Resume & cover letter resources

Samples, tips and resources for perfecting your resume and crafing your cover letter


Sample Resumes

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Resume Reviews

1. VMOCK:  an online resume review tool that uses data science, machine learning and natural language processing to provide instant personalized feedback.

2. Resume workshops and employer resume reviews are offered throughout the year: upcoming resume events in Handshake.

3. Schedule a Resume/Cover Letter Review appointment with a member of our team through Handshake.

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Resume Basics

Format

  • 1-page (front only)
  • Margins .5-.75 inch on all four sides
  • Font 10-12 (a sans serif font, like Calibri, may be more reader friendly on a screen)
  • Consistency (with size of dashes, type of bullet point you use, what you choose to bold or italicize throughout, etc.)

Content

  • List the sections of your resume in order of relevance/interest to the reader - your goal is to have all of your related experience at the top of your resume
  • Ditch complete sentences and use phrases beginning with strong active verbs instead
  • Go beyond simply summarizing your duties – demonstrate impact and results when possible
  • Provide the most detail for the related experiences on your resume (3-4 bullet points)
  • List your most revelant bullet points first
  • Use the job description as a guide for skills to highlight

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Engineering Specific Resume Tips

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE TO TARGET YOUR RESUME

If you're applying to a highly technical positon within your field of study and experience, crafting bullet points with technical language, jargon, acronyms, and details may be very appropriate. When applying to an opportunity that's more inter-discplinary or business-oriented, consider framing technical projects or experiences in a way your audience can understand, perhaps removing some of the techincal jargon. How would you describe the experience to a friend outside of the Engineering School? Sometimes sharing the big picture can help you connect more with readers.

Develop a "Master Resume" from which you can subsequently draw to create "Tailored Resumes" for job applications.

PROJECTS

Employers want to read about your projects, including those from the classroom and others you may work on in your free time. Course projects highlight your emerging technical skills and knowledge, as well as your ability to work collaboratively, present your ideas effectively, and meet deadlines. 

Consider including projects in a section titled "Relevant Experience", "Technical Projects", or something similar.

SKILLS

Just as with projects, employers want to learn about the technical skills you've developed in the classroom along with those that are self-taught. Many engineering students have 1-2 lines in their Skills section, for example:

Microsoft Office, experienced in Autodesk Inventor, C/C++, Java, MathCAD, Mathematica, and Eclipse

or

SOLIDWORKS, Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD, MATLAB, Java, Minitab, ImageJ, 3D printing

Depending on your interests, you may find it helpful to include sub-categories of skills to help readers skim them more easily. Below are various way to sub-divide your skills section, with samples directly from the resumes of alumni.

Languages: Java, XML, C, C++, JavaScript, SQL, HTML, UML 
Tools: Borland JBuilder, Sun ONE Studio (Forte), Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Rational Rose, UltraEdit-32, Borland CBuilder, Oracle SQL Plus 
Operating Systems: Windows (XP, 2000, NT), IBM OS/2 2.0, HP-UX 9.0, DEC VMS 4.1, Unix (Linux and Sun Solaris).
Software: Solidworks, MS Office, Autodesk Inventor, Siemens NX 9
Hardware: Electronics prototyping, 3D Printing, Soldering, Oscilloscopes & DMMs for testing/debugging
Programming: Java, C, C++, Python, MATLAB, Embedded Systems, Android; Linux & Terminal
Program & Data Representation: C++, Linux, Assembly, Data Structures & Implementation
Mechatronics: C, Electronics & Prototyping, Debugging, Basic Control Algorithms, CNC Machining

In addition to listing your skills in a stand-alone Skills section, include the skills you most want to highlight (especially if they're mentioned in the job description) in your bullet points as well. By doing so, you're showing an employer a specific instance in which you used the skill, versus simply listing it in the Skills section. For example, "Simulated effect of novel device on blood flow through left ventricle using Autodesk CFD and SOLIDWORKS". 

OTHER EXPERIENCES

If you particpate in hackathons, case competitions, or other skill and knowleged-based challenges, include them on your resume. Employers like to see that you pursue your interests outside of the classroom environment. 

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Crafting Strong Bullet Points

Start by jotting down any of the tasks you remember performing – big or small – for the master version of your resume.

Then for each of those, ask yourself:
WHY did I do this (what was the greater purpose? For example, “Collected and analyzed XYZ data in order to/resulting in/…” and here you continue with sharing what your research is trying to inform or improve – what’s the purpose of the research in terms of knowledge it’s trying to create or what practical application might it have)

WHO did I do this with (highlight examples of teamwork – “Collaborated with a research team of 5…” or “Worked closely with a doctoral student and post-doc to investigate ABC and XYZ in order to…”)

HOW did I do this (share instruments, research/lab techniques, and computer skills you used to complete the task and/or a process you applied)

How can I QUANTIFY this (the number of people you worked with, the number of experiments conducted or pages in a technical report, the % increase or decrease that resulted from your work or the potential % increase or decrease, or a dollar amount – the potential to make, save, fundraise, etc.)

What were the RESULTS of my work and/or what did I ACCOMPLISH? If you were gathering data this summer and found a small way to improve the process that resulted in more accurate measurements or perhaps it reduced the time required to collect samples, you’ve just improved the results for the company or saved the time and money! Share these small or big wins so that future readers get a sense that you bring results to whatever you work on.

You don’t be able to answer every question for every bullet point, and you don’t need to. But by asking these questions, you can create strong bullet points.

