declarative statement informing the employer what type of position you are seeking.  If you are responding to a specific job listing, include the desired position title in this section.

  • Education – List the university and your major, minor, (expected) graduation date, and GPA if it is above a 3.0.

  • Skills – List any technical skills, languages you speak, or systems/programs that you are proficient in.

  • Certifications – Note any relevant professional training and certifications in this section.

  • Experience – Include any relevant previous work experiences.  Try and think of unique ways to phrase your experience and add any kind of statistics that you can.  For example, instead of saying “Server at Olive Garden, bussed tables, took orders, refilled drinks, and served pasta,” try something like this: “Server at Olive Garden, trained new employees, chosen to assist manager 3 months after starting, up-sold beverage sales by 14% in July 2012.”

  • Activities/Community Service – List any activities, organizations, or clubs that you are in.  Be sure to list if you have any leadership roles and how long you have been in the organization.  After your freshman year of college, high school activities are no longer valid.

  • Honors/Awards – Include a list of any awards or academic achievements with a brief description if the achievement is not clear in the honor or award title.  For example, include “Recipient of Robin S. Lee Scholarship, awarded to students who have a GPA higher than 3.75 and exhibit outstanding leadership skills.”

  • References – Include “References available upon request” at the bottom of the resume.  You should still have a separate word document that has at least 3 references.  Each reference entry should include a name, phone number, title, relationship, and best contact time.  Always consult with all references to confirm that you may provide their information.

Cover Letter Writing Tips

A cover letter should complement your resume and set you apart from all other applicants.  In a few brief paragraphs, answer the following questions:

  • How did you hear about this opportunity?  This comes from reading a job posting, conversing with an associate, or admiring endeavors of the organization.

  • Why are you the best candidate for this position?  The answer to this question makes up the majority of your cover letter and is your opportunity to sell yourself as the best candidate for the position.  Elaborate on the information provided in your resume: focus on the outcomes, examples, and details of your experiences. 

  • What action do you hope comes from this interaction? The purpose of this process is to acquire further contact in the form of an interview.  Provide some contact information, and then encourage further interaction by asking for an interview or by maintaining that you will follow up.

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 Last Modified 9/17/18