Professional Development Tips

Résumés and Letters


Résumés are crucial to being invited to interview for a job and their development should not be taken lightly. It is the rule of thumb to construct a one-page document, but if you have been in the workforce before think strategically about organizing presented information that may exceed that page limit.

Parts of a Basic Résumé
I. Basic information – Place at the top of the page and include your name, current address, phone number (optional), and email address. You may also list your tribal affiliation in this section.

  1. Objective – Briefly state the intent of why you are creating this document and what you hope to achieve by sharing it.

II. Education – List schools that you have attended. If you are recently graduated from high school, then include it. If not, then just list your college or university, degree, major, year of graduation, and GPA (optional).

  1. Experience – List previous jobs, which may include internship experiences. Each listing should include name of employer, job title, dates of employment, location of employment (city and state), and responsibilities/achievements.
  2. Honors/Awards – List the awards and honors you have received in and out of an academic setting.
  3. References – Most interested employers will want a few references from you, but you do not have to include them. You may just add the phrase “References provided upon request.”

If you are new to the workforce, consider adding the following headings as well:

Skills – Present any additional skills you have that may not come across in your outline of job experiences, such as speaking more than one language or knowing how to use a specific type of technology.

Extracurricular activities are great to list on yoru resume. Activities – List clubs or sports you are involved in outside of school and work, as well as leadership roles in and out of the academic setting.

Once you have created your résumé have a career advisor, faculty member, or working professional review it to give you critical feedback. As mentioned, this document is crucial to landing an interview and should be perfect before sending to a possible employer.

Believe it or not, different occupations have different styles of résumés. To see examples, visit Resume Genius.

Cover Letters

The cover letter, or letter of application, accompanies your résumé  when applying for positions to let employers know why you are interested in their opportunity and organization. Customize each cover letter to match your skills and experience to the position.

General Guidelines

  • Identify the name and title of the person to whom the letter should be addressed. For online postings, include the name of the contact person and/or title that are listed.  Keep in mind that a cover letter may NOT be required for ALL online postings. Be sure to adhere to application guidelines.
  • For ads with no contact information, you should still attempt to identify the organization, if possible. Only address the letter to “Dear Hiring Manager ” if you are not able to find the necessary contact information.
  • If the employer asks you to include salary requirements in the letter, always state your requirements in a range and that you are open to negotiation. You should research salary figures for the position and geographic area. If an employer asks you to include salary history, he or she is looking for consistency. Gaps or salary cuts should be explained in general terms.
  • Your letter must be well written, free of errors, and grammatically correct. Do not over use the word “I”.
  • Read your letter out loud to ensure that your ideas flow, and to catch any awkward sentences or overuse of words or phrases.
  • A cover letter is NOT needed when handing your resume directly to an employer.

Visit Resume Genius for assistance in creating your cover letter.


Recommendation Letters

lettersprof8479When applying for employment, you will often be asked to provide professional letters of recommendation or a list of people to be contacted in the future by the prospective employer.  These individuals should be able to testify to your skills, achievements, character, and more.

Key Tips

  • Carefully follow directions during the application process.
  • Does the organization want letters of recommendation submitted or a list of reference names to contact?
  • Know how many letters of recommendation or reference names are requested.
  • Update your references on the status of your employment search regularly.
  • Keep references current (update every three-five years).

Who can testify to your abilities?

References may include supervisors who are familiar with your professional, leadership, and work experiences, or professors who can speak to your academic abilities and class involvement.  Make sure the professionals you select are able to provide valuable input into your abilities based on the type of position for which you are applying.  Customize your list based on their relationship to you and what they might share to advance your chances of landing your desired opportunity.

  • Past and present supervisors from work or volunteer experiences.
  • Faculty members/professors (supervising teacher for student teachers) who know you well.
  • Mentors and coaches.
  • Do NOT use people who know you only in a social setting such as family or friends.
  • If multiple references are needed, select people based on their ability to showcase your different experiences.

What information should I provide my references?

  • Examples of the information you would like highlighted (i.e. projects or strengths they have seen you display which are relevant for the position to which you are applying).
  • Copy of the advertisement including the name of the organization, position title, and position description.
  • Current résumé.
  • Person the letter should be addressed to and how to submit the reference letter (scanned online, mailed, etc.).
  • Provide a deadline to submit the letter by and allow plenty of time for the letter to be written (three-four weeks is suggested).
  • If a list of reference names has been requested, be sure to include contact information where they can easily be reached. This list is typically included as part of an application or as an additional sheet to the cover letter and résumé.


Thank-You Letters

aguilar_eagleUse the following guidelines for your thank-you letter to confirm your interest in the position and stand out among candidates.

  • Address the letter to the person(s) with whom you interviewed. Ask for your interviewers’ business cards, or write down their titles and the proper spelling of their names before leaving the interview.
  • Prepare your letter on high quality paper using a business letter format. Mail your letter in a matching envelope within 24-48 hours following the interview. If your handwriting is legible, you may also choose to use a high quality, thank-you card and hand write your note. If you have previously corresponded with the employer by email, it is acceptable to send your note via email.
  • Keep your letter brief and concise. Mention the date of your interview and your interest in the position and organization.
  • Reiterate your most important skills and qualifications, how you expect to contribute to the organization, and any unique points of interest discussed during the interview.
  • Express your appreciation for the opportunity to interview, tour the facilities, meet other employees, and confirm follow-up procedures. Leave no doubt in the interviewer’s mind about your enthusiasm for the position.

Follow Up With a Professional Voicemail

You’ve sent your thank you letter, allowed a few weeks for the hiring process to unfold, and now it is time to give the hiring manager a pleasant nudge to keep yourself and your capabilities active in their considerations.

Be sure to leave the following information in your voicemail:

  • Name (twice)
  • Phone number (twice, slowly)
  • Reminder that you recently interviewed and/or previously interacted
  • An upbeat message
  • A pleasant reiteration of your interest
  • A graceful exit