Once you've found the right fit (and understand what the company requires for an application), it's time to put the final touches on your application materials, including your cover letter and resume.
Step 2: the application process
How to write a cover letter
A cover letter allows you to express your interest in and enthusiasm for the position and the organization. It also allows you to highlight skills or experiences that are especially relevant to the position, demonstrate your written communication skills, and strengthen your chances of securing an interview. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to create a cover letter:
- Briefly state why you’re writing
- Mention the specific job title and how you heard about the opening
- If you have a personal connection to the organization, mention that person’s name
- Mention something you know or respect about the organization
- State how your skills, education, or experience match the requirements of the position
- Use one or two specific examples and short stories to provide evidence of relevant skills, strengths, and accomplishments, without repeating your resume word for word
- Mention how the experiences you wrote about will let you help the employer
- Refer to the enclosed resume and provide your phone number and email address to make it easy to contact you
- Express your appreciation for the employer’s time and consideration
You’ll want to answer these questions:
- What is something unique about this organization that appeals to you?
- What is a skill you want to highlight? (i.e., ability to work in a team)
- What is an example or story that demonstrates that skill? (i.e., student research experience in a lab with seven other peers)
And remember to do these things:
- Remember to save the file as a PDF and include your name in the file name, like Smith_Katherine.pdf
- Use block formatting, which is left-aligning the text with double spaces between sections
- Match your resume and cover letter by using the same header on each document
- Make sure you proofread all application materials before submitting
- Remember to avoid restating your resume
Need some inspiration? View an example cover letter.
How to create a resume
When creating a master resume, write down everything you have done since coming to IU. If you are a freshman or sophomore, you can still include experience from high school (only very relevant high school info should be used after sophomore year). List everything, including volunteer experience, internships, jobs, relevant coursework, student clubs or groups, and study abroad. You can then tailor this master resume to a specific position. Get help starting your resume using the guide below:
- Make your name stand out
- Include email, phone, address
- Can include permanent/home and current/school address
- Name of organization/company.
- Location and dates.
- Your position title.
- 2 to 5 bullet points (accomplishment statements).
- Past or present? If you are still doing the job or internship, write in the present tense. If you no longer hold the position, write in the past tense.
- Include jobs, internships, volunteer or leadership experience, study abroad, coursework, and student clubs or groups.
Tailor your experience blocks headings:
- Don’t be too generic. Headings like “Experience,” “Relevant Experience,” or “Activities” don’t help guide the employer.
- Consider how to frame your experience to make it relevant to the position for which are applying. For example, the heading “Graphic Design Experience” tells much more than just “Experience.”
- Research experience and skills can also be highlighted in these blocks
- Write about these experiences just like a job, internship, or club
- Explain what you were researching by answering “how” and “why” for each of your skills
- Don’t forget: you need to focus on skills
- Include only classes that are relevant to the position you want
- Consider projects, research, group work, industry knowledge, or skills you gained
- Include Indiana University and Bloomington, IN
- Include the name of your degree (spell out Bachelor of Arts, Science, etc.)
- Include major, minor, concentrations
- Include GPA (only if above 3.0)
- If you include scholarships/honor societies, be sure to specify what you received it for or why you were inducted
- No need to mention your high school: after sophomore year, only college experiences should be on your resume (unless your high school experience is uniquely relevant to the position)
Sample experience blocks
Universidad de Sevilla, Seville, Spain | Jan.-May 2017
- Adapted to Spanish Culture and developed Spanish fluency through daily interactions with host family and community
- Led a research team on developing social programs and presented findings to the class in Spanish
- Enhanced communication skills by interacting with people of different cultures and languages
Paul Valéry University, Montpellier III, Montpellier, France | May-Dec. 2017
- Increased French language proficiency through daily communication with French peers
- Bolstered knowledge of French culture through extensive classroom study and host family experience
Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand | July-Oct. 2016
- Conducted research and implemented surveys to learn teaching habits of Thai educators
- Developed training materials in Thai for educators in public schools focused on improving teaching methods and active learning strategies
- Presented finding of research to educators from various countries in East Asia at an annual committee meeting
- Immersed in culture and language of Thai daily life, gaining leadership, cross-cultural communication, and problem-solving skills.
How to articulate language proficiency according to Linkedin
Level 0: N/A
Level 1: Elementary Proficiency
Level 2: Limited Working Proficiency
Level 3: Professional Working Proficiency
Level 4: Full Professional Proficiency
Sample skills + abilities gained
- Cultural Sensitivity
- Problem Solving
- Organizational Skills
- Teamwork Skills
- Dealing with ambiguity
Use the formula Skill Verb + How + Why
An example of a completed accomplishment statement would be “Plan educational experiences such as museum trips for group of five to increase cultural engagement.”
- Start with a strong action verb for each bullet.
- Explain how you demonstrated this skill: What did you do? Who did you work with?
- Explain why you used the skill or the result: What did you accomplish? How were people impacted?
Need help finding the right way to articulate your skills? Use our helpful list of skill verb examples.
Should you include a skills section?
In the resume examples, we have included the technical skills this student has gained through her science major and experiences. Employers will often reference this section to learn about your technical skills.
Your transferable skills, such as written communication, teamwork, and leadership skills should be highlighted in your accomplishment statements. By including them in your accomplishment statements, you have more space to expand on and demonstrate those non-technical skills.
How to explain language skills
- Literate: Can comfortably read and write the language.
- Conversational: Can speak the language.
- Proficient: Can read, write, and speak the language well.
- Fluent: Can read, write, and speak the language with similar skill to a native speaker. (You must be prepared to be interviewed and work in this language.)
Include software, languages, and hardware experiences required for the job, as well as your skill level.
Include information about laboratory procedures or techniques you can conduct or equipment you can operate
- Keep your resume to one page: it is a summary of your most relevant experiences (the length may vary from industry to industry; it is important to do research on industry standards)
- Keep it simple: Use the same formatting throughout to make your resume easy to read
- Spell check: errors do not make a good first impression
- Do not include personal information: this includes birth date, ethnicity, interests, or hobbies
- No need to mention that you have references: employers will request them
- Spell it out: no abbreviations
Need help visualizing what your resume should look like? Take a look at some example resumes.
We're here to help you shine
Did you know you can upload your resume for us to critique? Our peer coaches will submit notes and suggestions back to you, usually by the next day!