"I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for helping with my resume. I asked my boss why I got the job. Well her explanation was that a lot of people that were qualified had applied, but she was more impressed with my resume than any of theirs because it was tailored to this specific job. I had no experience, and this wasn't my “wheel house” of work, but she loved that I made such a huge effort to make my experience work with what they needed. I honestly owe all of that to you, so thank you for everything you have taught me about resumes and for basically constructing that specific one from the ground up. THANK YOU - THANK YOU - THANK YOU."

Karlee M. (SUU, Masters of Public Administration, Class of 2019)

How to Write a Resume, Cover Letter, and Reference List

The quality of your professional documents can get you in the door for an interview—or get you overlooked. Read below to find out what impresses employers and makes you stand out on your resume, cover letter, and reference list. All three are important, so be sure you’re confident writing all of them. You can also download this information as a PDF packet

Resume

The goal of a resume is to get you an interview. All information and formatting should serve that purpose. See each section below for details on how to make your resume shine!

Note: Be sure that you connect with people at the organization—if you just submit a resume online, you will hear nothing back 95% of the time (Burnett & Evans, 2016, p. 129; Dalton, 2012, p. 3). For more information on job searching and networking, see How to Job Search Effectively.

Unless you are a word-processing wizard, it can be helpful to start with a template. Unfortunately, many of the resume templates you’ll find are not very helpful. Below is a clean, professional template that highlights what employers want to see. Be sure you know your industry before choosing to make your resume more visually complex.



Note: If you are applying to work as a graphic designer, artist, or marketer, you will need to make the format of your resume show your artistic/design skills.


Below is a sample of an effective resume. Be sure to keep reading each of the sections to get information on how to make your resume impressive to employers.

Sample Resume

Notes on format

  • Use bullet points. Our eyes read in an “E” pattern—if you use paragraphs, it’s likely the employer will miss important content in the middle of a paragraph. 
  • Use legible professional fonts such as Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, Century, etc., and keep the same fonts throughout your resume.
  • Use 1 inch margins for all four sides. If you go smaller than 1 inch, be careful to compensate for the loss of white space. Never go smaller than ½ inch.
  • Be consistent!
    • Use the same fonts throughout your resume.
    • Use exactly the same date format throughout your resume
    • Be precise and consistent with dashes (en dash for dates, hyphen for specific words). Dashes must always be symmetrical—either a space on both sides, or no space on either side. The only exception is a suspended hyphen.
  • Only send PDFs. Why? Word documents and Google Docs may look different on each device; PDFs look the same across all devices. (The one exception is if you’re sending it for feedback and revision.)
  • Use a clear filename. For example:
    • tom_johnson_resume.pdf
    • sarah_jones_resume.pd

Notes on content

  • The most important information goes at the top, so list education and employment experience from newest to oldest. When deciding what order to list your sections in, put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager—is your education or your work experience more impressive?
  • Be careful not to over-represent or under-represent your skills and accomplishments.
    • Example of over-representing: Single-handedly increased sales by 200% in just two days
      • Why this is wrong: Unless you are the business owner and sole employee, you don’t do anything single-handedly. Additionally, a claim that you increased sales by 200% in two days sounds highly suspicious. Be honest!
      • Better: Increased sales by 20% through direct outreach to 500 prior customers by email and phone
    • Example of under-representing: Assisted manager to close on weekend shifts.
      • Why this is wrong: We’re all assisting someone—you assisted your manager, who assisted the owner, who assisted the regional director, etc. If you did the work, say that you did the work!
      • Better: Secured facility each weekend by ensuring all equipment was powered off and all doors were locked, resulting in a 0% incidence rate.

Give the employer your name and contact information at the top of the page in a clear format. Note that the header on your resume, cover letter, and reference list should be identical.


Name

Your name should be big and bold. If you’d like to be known by a nickname, you can put it in parentheses like this: Victoria (Tori) Johnson.


