Resume and Cover Letters: Do's and Don'ts

Congratulations to all the graduates (and soon-to-be graduates) on completing your college degree. Now the real challenge begins as you enter the job market. You can make your job search easier if you format your resume and cover letters with care. Even recruiters for entry level jobs are looking for polished resumes and letters that demonstrate your ability to communicate as well as present your career skills. Here are five key do's and don'ts that can make or break the success of your job search.

Never consider sending out a resume or CV without an accompanying cover letter. You can find sample resumes online that match your career goals, from resumes that highlight your skills to those that present a chronological overview of your experience. But if you submit a resume without a cover letter, your potential employer may toss it away. Recruiters don't want boiler plate applications; they expect to see a letter and resume that directly responds to the job requirements cited in their job posting.

Five Cover Letter Do's and Don'ts

A good cover letter demonstrates your ability to summarize your skills and experience and map them directly to the job for which you're applying.


  1. Name the position that you're applying for by name and job number.
  2. Indicate how much you know about the company and why you're a good match for employment.
  3. Show how your skills or classes have prepared you for each requirement.
  4. Embellish briefly on resume points that fit the opening to a tee.
  5. Tailor your cover letter for each separate employer.


  1. Discuss why you need the job, financially or as a resume builder.
  2. List information that the employment office can easily find on your resume.
  3. Address the letter to the company. (Write to the hiring manager, HR professional, or recruiter.)
  4. Send a letter without proofreading it carefully. Do not trust auto-correct or spelling tools on your software.
  5. Use casual phrases or conventions that might be acceptable when text-messaging friends.

Five Resume Do's and Don'ts

Make sure that your resume contains key words that pertain to the precise position for which you're applying. Many employment departments scan and toss resumes before a human being reads them.


  1. Proof-read your resume or CV with exacting care.
  2. Use action verbs and keep your sentences short with correct punctuation.
  3. List accomplishments, metrics, numbers of people supervised, and dollar amounts attained.
  4. List college experiences that show leadership or experience (arts, athletics, organizations, government.)
  5. Summarize your qualifications and objectives.


  1. Omit dates and locations of education or work experience.
  2. Provide a list of references. Your future employer may ask for them later.
  3. Cite your salary expectations. (That's leading with your chin.)
  4. Go over two pages.
  5. Include excessive amounts of personal data. No one needs to know where you vacationed, the name of your favorite rock bands, or what kinds of food you eat. A resume is not a social networking page.

Above all else, recruiters say, be sure your cover letter and resume represent the work of a careful communicator. To that end, it should be concise, clear, focused, and free of typographical errors. Good luck!