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Resumes & Professional Communication

Resume & Cover Letter Writing

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Make a Professional Impression

The job of a resume is to make employers want to interview you. Does yours make them rush to the phone to set up a meeting? If not follow the steps below for resumes and professional communication.

Resume Writing Example

Landing this job was tough, because I had to build my resume from scratch with no paid research experience. The hardest part however, was knowing how to word and format my resume so that it "pops" out at the employer, and that's where the CMC came in. After a week of bringing my cluttered resume to the CMC office on campus, my resume has become a sterling example for any undergraduate scientist in search of his/her first research job. Writing a resume and cover letter for a research job is a daunting task, and with the help of the invaluable resources and advice provided by the CMC, I finally got my foot in the door for a career in research and I'm going to Disney World for the first time ever!

- Jeffrey Rollins, Research Assistant - Kennedy Space Center and Disney Wildlife Preserve

Professional Communication

  1. Self Inventory
    Review your personal information and experience. Start with a blank piece of paper, not a template, and list each item that has relevance. Go for volume here and focus on details and specifics. You will condense this information later.
  2. Choose a Format
    The format you choose should reflect your own personal situation. Consider your qualifications, career objective, experience, and the kind of employer you are seeking before you select a style.
  3. Critique your first draft
    Use the resume checklist to self critique and ask several individuals who are familiar with the type of employment you are seeking to look it over. Always ask someone at the Career Management Center for a resume review before distribution.
  4. Final draft
    Check that your resume is mistake free, has consistent emphasis (bold, underline, italics) and is well laid out on the page. Print your resume on 24 lb. cotton bond paper. Use pure white, cream, ecru, or beige paper. Never photocopy your resume, always print your resume using a laser or high-quality inkjet printer

Get that resume read! If the job of the resume is to get you an interview, the job of the cover letter to get your resume read. Cover Letters give you the chance to show your personality.

Parts of a cover letter:

State why you are writing and indicate your knowledge of the employer in the first two or three sentences. When possible, name the position for which you are applying and how you heard of the opening. If you are writing as a result of a personal referral, someone known to the reader, state it in the first sentence. Just make sure that you have that person's permission to use his or her name!

In the body, communicate the ways your skills and experiences can be of value to the employer. You will want to balance your confidence with humility. Highlight prior experience that will make your background come alive. Paint a picture of the type of person they want to hire by describing how your experience relates or is transferable to the employer.

Always thank the person for their time and indicate the step you will take next. This can include reasserting your interest in the position and arranging for a specific time when you will contact the employer to set up a meeting. Avoid endings which lack assertiveness such as "Please contact me..."


  • Individualize each letter so that it is unique to that particular employer
  • Start your letter off with a strong sentence; one that almost begs the reader to read on.
  • Keep your letter to one page.
  • Make your letter look graphically pleasing. Center your letter. Top and bottom margins should be equal. Side margins should be 1 inch each. Use the same header that is on your resume.
  • Use good quality paper that matches your resume.
  • Ask directly for a meeting and indicate that you will call within a week to 10 days to arrange a convenient time. By mentioning when you will call in the letter, you are showing serious interest and initiative. Remember - you must do what your letter says you will do.
  • Mention your resume and any other enclosures.
  • Keep a copy of every letter you send out. When you make follow-up phone calls, it is always helpful to have a copy of your letter in front of you to know exactly what you wrote to this particular person, especially since all your letters will be different.
  • Make it perfect: no typos, no misspellings, no factual errors. After spellchecking on your word processor, proofread your cover letter carefully.


  • Use qualifiers. "I feel that..." or "I think that..." These qualifiers only weaken what comes after them. Usually, these statements can be left out and the remaining sentence can stand as is.
  • Start every sentence with "I."
  • Send a "one size fits all" letter that looks like it could have been sent to anyone.
  • Point out what the employer can do for you or what you hope to gain from this job. Rather, show how your accomplishments can address the needs of this particular employer.
  • Repeat everything on your resume.
  • Copy sample cover letters and present them as your own.

References available upon request is the phrase often used and intended to signal the end of a resume. References are never printed as part of the resume and are typically not included with the resume unless specifically requested by the employer. Always have a copy of your references available.

Who should I ask?