Contact information

  • Email & phone number. You definitely need to include an email address and a phone number so the employer knows how to contact you.

  • Address. Only list your mailing address if you have an address near the employer that can show you’re a local. Why? No employer is going to send paper mail to candidates, and if you put your Cedar City address on an application to work in Las Vegas, New York, or Tokyo, it may work against you.

  • LinkedIn URL. You could miss out on a great opportunity if you skip this. Why? The first thing an employer will do after they read a good resume is to google you—and you have almost no control over what comes up in a search. But when you provide them your LinkedIn URL, you’re sending them directly to your best online advertisement of yourself. The only time you should skip including a LinkedIn URL is if you need a job right away and don’t have time to polish your LinkedIn profile.

    Note that you should personalize your LinkedIn URL so it’s not just a random string of alphanumeric characters. After all, which would you rather type in?
    • A: linkedin.com/in/janedoe-89856039/
    • B: linkedin.com/in/janedoe

For more tips on LinkedIn, visit LinkedIn for Students.


Example 1:

Jane Doe

Home: 444.555.9999  •  Mobile: 444.666.7777  •  janedoe@email.com  •  linkedin.com/in/janedoe


Example 2:

Zhaohui (John) Li

555.666.8888 •  john.li26@email.com •  linkedin.com/in/johnli26

The summary section is the best chance to seize the employer’s attention by highlighting why you are a good fit for the job. In 4-6 bullet points, briefly summarize your qualifications & attributes as they relate to the specific job you are applying for.


Note: Do not use an objective statement! These are redundant (they already know your objective is to get a job with them) and have been obsolete since at least 2008.


First line: Working title & experience

The first line should give you a working title related to the industry and state how much experience you have in that field.


  • First line examples:
    • Claims analyst expert with approximately 2 years of experience
    • Outdoor recreation expert with experience guiding tours, leading nature walks, and educating adults and children 
    • Caring, consistent Social Worker with experience in clinical and community settings

Target the summary to the job you want

If you’re applying for a specific position you saw in a job ad, then target your summary directly to the keywords and qualifications in the job ad. If you’re applying for a job that is not listed (remember that 80% of jobs are unlisted—see the “Research specific jobs” section of this page for details), target your summary to the employer or industry by reading job ads similar to what you want, reading the organization’s about page, and reading LinkedIn profiles of people working in the industry.


See the examples below to get an idea of how to write your summary.


Example 1:

  • Claims Analyst expert with approximately 2 years of experience
  • Diversified experience with reviewing initial claims for providers, insurance agencies, and long-term care; denied claims; adjudication processes; random file reviews; and audits
  • Detail-oriented with a talent for quickly pinpointing and correcting overlooked errors
  • Technologically savvy: Claims related software (customer databases, claims processing, claims management programs), G Suite, MS Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook
  • Fluent in Spanish and English; skilled interpreter

Example 2:

  • Caring, consistent Social Worker with experience in clinical and community settings
  • Enjoy observing others to determine how to help meet their needs
  • Energetic, patient, and positive, bringing these qualities to interactions by serving and helping clients with a determination to make a difference in their lives
  • Adept at fostering positive relationships, and able to handle challenging circumstances in a calm and professional manner

Example 3:

  • Highly motivated logistics professional with 3 years of experience in Logistics/Distribution Center Operations management.
  • Focused, disciplined, and reliable when working independently or as part of a team.
  • Considerable experience living and working with people from diverse cultures and nations.
  • Skilled in all aspects of logistics, certified in SAP.

You can list your education section first or your experience section first; put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager and think which would be more impressive for them to see first.


Note that you should NOT put your start date for education. Just list the month and year you graduated or that you expect to graduate. You also don’t need to write “expected graduation date”—if the date is in the future, it’s obvious to the employer that you will graduate at that time.


