Write a Résumé or Cover Letter


Your résumé should be an effective marketing tool that will help you reach your goal of obtaining a job offer. It should catch the employer's attention so that you get an interview, which is where you'll have a chance to convince the employer of your effectiveness and ability to do a specific job. You need to say a lot about yourself very concisely, and your résumé must be appealing to the eye and error-free. Employers assess résumés in under 30 seconds. You want to be sure to stand out from the crowd for the right reasons!

Where to begin

For assistance on creating a résumé, stop by the ILR Office of Career Services or call (607) 255-7816 to schedule an appointment with one of the advisors or come in during walk-in times.

Optimal Resume is an additional tool offered by Cornell Career Services to help create your résumé step-by-step. Choose from many different résumé styles, and change the look of an existing résumé with just a few clicks.

Sample Résumés

The Career Guide, published by Cornell Career Services Office in Barnes Hall, also has helpful information available on how to develop a résumé as well as examples of various résumé formats. There are also sample résumés available online.

Cover Letters

Cover letters introduce you to prospective employers and motivate them to read your resume and learn more about your background and qualifications. These include letters of application, when you know of an opening and are writing to apply for it, and letters of inquiry, when you don't know if an opening exists but you want to explore employment possibilities with an organization.

Your cover letters, like your résumé, must be well written and contain no errors. The letters should add to the information that is presented in your résumé, not just repeat it. You want to catch the reader's attention with your writing style, attention to detail, and statement of how your qualifications match the job requirements.

After you've used the resources available to develop your own letters, it's time to solicit input from others on your document. The staff, and peer advisors in ILR OCS, are available to review rough drafts of your cover letters.

Where to Begin

For assistance on creating a cover letter, stop by the ILR Office of Career Services or call (607) 255-7816 to schedule an appointment with one of the advisors or come in during walk-in times. The Career Guide, also available in hard copy in 201 Ives Hall, has excellent tips and guidelines on writing job-search correspondence, as well as samples of the various types of letters you might create.

General Guidelines

As with any general business letter, your cover letter should begin with your return address and date.

Next, you'll need the inside address and a salutation.

In your first paragraph, indicate the specific position or type of work for which you are applying and how you learned of the job opening.

In the second paragraph, mention why you are interested in the position, the organization, and it's products or services. It's extremely important to communicate what you can do for the employer. If you are a recent graduate, explain how your academic background makes you a qualified candidate for the position. If you have had some practical work experience, point out specific achievements or unique qualifications. Try not to repeat the same information the reader will find in the résumé. In the third paragraph, refer the reader to your résumé, which summarizes your qualifications, training, skills, and experience.

In the closing paragraph, indicate your interest in a personal interview. You may want to suggest alternative dates and times or simply advise the employer of your flexibility as to the time and place. Repeat your phone number in the letter and offer any assistance to help in a speedy response You could also ask if the organization will be recruiting in your areas, or if it needs additional information and references.


First Name Last Name (typed)

Sample Letters

The Career Guide, which is also available in 201 Ives Hall as a hard copy, has excellent examples of the various types of job-search correspondence that you may need to write. Additional samples are also available on the Cornell Career Services web site. Don't worry that they are not all specifically for ILR-related situations, because the basics of job-search correspondence are pretty much uniform across career fields.