Career Center M30

Resume and Cover Letter FAQ

Questions?

  • Career Center
    202-885-1804
    Fax: 202-885-1861
    careercenter@american.edu
    Butler Pavilion, Room 5th Floor

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    Fernando, Gihan S
    Executive Director-Career Center

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Answers You Need

No two resumes are alike. In fact, everyone has something different to offer an employer. If you’re wondering how to present your unique experience, don’t panic. Review answers from your career advisors to these frequently asked questions.

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THE RESUME


How long should it be?

The length of your resume depends on how much relevant experience you have. Generally, undergraduate students, and occasionally grad students, have just enough information to fill one page. If you have a significant amount of experience that is of interest to an employer, then two pages are appropriate. Keep in mind that employers will only read your second page if your first page captures their attention.


Should I include information from high school?

It depends on your year in college and the amount of experience you have. If you are a freshman or sophomore, you may include your high school information, but as you progress through college and gain additional experience and skills, your high school achievements become less relevant to employers.


Should I include my GPA?

The importance of GPAs varies according to industry and occupation. If your GPA is 3.5 or higher, you should include it. If your GPA in your major is higher than your overall GPA, you may indicate both, listing your major’s GPA first. If you choose to include your GPA, be sure that it is accurate because you may be asked to verify it later in the hiring process.


I’ve worked part-time and during the summer, but I’m not sure that my experience is relevant to the position I want. Should I include it anyway?

In most cases, yes. Through every experience, you develop “transferable skills” that you can use in future positions. Think about the skills required for the position that you seek and then describe how you demonstrated those skills in previous positions. Examples of transferable skills include written and verbal communication, research, planning, organization, problem solving, and customer service.


How proficient do my computer or language skills have to be in order to include them?

If you are confident that you can fulfill the duties of the position with your existing skills, include them on your resume. Do not inflate your abilities, but rather describe them as basic, intermediate, or advanced.


Should I include references on my resume or state that they’re available upon request?

Generally, no. Employers expect you to have references and typically request a list once you advance to the interview stage. Discover more answers to frequently asked questions about references.


Should I use the same resume to apply for different positions?

No. The most effective resumes are tailored to specific employers or positions and highlight knowledge, skills and experiences that directly relate to the qualifications and duties of the position you seek. Do your research and include keywords that employers will recognize as they quickly scan your resume.


How do I create a resume from scratch?

The quickest and easiest way to create a resume is to use the Career Center’s templates which you can tailor for your degree program or career objective.


THE COVER LETTER


Do I always have to submit a cover letter with my resume?

Yes. A well-written and compelling cover letter increases the chances of your resume being reviewed, and a strong, tailored resume increases the likelihood of you being offered an interview. If an internship or job listing does not indicate that a cover letter is required, take the initiative and send one anyway. An employer will recognize and appreciate your professionalism and enthusiasm for the position or organization.


When and how should I follow up after submitting my cover letter and resume?

It is appropriate to follow up with an employer in 7 – 10 days to confirm receipt of your application materials and to inquire about where the employer is in the hiring process. Unless the position listing discourages phone calls, you may contact the employer via e-mail or phone. If you do not have the employer’s contact information, research the organization’s Web site or call the main number and ask to be transferred to the appropriate person.


How many times should I follow up with the same employer?

Follow-ups can be tricky because you want to demonstrate your genuine interest and enthusiasm for the position without annoying the employer. Generally, one follow-up attempt should suffice. If you send an e-mail or leave a voicemail, you should state your reason for writing or calling and then invite the employer to contact you for more information or to schedule an interview. If, after a month or so, you notice that the position is still advertised, you may follow up one more time to reiterate your interest and qualifications.


What format should I use to write other professional letters?

The cover letter format with left-justified text is most common and can be applied to other letter types, including application; networking; acceptance, decline, or withdrawal; follow-up; and thank you.

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