  • Ask 3 or 4 professionals who can say something about your work performance, either on the job or in the classroom
  • Choose references who will speak favorably, consider professors, friends of the family or previous/current employers
  • One reference can be a professor, at least one should be a current or former direct supervisor, and one can be a co-worker.
  • Provide a copy of your resume so they can speak intelligently about your past experience as well as the quality of your work

What does the Reference Page look like?

  • Use the same header as on your resume
  • Include name and current contact information, including email address, and working relationship
  • Reference page should not exceed one page
  • Send this with your resume only if specifically asked, but always take a copies with you to interviews

Sample Reference Format:

Mrs. Jane Jones, Professor of Economics
Former Professor/Advisor
College of Business and Public Administration
Old Dominion University
2102 Constant Hall
Norfolk, VA 23529

Reference letters, what do employers want?

Dear [Name of Employer]:

This reference letter is provided at the written request of [name of student], who has asked me to serve as a reference on [his/her] behalf. It is my understanding that [name of student] is being considered by your organization for the position of [job title]. Please be advised that the information contained in this letter is confidential and should be treated as such. The information should not be disclosed to [name of student, if student has waived access] or anyone in your organization who would not be involved in the hiring decision regarding this individual. Additionally, the information should not be disclosed to anyone outside of your organization without the consent of the student.

I have known [name of student] for the past [number of months, semesters, years] as [he/she] has taken the following courses which I teach: [list courses, give brief description of content of course]. As [his/her] professor, I have had an opportunity to observe the student's participation and interaction in class, and to evaluate the student's knowledge of the subject matter. I would rate the student's overall performance in these subjects as average. This is evidenced by [his/her] grades-[state the grades].

[One or two specific examples of the student's performance may be appropriate.] As part of [his/her] grade in [name of course], the student was required to prepare a paper. The paper was designed to measure the student's ability to research, to analyze the results of the research, and to write. [Discuss how the paper submitted by the student indicated to you the student's skills in these areas.] Based upon this, I rate the student's skills as competent, but not excelling.

The one area in which the student performed above average was in oral communications. [Give specific example to support this.]

Based upon the student's academic performance and my understanding of the position for which the student is applying, I believe the student would perform (place overall evaluation here).

If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me.





Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers

  1. Greeting
    Your greeting should be formal: Dr./Mrs./Ms./Mr.
  2. Mind Your Manners
    Use Please and Thank You.
  3. Address your Subject
    Always include a subject in your message, and make it as specific as possible.
    • EXAMPLE: Inquiry from Jane Doe Regarding a Volunteer Opportunity with XYZ Company
  4. Formal Writing
    Write in complete sentences and be concise.
  5. Be Professional
    Do NOT use phrasing, text messaging, all caps, exclamation points or emoticons.
  6. Spell Check
    Check for spelling, grammar, and proof read before sending.
  7. Use a signature
    Include your name and your contact information.

  1. Avoid distractions
    Avoid music, TV, laptop or other noises in the background while making the call.
  2. Prepare your introduction
    If necessary make an outline of what you intend to say. Don't read this outline word for word - but rather use it to help you keep the conversation focused and on track.
    • EXAMPLE: Good Morning, May I please speak to ______________? My name is _____________ and I am a (jr/sr) majoring in ________ at Old Dominion University. I was interested in a (fall/spring/summer) employment opportunity and was hoping you had a few minutes to speak with me about internship/practicum opportunities in your organization.
  3. Speak clearly and slowly
    You might need to practice before you call.
  4. Be prepared to ask questions
    Discuss your availability, and how you can contribute. If there are no immediate openings, ask for other leads OR tell your contact you will check back at a later time
  5. End with gratitude
    Thank the employer for their time, and confirm what your next steps are, and if necessary send them a copy of your resume.

A thank you letter is a very important piece of professional correspondence directly related to your interview. Follow up is a crucial component in making and maintaining a positive impression with those individuals with whom you have demonstrated a genuine interest and motivation towards.

Most students tend to email thank you letters to employers, but a handwritten letter is a great way to show extra initiative. In deciding on a format, consider what the employer has told you about the recruitment timeline and whether or not there is enough time for a hand written letter to arrive before a hiring decision is made.