Format your educational experience as follows, with the degree listed first (not the school first):

Degree Obtained – Minor or concentration

Month and year of completion

Name of University, City, STATE

  • Special accomplishments or achievements (i.e. GPA, Honor Society, etc.)
  • Any coursework relevant to the position

Below are two examples using the principles listed above.


Example 1:

BFA, Studio Arts – Emphasis in Illustration

May 2020

Southern Utah University, Cedar City, UT

  • 4.0 GPA
  • National Society of Leadership and Success
  • Key coursework: Narrative Illustration, Portrait & Figure Painting, Digital Illustration, 20th & 21st Century Art

Example 2:

BA, Communication Studies – Minor in Media Studies

December 2024

Southern Utah University, Cedar City, UT

  • 3.8 GPA
  • Key coursework: Interpersonal Communication • Team Work, Decision Making, and Leadership • Advanced Public Speaking • Organizational Communication • Conflict Management

Accomplishment statements—why they matter 


The way you talk about your experience on your resume can impress an employer or leave them yawning. Consider the following three statements—if you were an employer looking at a resume, which of these would impress you the most?


  • Assisted with marketing events
  • Marketed 3 campus-wide events to 11,000 students
  • Increased awareness of global soccer culture by marketing 3 campus-wide events to 11,000+ students

Statement 1 just lists a task and doesn’t show why that task was important. Statement 3 focuses on results! By doing so, Statement 3 clearly shows the next employer that this individual has valuable experience and gets great results.


Accomplishment statements—how to write them (the PARQ rule)


Statements that impress employers use four elements, known as the PARQ rule:

  1. Power verb
    • Start each bullet with a strong verb. See the power verbs section below for a list of strong power verbs by category.
  2. Action
    • Tell what you did to get the great results.
  3. Result
    • Show how you made a difference, and who you helped. This is the most important component! Generally, for each accomplishment, you can either focus on how you made a difference for your clients/customers or for your team/organization.
  4. Quantify
    • Whenever possible, quantify your work with numbers

Looking back at our example statement:


  • Increased awareness of global soccer culture by marketing 3 campus-wide events to 11,000+ students

We can see that this statement contains each of these elements:

  • Power verb: Increased
  • Action: Marketed 3 campus-wide events
  • Result: Increased awareness of global soccer culture
  • Quantify: 11,000+ students

If you’re having trouble writing an accomplishment statement using the PARQ rule, it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How would I tell my friends or parents the story of the work I did?
  • Who did I help?
  • How did I make a difference?

What to include

Volunteer/unpaid work is still experience! The employer doesn’t care whether you got paid in dollars or in warm fuzzies; they care that you can work with a team and get great results. Moreover, adding volunteer/unpaid experiences can help show that:

  • You weren’t unemployed. During the “gap” between paid positions, you were actually busy digging wells in Zimbabwe, building orphanages in Mexico, teaching English in China, etc. That’s impressive, so share it!
  • You are super involved. While you were a full-time student, you were also Secretary of the Southern Utah Polynesian Club (where you helped organize the Polynesian Cultural Showcase attended by over 500 community members), and taught Sunday School lessons to 15 children each week. When an employer sees that you did more than just study, they know they can expect you to be involved in their organization, not just show up for a paycheck.

Here are some examples of things you should include: Sports team captain, club treasurer, missionary, community event organizer, Sunday school teacher, tech support for your uncle’s business, soup kitchen volunteer. Note that if you’re concerned about discrimination, you can list church service under other names, like volunteer teacher, humanitarian volunteer, etc.


Experience format

The format for each of your experiences (paid or unpaid/volunteer) is very similar to your education experience, except that you will list your start and end dates. Note that “Current” is NOT a date! If you’re still doing the job, write “Present”.


Format your work (paid or unpaid/volunteer) experience as follows, with the position title first (not the company first):

Job Title, Company, City, State

Dates of Employment

  • Write 3-4 accomplishment statements for positions that show you are qualified for the job you are applying to
  • Write a minimum of 1 accomplishment statement for positions that are not as relevant

Below are two examples using the principles listed above.


