Career Pathways

Resumes and cover letters

Most hiring managers are trying to answer the following three questions while reviewing your documents:

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you do the job?
  3. Will you fit in?

Think of the resume and cover letter as your opportunity to answer these questions while showcasing your different skills and talents. These documents are your first impression to an employer and are crucial elements of securing an interview. While varied experiences (i.e. internships, volunteer work, clubs, etc.) are important, it is equally vital that those experiences are formatted in a way that best illustrates your career journey.

Use the resume creator in HireVCURams to start building a basic resume. Follow our HireVCURams Resume Creator [PDF] to accessing the feature in HireVCURams. Check out our Resume Guide [PDF] for general advice or explore the example resume.


Public Service Resume [PDF] (courtesy of GoGovernment)

Start with the job description

Perhaps the most important tip for making your documents stand out is to use industry lingo. Review the position description, highlight key words or phrases, and reflect that same terminology in your resume or cover letter. This shows you have done your research and are familiar with the culture of the industry.

Academic coursework/projects

Highlight courses, group projects, or papers that are related to working in your field. Perhaps your group assignment was consulting with a local organization on a logo rebrand or to develop a communication strategy. Or maybe you’ve completed a course on counseling skills. These aspects of your academic career are valuable and are certainly worth highlighting on a resume or cover letter.

Federal government resumes

If you interested in working for any federal government agency, creating a federal resume is a crucial first step. Unlike resumes for private companies and organizations, the federal government will want to know some very specific information (most federal resumes are 2-5 pages in length). In order to make sure you have provided all pertinent information, use these tools:

Cover letters

Your cover is meant to achieve two goals: to demonstrate your genuine interest in the position and to explain why you are the MOST qualified person for the job. It’s tempting to fill your cover letter with clichés about work, commitment, etc. This will not help you set yourself apart. Instead, use your personality and tell your own story – honestly. Be specific about your skills and show them in action. Follow these general rules for writing a good cover letter or review our Cover Letter Guide.

  • Keep the cover letter short (less than one page) and written in the tone of the organization
  • Tell the organization why their mission connects with the work you hope to do
  • Explain why you are the right person for the job and support it by discussing why you have some of the skills listed in the position description
  • Offer contact information and outline a plan to follow up (if able)
  • If you are sending your files digitally to an employer, make sure to include your name and the words “cover letter” in the file name, it will make it easy for employers to locate your file (i.e. Last Name, First Name Cover Letter)