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Written Communication

From creating a resume to writing a cover letter, your written communication speaks volumes about your skills and confidence level. Understanding communication etiquette is fundamental to job search success.

Resume Building

A resume is a personal marketing tool with the sole purpose of getting an interview. Remember: the resume is just to get you in the door, the interview is for getting the job!

Resumes contain a sample of your written communication skills that includes a  summary of your education, experience, skills, and qualifications. Each component on your resume should support your career objective. One way to begin your resume is to list everything you have ever done from your first day of college. Then, eliminate the items that are not as relevant to your career objective. You will find that you have more relevant experience than you think.

Required Information

Contact Information
At the top of the resume identify yourself by name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Make sure you use a professional-sounding email address (hint: your Trinity email address sounds professional).

List all institutions of higher education attended where degrees or certificates were received in reverse chronological order. List degree(s) earned, including majors, minors and concentrations. List your grade point average (GPA), but only if above 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Major GPA can be included if it is better than your cumulative, just be certain to label it as such.

Prospective employers read this section with the thought, “How does this person’s experiences and abilities relate to this position and my organization’s needs?” Therefore, this section should highlight these areas for the employers. Experience includes internships, volunteer work, senior projects, job shadowing, and student teaching. It includes both paid and unpaid experience. Use action words and highlight your specific personal accomplishments when describing your experiences.  Always list experiences in reverse chronological order.

Optional Components

The objective statement should precisely state what you are looking for in a position. Its main purpose is to communicate to prospective employers that you are specifically interested in their organization and a posted job. If you do not have a clear objective in mind, or if you cannot make it specific, do not include one. 

Additional Components
Additional components should be used if they offer supporting evidence of your qualifications for the job. Choose headings that are descriptive of the material that follows.
Examples include: Computer Skills, Honors, Professional Associations, Publications, Research, Relevant Courses, Leadership, or any other heading that may support your career objective statement.

Professional References

References should not be on the actual resume but on a separate page and only when asked for. Professional references means individuals who supervised your work or academic experience; do not use peers or family members as references.

Additionally, always ask for permission to use someone as a reference. List your reference's name, mailing address, telephone number, and email if they give permission for that.

Additional Tips

Your resume should be as tailored as possible to the job for which you are applying. What are the experiences that make you a good fit for the position? The key is to make your resume not just sound impressive but have real relevance to the job in question. Your most recent experience may not be the one which you wish to highlight. If this is the case, consider a functional rather than a chronological format for your resume.

Resumes should only be one page in most circumstances. Employers only spend 15-30 seconds on each resume so the important information should stand out.

Scannable and electronic resumes require less formatting and minimal graphics. Anytime you have to submit a resume via an online system or where you anticipate that resumes will be scanned into a database make sure you scale back on formatting and use basic fonts.

Do Not Include

Do not include personal information such as age or marital status. Pictures or hobbies unrelated to the job can work against you.

Do not include high school information if you are past your first year in college; employers are more interested in your college experiences.

Writing a Cover Letter

A cover letter is both an introduction to a prospective employer and a sample of your written communication skills. In general, it outlines your interest in the position and organization, specifies the skills you have, and gives one or two relevant experiences or examples.

How do I begin a cover letter?

Cover letters should be brief (no more than one page) but provide enough information to entice the recruiter to read your resume and invite you to interview. Recruiters can pick out a generic or formula cover letter very quickly. This guide will explain the general components of cover letters, but you should adapt your cover letters as needed to show that you are a qualified and unique candidate.

Things to Include

First Paragraph
State your reason for writing and how you learned of the opportunity or organization. This is where you capture the reader’s interest! Demonstrate your knowledge of the employer. Do some company research - look in newspapers, magazines, company literature, the Career Insider, faculty, alumni (employees), career advisors, etc.

Middle Paragraph(s)
Briefly mention why you are interested in the position and the organization. Describe your qualifications. If you are a recent graduate, explain how your academic background makes you a qualified candidate in addition to practical work experience such as internships, student leadership, research, volunteer work. When applicable, point out your related achievements and qualifications. Relate yourself to the company by explaining why you are a strong candidate.

Be sure to refer to your resume but try not to repeat resume content verbatim. Instead, elaborate on one or two positive significant experiences or achievements. Reference the position description to identify one or two key qualifications or experiences to emphasize in the letter. For example, if the position requires group presentations and you have spoken in front of large groups, provide this information.

Final Paragraph
Thank the prospective employer and indicate your interest in a personal interview. Never suggest times or places for interviews but rather indicate your willingness to meet them at their convenience. It is also helpful to give a timeline for your follow-up.

Finally, close your letter with a statement that will encourage a follow-up response from the reviewer.

Additional Cover Letter Tips

  • Address the letter to a specific individual. If you are not sure to whom to address it, contact the company to find out the name of the hiring official, verify the spelling of his or her name, and the correct title. If a name is not available, address your letter to the position (i.e., Dear Personnel Director or Dear Manager).
  • Use matching paper for resume, cover letter, and envelope.
  • Customize your letter for each employer. Mass produced letters are easily detected and show a lack of sincere interest. The tone of the letter should always be positive and confident.
  • Sign your letters with black ink.
  • Avoid negativity, boasting, exaggeration, insincerity, and inconsistency. Take time to demonstrate enthusiasm and creativity, but avoid statements like, “I’m dying to get a PR job.”

Email Etiquette

Responding to an email from a potential employer may be one of the first points of contact you make with him or her.

  • Always respond within two business days
  • Include the original message in the reply, so the recipient can put your email into the correct context
  • Do not assume that if an employer is informal that you should be, too
  • If you are attaching a document, name your document "Your Name - Resume" or "Your Name - Cover Letter." Employers receive hundreds of applications via email; make sure yours is clearly identifiable.