Example 1:

Claims Analyst I, Optimum Care Insurance, Salt Lake City, UT

Jan 2019 - Present
  • Reduced backlog by examining 300+ reimbursement requests on existing Long-Term Care claims
  • Protected company from fraud by carefully considering, documenting, and referring each potential case for further action and review
  • Regional responsibilities increased from 5 to 15 states due to demonstrated ability to rapidly learn the complexities of policy parameters and state requirements
  • Recorded 100% on-time reporting and compliancy rating

Example 2:

Volunteer, Community Church, Enoch, UT

May 2017 - Jun 2020

  • Prepared 25 new volunteers for high-impact roles through training and mentoring
  • Raised over $10,000 in donations for building repair and maintenance by leading 7-member team to plan and implement community fundraising events
  • Helped 12 children grow in their ability to serve others by preparing and teaching thoughtful, individualized Sunday School lessons
Limit your resume sections to the header, summary, education, and experience—unless there is something you need to include that won’t logically fit anywhere else, and you’re confident that adding a section will help get you an interview. This might include special training, memberships, languages, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, etc. (note that volunteer work should normally go under the “Experience” section).

Here are power verbs listed by category, credit to Wake Forest University.

Management/Leadership Skills

administered

controlled

generated

managed

reorganized

analyzed

converted

Handled

merged

replaced

appointed

decided

headed

motivated

restored

approved

developed

hired

organized

reviewed

assigned

directed

hosted

originated

scheduled

attained

elevated

improved

overhauled

streamlined

authorized

eliminated

incorporated

oversaw

strengthened

chaired

emphasized

increased

planned

supervised

considered

enforced

initiated

presided

terminated

coordinated

enhanced

inspected

prioritized

 

consolidated

established

instituted

produced

 

contracted

executed

led

recommended

 

 

Communication/People Skills

addressed

conveyed

expressed

mediated

reinforced

advertised

convinced

formulated

moderated

reported

arbitrated

corresponded

furnished

negotiated

resolved

arranged

debated

incorporated

observed

responded

articulated

defined

influenced

outlined

solicited

authored

described

interacted

participated

specified

clarified

developed

interpreted

persuaded

spoke

collaborated

directed

interviewed

presented

suggested

communicated

discussed

involved

promoted

summarized

composed

drafted

joined

proposed

synthesized

condensed

edited

judged

publicized

translated

conferred

elicited

lectured

reconciled

wrote

consulted

enlisted

listened

recruited

 

contacted

explained

marketed

referred

 

 

Research Skills

analyzed

diagnosed

gathered

located

researched

clarified

evaluated

identified

measured

searched

collected

examined

inspected

organized

solved

compared

experimented

interpreted

summarized

 

conducted

explored

interviewed

surveyed

 

critiqued

extracted

invented

systematized

 

detected

formulated

investigated

tested

 

 

Technical Skills

adapted

converted

fortified

rectified

specialized

assembled

debugged

installed

regulated

standardized

built

designed

maintained

remodeled

studied

calculated

determined

operated

repaired

upgraded

computed

developed

overhauled

replaced

utilized

conserved

engineered

printed

restored

constructed

fabricated

programmed

solved

 

Teaching Skills

adapted

coordinated

explained

instilled

stimulated

advised

critiqued

facilitated

instructed

taught

clarified

developed

focused

motivated

tested

coached

enabled

guided

persuaded

trained

communicated

encouraged

individualized

set goals

transmitted

conducted

evaluated

informed

simulated

tutored

 

Financial/Data Skills

administered

audited

determined

measured

researched

adjusted

balanced

developed

planned

retrieved

allocated

calculated

estimated

programmed

 

analyzed

computed

forecasted

projected

 

appraised

conserved

managed

reconciled

 

assessed

corrected

marketed

reduced

 