Saying "thanks" can help you stand out from the crowd and continue a positive rapport with the employer. Consider the following:

  • express your appreciation for your interview
  • reconfirm your interest in the position
  • summarize your interest in the organization
  • provide any additional information that may have come up in the interview
  • stress points that highlight your strengths, skills, or accomplishments

If you interview with more than one person, it is a good idea to send a thank you to each individual. This means that you need to get the names, titles, and contact information for all of the people who interviewed you. It is a good idea to ask for business cards.

Sample Template:


Thank you for taking the time to meet with on (DATE). It was such a pleasure speaking with you about (JOB TITLE). After hearing more about your company, I am confident I can make a (POSITIVE ADJECTIVE) contribution at (COMPANY NAME).
I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Dear Mr. Example,

Thank you for the time you took to talk with me on Monday afternoon about the sales position at ExampleSales Inc. Your company has such a great product to offer its clients and after hearing more about the position I feel I can make a positive contribution as part of your team. I'm looking forward to finding out the next steps in the hiring process. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information regarding my application.

Cindy Sample

ODU Marketing Major
Class of 2013

Resume Types

The format you choose should reflect your own personal situation. Consider your qualifications, career objective, experience, and the kind of employer you are seeking before you select a style. The most common formats are:

Jobs and education are listed in reverse chronological order-the most recent experience first. This format is best for those who have some experience directly related to their objective.

Functional Skills:
Highlights qualifications, skills and related accomplishments with little emphasis on dates. This format is not recommended as employers usually prefer past employment information.

Similar to functional resume, but with employment history listed in a separate section. This style is best for people who have little related experience but lots of transferable skills, new graduates, career changers who have gaps in their work history, and those who have had many similar jobs. It allows the writer list their experience and skills in order of relevance rather than by date or functional title.

Describe your experience in terms of the functions you performed and what you accomplished. Use action verbs to strengthen descriptions. Employers are interested in how successful you were in the past because it predicts future performance.

A Curriculum Vitae ("CV" or "vitae") is a comprehensive, biographical statement emphasizing your professional qualifications and activities. In general, curricula vitae are three or more pages in length. An advantage of the CV format is significant freedom to choose the headings and categories for your information and the strength reflected in their arrangement.

When is a CV appropriate?
A CV should only be used when specifically requested, this might occur in the following instances:

  • Applications for admission to Graduate or Professional Schools
  • Providing information related to professional activities such as applications for professional memberships, leadership positions, and presentations at professional conferences
  • Proposals for fellowships or grants
  • Applications for positions in academia, including school administration (elementary or secondary), principals, superintendents, and deans of schools
  • Higher Education positions in teaching, research, administration, and institutional research
  • Independent consulting in a variety of settings

Sample CV headings and categories:

Qualifications or Skills
A summary of relevant strengths or skills which you want to highlight.

Relevant Experience
Listing of positions (part-time, full-time, volunteer, temporary and permanent) related to the type of work sought.

List the names of courses you have taught, institution and dates where taught, and brief course descriptions.

Educational Travel
Include only if relevant to the position/grant for which you are applying (countries, dates, purpose)

List all relevant certifications and the year received.

Grants Applied for/Awarded
Include name of grant; granting agency; date received; title or purpose of research project.

Give bibliographic citations using the format appropriate to your particular academic discipline for books, abstracts, reviews, articles, papers, creative works, technical reports you have authored or co-authored. In fine arts areas, this can include descriptions of recitals and art exhibits.

Give titles of research papers and professional presentations using the format appropriate to your particular academic discipline; name of conference or event; dates and location; and a brief description.

List professional committees, including offices held, student groups you have supervised, or special academic projects; relevant volunteer work and community service organizations.

Consulting Activities
Cite as for grants; give major activities and relevant to professional training and research programs; characterize the subject field of inquiry.

Honors and Awards
List only those pertaining to professional training and research programs.

Professional Associations
Memberships in national, regional, state, and local professional organizations, significant appointments to positions or committees, student memberships are appropriate. If offices are held, note title of the office and dates of incumbency.

