Job Schmob. Resumes & Cover Letters 101.

Because I understand that half of the path to financial independence is making money (the other half = not squandering it) and because job hunting season is in full swing on campus, here’s a quick refresher on resumes and cover letters.


  • No longer than ONE PAGE.
  • Font –  Standard  (Times New Roman, Arial, etc..) and 10-12 size.
  • Formatting – Keep the formatting consistent throughout  (if one job title is in italics, all job titles should be in italics).
  • Order – Reverse chronological order within each category (Most recent experience 1st, next most recent experience 2nd, etc..).
  • Quantify actions & results whenever possible (“Raised $20,000” is more compelling than “Raised money.”  Ditto on “Managed 40 volunteers” v. “Managed volunteers”).
  • Put the most impressive/relevant experiences for the job you’re applying to in the top third of your resume. This is your chance to make a good 1st impression.
  • Verbs – Use varied and exciting verbs. (“Designed” not “Worked on.” Using any verb more than twice is a no no.)
  • High school – I’d advise only including high school only if it’s a well known school, is in the city in which you want to work, or you did something unusually impressive/unique (i.e. Founded international nonprofit to fight anablephobia in male monkeys).
  • Skills – Include foreign languages (Be honest – a friend of mine wrote “Spanish – Proficient” on his resume and was interviewed completely in Spanish. Needless to say,  2 years staring at the cute girl in front of him in his high school Spanish class had not adequately prepared him for this), computer skills (Microsoft Office, STATA, etc…), and lab skills.
  • Interests – Include only if you’re actually interested in them and they’re truly interesting. (ex: “Singing 17th century opera, mountain climbing in Africa” = yes. “Reading, running, photography” = no.) Interests show  the recruiter you’re a real person and are interested in the world outside of your school’s library. Can’t think of anything good? Don’t put anything.
  • Structure/ Order
  1. Contact Information – Name, address, phone, email
  2. Education  – University name, graduation year, study abroad programs, GPA and/or SAT score (if requested)
  3. Relevant Experience – The most impressive/most relevant experience for the job you’re applying for
  4. Other Experiences – Grouped by category (Research Experience, Leadership Experience, etc…)
  5. Skills/Interests – 1-2 lines
  6. “References available upon Request.” PSYCHE! DO NOT INCLUDE THIS! It’s outdated and occupies space unnecessarily (We’d hope by the time you’re over 22 that someone can put in a good word for you, right?)

Cover Letters

  • No longer than ONE PAGE
  • Pick 3 activities (max) that you want to explain in more detail. Don’t regurgitate your entire resume.
  • Link each experience to the job you’re applying for (ex: I did X and learned X which will help me do X at “Company Name”)
  • Focus on how you approached each problem and broke it into pieces.
  • Highlight any results or success you’ve had that were based on your unique contribution and times you took initiative or went “above and beyond”
  • Structure
  1. Introduction/Why do you want to work for Company X?
  2. I am so great because I did this.
  3. I am also great because I did this.
  4. Closing/Thanks/I look forward to working for Company X.

Last Notes

  • Creativity – Resumes and cover letters are not the place to showcase your brilliant and daring creativity.  I’d stick pretty closely to whatever format is suggested and save the creativity for your next modern dance recital.
  • Double check that the recruiter’s name and company name are spelled right. Nothing is worse than sending a cover letter talking about how much you want to work at Apple to Microsoft.
  • Looking for an example? Here’s an resume and cover letter resume and cover letter that is a mash up of several good ones I’ve seen. This is not meant as an ideal to be copied exactly, but one example of what it looks like when you follow the guidelines above.

Sample Resume and Cover Letter

  • Lastly, don’t take anything anyone (even Beyond Beer Money) tells you about resumes & cover letters too seriously. Every opportunity is different, and resumes and cover letters are read by people – meaning that each reader is intrigued by slightly different things.


Do you have something to add? Disagree? Want advice? Comment, or email



Filed under Career

4 responses to “Job Schmob. Resumes & Cover Letters 101.

  1. Thanks for writing lot practical knowledge somebody has giving public speeches, we can bet your hard earned money that public speakers of every level make a speech outline before giving their presentation.

  2. Hi just thought i would tell you something.. This is twice now i’ve landed on your blog in the last 2 days hunting for totally unrelated things. Spooky or what?

  3. I have been looking everywhere for some of this information. I also found a free resourse that helped me when writing my resume. It explained why I dont need a cover letter for resume its free so I thought ok to post it here

  4. Pingback: The 3 Most Impressive Job Fields For 2010 and Beyond » Marisol Perry

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