 

Creative Skills 

acted

customized

established

integrated

photographed

adapted

designed

fashioned

introduced

planned

began

developed

formulated

invented

revised

combined

directed

founded

modeled

revitalized

conceptualized

displayed

illustrated

modified

shaped

condensed

drew

initiated

originated

solved

created

entertained

instituted

performed

 

 

Helping Skills

adapted

clarified

educated

helped

resolved

advocated

coached

encouraged

insured

simplified

aided

collaborated

ensured

intervened

supplied

answered

contributed

expedited

motivated

supported

arranged

cooperated

facilitated

provided

volunteered

assessed

counseled

familiarize

referred

 

assisted

demonstrated

furthered

rehabilitated

 

cared for

diagnosed

guided

presented

 

 

 

Organization/Detail Skills

approved

corresponded

maintained

purchased

set up

arranged

distributed

monitored

recorded

submitted

cataloged

executed

obtained

registered

supplied

categorized

filed

operated

reserved

standardized

charted

generated

ordered

responded

systematized

classified

implemented

organized

reviewed

updated

coded

incorporated

prepared

routed

validated

collected

inspected

processed

scheduled

verified

compiled

logged

provided

screened

 

 

Miscellaneous

achieved

exceeded

reduced(losses)

spearheaded

transformed

completed

improved

resolved(issues)

succeeded

won

expanded

pioneered

restored

surpassed

 

Cover Letter

When you apply for a job, including a cover letter shows that you are professional and thoughtful. It gives the employer a little more information about why you want that specific job and how you would benefit them.

Below is a clean, professional template that highlights what employers want to see, and that matches the SUU resume template.



Note: The header and fonts on your cover letter, resume, and reference list should match exactly.


Below is a sample of an effective cover letter.

Sample Cover Letter

When there is no space to upload a cover letter, you can combine your resume, cover letter, and reference list into one PDF, but they should still be formatted as three different pages.


Notes on format

  • Match the format of your header and fonts to your resume. See the resume section for more details.
  • Only send PDFs. Why? Word documents and Google Docs may look different on each device; PDFs look the same across all devices. (The one exception is if you’re sending it for feedback and revision.)
  • Use a clear filename. For example:
    • tom_johnson_cover_letter.pdf
    • sarah_jones_cover_letter.pdf
  • Below the header, list today’s date.
  • Leave a space, then list the full name, position, and address of the person who will make the hiring decision.
    • Can’t find their name? First try searching their website or calling their HR department. If you still can’t find it, you can use “Hiring Manager” or “Selection Committee”.
  • Leave a space, then write Dear Mr. / Ms. / Mrs. / Dr. Lastname (or Position Title):
    • Never use “To Whom It May Concern”. If you weren’t able to find their last name or position title through an internet search or by calling their HR department, it is acceptable to use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Selection Committee”.

First paragraph

Explain why you are writing. State the exact position you are applying for and how you found out about it. Find company-specific information and relate it to your interests.


Example

At a community gathering two weeks ago, I spoke with Bob Anderson, a Director at Monticello Insurance Solutions. After discussing my diverse experience as a Claims Analyst, he encouraged me to apply for the open position as a Claims Analyst Supervisor. Based on your reputation of providing excellent customer service and a family-friendly work environment, I am excited to apply for this position, and feel that I would be a great fit for your team.


Second paragraph

Explain the reasons why you are a unique and strong candidate for the position. Use the qualifications and duties sections of the job ad as your guide to target your information. Remember, the employer will look at your resume next, so do not just repeat what they will see in your resume. Keep this section concise (same for the entire letter—do not exceed one page total) while highlighting your skills, experiences, characteristics, and/or accomplishments which make you a great candidate for the job.