Federal Resume Writing

Tips to de-militarize your resume:

  1. Collect all your information from evaluations, awards, military courses, qualifications and schools
  2. Take inventory of personal development, organizations, special skills, work experience
  3. Identify your transferrable skills
  4. Emphasize your military career accomplishments
  5. Emphasize military skills that translate well (leadership, critical thinking, teamwork etc.)
  6. Make sure that your work experience translates and makes sense to a layman, stay away from MILITARY acronyms and terms
  7. The idea is to market yourself as your own brand

Writing an Effective International Resume:

Whether you are looking for your first professional position overseas, desire a an international career after graduation, or are considering an internship abroad, you should be prepared to write an internationally focused resume.

International resume and employers place a big emphasis on your personality - including your cultural competence, and how well you will be able to work and thrive in an international environment. It's important to not only highlight your professional personality, but emphasize your cross cultural skills, and addressing your international experiences as strengths.

Sections you may want to consider including on your resume:

  • Language
  • Courses with international focus
  • Class projects - stress working as a team, project outcome and any multi-cultural environment
  • Cross-cultural international experiences in North America or abroad
  • Volunteer experiences
  • Travel
  • Clubs and organizations

Keep in mind that unlike a U.S. resume, international resumes may require you to list your name, social security number, age, marital status and family dependents. Be sure to follow the specific employer instructions for each international application.

Sample Resume


Big Blue

#1 Monarch Way Norfolk, VA 23529
757-683-4388, bblue001@odu.edu

Your Header can be all on one line under your name to save space, or it can include 2 addresses on either side of the page if you are moving. Professional email address AND voice mail are a must when applying for a job!


Obtain an internship position in the communications field

Objective can be customized to the position you are applying to, or can be broad to send to a variety of employers. Keep it brief! Detailed information about why you are applying should go on a cover letter or be discussed in an interview.


Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA

Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies

Major: Communication

Minor: Human Services

May 2015

GPA 3.5

Academic Awards and Honors Deans List Spring 2013

Spell out your degree as it appears in the course catalog, begin with your current school, and state the date you will graduate. You can include awards, certifications, publications and GPA if it is 3.0 or better. You do NOT have to list your high school - employers are more interested in your college degree and accomplishments.

Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach, VA
Associate of Science Social Studies
May 2012

Be consistent in the formatting of your numbers and dates, note the position of the dates after each section.

Related Courses: Principles of Public Speaking, Precalculus, United States History, Communication for Mass Media

List upper level courses that you have taken in your major. List course name and NOT the abbreviation.

Computer Skills: Microsoft Office, Microsoft Publisher, SPSS, Microsoft Outlook

If you are in a technical field you may want to elaborate on this section and include languages, programs and software ~ otherwise, list the applications you are most familiar with. If you are not proficient in ALL of Microsoft Office Suite simply list the ones you use most often (word, power point, excel).

Languages: Fluent in Spanish, Studied Abroad in Spain Summer 2012

Do you speak a foreign language? If so highlight it along with any other international experiences you have had that will set you apart from the crowd!


WODU Radio, Norfolk VA
Communication Intern (April 2012- June 2012)

  • Worked as part of a team to bring bands on campus for special concerts
  • Maintained website to market current and upcoming events
  • Shadowed a team of part time DJ's during several radio performance hours

Related experience is directly related to your major, and also ties to your objective.


Principles of Public Speaking
Final Project (December 2011)
Persuasive Speech on Giving Back to the Community

  • Participated as part of a group, demonstrating strong team work skills
  • Resarched non-profit organizations as they related to the topic

Class projects are a great way to highlight experience in your major! List your contribution and the outcome of the project.


Chick-fil-a, Virginia Beach, VA

Shift Supervisor and Cashier (May 2011- August 2011)

  • Demonstrated excellent customer service in fast paced environment
  • Assisted Manager with evening deposit
  • Created schedule for afternoon shift employees
  • Work to maintain customer satisfaction at all times, even during peak hours

Can be paid or non paid experiences, focus on your transferable skills - money management, time management, decision making, working with people, things, or information


Member of Golden Key Honor Society (2012- Present)
Community Service Coordinator

  • Coordinated local community service activities for the chapter

Your activities matter! Pick the ones that highlight your skills the best, and list your role, contribution and dates for membership.

Reference Available Upon Request

References should be on a separate sheet of paper, and NOT included on your resume.