Example

I have two years of experience as a Claims Analyst, progressing from Summer Intern to Claims Analyst I during this time. My experience is diversified, allowing me the capability to work in various types of insurance and claims processes including claims analysis, fraud, risk management, training and development, claims management, claims auditing, field auditing, and many more. The quality of my work is evident by my appointment as mentor/trainer to others in my unit within one year of becoming a Claims Analyst I. I pride myself in quality work and leadership as evidenced by my 100% on-time reporting and compliancy rating.


Final paragraph

Ask for an interview, say thank you, and let them know when you are available.


Example 1

Thank you for taking the time to consider my resume. I am readily available for an interview and look forward to hearing from you.


Example 2

I hope that you will carefully consider my enclosed resume as I am excited about the potential to bring my enthusiasm for claims to a quality team like Monticello Insurance Solutions. Thank you for considering me for this position. I am readily available for an interview and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Leave a space below the final paragraph, then type “Sincerely,” and leave a space big enough to write your signature. Below the signature space, type your full name (the same way you listed it in the header).


Since this is a formal letter, it will look totally bizarre and unprofessional if you don’t sign it. There are many ways to get a signature on your cover letter, including:


  • Print the letter, use an ink pen to sign it, then scan the whole document as a PDF
  • Use a digital device (smartphone, tablet, etc.) to write your signature
  • Scan an ink signature, then add it to the document as an image
  • Sign a blank paper, take a photo, add it to the document and adjust the brightness and contrast

Reference List

Including a reference list with your application is a great way to connect employers with people who are impressed with your work and will advocate for you getting hired.

Below is a clean, professional template that highlights what employers want to see, and that matches the SUU templates for resumes and cover letters.



Note: The header and fonts on your cover letter, resume, and reference list should match exactly.


Below is a sample of an effective reference list.

Sample reference

When there is no space to upload a reference list, you can combine your resume, cover letter, and reference list into one PDF, but they should still be formatted as three different pages.


Notes on format

  • Match the format of your header and fonts to your resume and cover letter. See the resume section for more details.
  • Only send PDFs. Why? Word documents and Google Docs may look different on each device; PDFs look the same across all devices. (The one exception is if you’re sending it for feedback and revision.)
  • Use a clear filename. For example:
    • tom_johnson_references.pdf
    • sarah_jones_cover_references.pdf

Always list three references, unless an employer specifies they want more or fewer. Include the following information:

      Firstname Lastname

    • Position Title
    • Organization
    • 123 Any St
    • City, ST 84720
    • 555.555.5555
    • email@email

Firstname Lastname was my ___ while I worked as ___ for ___ from YYYY to YYYY.

      Example 1:

      Thomas Smith

    • Executive Manager
    • Optimum Care Insurance
    • 123 Midvalley St.
    • Salt Lake City, UT 84044
    • 888.555.9999
    • ocitsmith@email.com

Thomas Smith is my executive manager in my current position as Claims Analyst I for OptimumCare Insurance from January 2019 to Present.

      Example 2:

    • Jocelyn Miller
    • Provider Relations Supervisor
    • Nightingale Health System
    • 555 East Frontage St.
    • Salt Lake City, UT 84046
    • 888.555.9999
    • j.miller@email.com


Jocelyn Miller was my direct supervisor while I worked as an intern for Nightingale HealthSystem from 2017 to 2018.

      Example 3:

      Dr. Erick Whittaker

    • Business Administration Professor
    • Southern Utah University
    • 351 West University Blvd.
    • Cedar City, UT 84720
    • 888.555.9999
    • erickwhittaker@email.com

Dr. Erick Whittaker is my Business Administration Professor at Southern Utah University from Spring 2018 to Present.

Need more help? Visit us during virtual and in-person walk-in hours, or make an appointment.


Works Cited

Burnett, B. & Evans, D. (2016) Designing your life: How to build a well-lived, joyful life. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Dalton, S. (2012) The 2-hour job search: Using technology to get the right job faster. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Wake Forest University. (n.d.) Resumes. opcd.wfu.edu