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Cover Letter Samples and Tips

A cover letter is a vital tool in marketing yourself to prospective employers for several reasons:
 – An effective cover letter will draw attention to your qualifications and experiences that are most relevant to the position for which you are applying.
 – Employers often use letters to assess the written communication skills that you will need for any position.
 – A letter provides you the opportunity to convey to a potential employer your interest, enthusiasm, and other personal attributes that are not easily expressed in a resume alone.

Cover letters can play an important role in helping you gain interviews. For these reasons, it is important that you prepare your written job search correspondence with as much care as you used when constructing your resume.

What should a cover letter include?

GREETING

Instead of "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam", which you may read elsewhere online, employers tell us that they prefer "Dear Hiring Manager", "Dear (name of company) Recruiting Team", or "Dear FirstName LastName". 

OPENING PARAGRAPH

In the first paragraph, indicate why you are writing and where you heard about the position. Mention UVA and your year and major(s). Make sure to include the specific position title for which you are applying. If an individual or personal contact referred you to the organization, and/or you’ve interacted with company representatives at career fairs, info sessions, or other events, mention their names and events you attended. Consider ending the first paragraph with a sentence that identifies 2-4 skills or experiences you have that will help you contribute to the organization. Keep the first paragraph brief and attention grabbing.

Example 1:  I am a fourth year student at the University of Virginia majoring in Mechanical Engineering as well as minoring in Engineering Business and am writing to apply for the Systems Engineering position at Booz Allen Hamilton. While I have harnessed technical skills through the Mechanical Engineering degree, I am also fascinated by the systems development lifecycle and the integration of product teams and groups that a systems engineering career presents. I enjoyed speaking to (Recruiter's Name) at the Engineering Career fair as well as talking to some UVA alumni. After learning more about the company, I believe that I have the strong technical skills, academic background, and enthusiasm to work for and contribute to the successful atmosphere of Booz Allen Hamilton.

Example 2:  Over the last few weeks, I met with you and many of your coworkers to learn about Deloitte and how to become a member of the Deloitte team. After hearing presentations, talking to representatives at events and career fairs and reading about an available position on the firm’s website and through Handshake at the University of Virginia, I am interested in a Federal Business Technology Analyst position with your firm upon completion of my degree. I will be graduating this May with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering. I believe the fit between my skills and interests and your needs would make me an asset to your organization.

Example 3:  I am a senior Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Virginia (UVA), and I have had a strong interest in the automotive community ever since my father first took me out to the garage to work on our vehicles. I've continued to explore this interest during my time at UVA, where I've served as President of our team for the SAE Mini Baja Competition. When I'm not in the classroom, I'm often working on a 1986 K5 Blazer as a personal project. I am emailing you because I am very interested in a full-time entry-level position with International Truck and Engine Corporation and believe that my hands-on project experience, technical expertise, and strong teamwork skills would allow me to be an asset to your team.  

BODY PARAGRAPHS

In one or two paragraphs, detail how you can contribute to the company. Think about concrete examples that illustrate you have the qualifications and skills you identified at the end of the first paragraph. Tell a story about these previous experiences to help the firm understand that you’ll be able to bring these same skills to their team. Make sure not to reproduce your resume in this space, but rather highlight your most pertinent experiences. If you have access to a position description or job listing, specifically address how your background matches the qualifications they are seeking. Your objectives here are to demonstrate that you are a “match” for the position and to stimulate enough interest that the contact person will want to read your resume. Create a “need” for yourself at the company, and indicate your willingness to contribute to the organization.

Example 1: I have been involved in academic projects that have further helped my teamwork and analytical problem solving skills. In my Introduction to Engineering class, I worked with four other peers to design an off-road baby stroller. We had a customer that introduced himself to the class and gave criteria for the stroller and how it would be tested. As such, we designed, tested, and pitched our stroller to the customer. Through this project I gained valuable design, teamwork, and communication experience that I am excited to utilize in an internship with XYZ company.

Example 2

I initially became interested in consulting because of the opportunity to work with intelligent, driven and creative people. However, it is the fact that consultants utilize their skills to solve real world issues that motivated me to apply for a position at Deloitte. As a BTA, I want to apply my strong problem solving skills and creativity to help clients solve business and IT problems or capitalize on business opportunities. Through my coursework, I have developed the abilities to perform research, integrate information, determine the best solution, and design a plan for its implementation. Many of my courses allowed me to take the work a step further by testing proposals in the real world in areas ranging from medical device design to the improvement of preexisting consumer products. Just as important as the specific abilities I developed through my coursework is the mindset that I formed – a mindset that values practical solutions and visible results. I believe my abilities and mindset would make a career with Deloitte particularly rewarding for me and beneficial for Deloitte’s clients.

My courses often required function as part of a team. This experience helped me develop the skills needed to be an effective team member including the ability to communicate efficiently and effectively with others. I have learned that I possess the flexibility and professionalism necessary to succeed in a group setting, and am excited about the opportunity to draw upon these same attributes when interacting directly with clients and coworkers. As a firm that prides itself on not only developing recommendations but taking the process a step further to deliver tangible results, I believe my experiences are compatible with the mission of Deloitte. I look forward to the opportunity to further discuss my qualifications with you at your convenience.

Example 3: 

I first learned of International Truck and Engine Corporation through my father, who drove a tractor trailer for years.  He would tell me about all the different types of tractors, who made their engines, and which ones were the best. I later saw advertisements on television for the International Power Stroke Diesel and as I come to a close in my college career I realized that I should further my research into your company. I read on your website that you are a fairly large company with many different disciplines, which truly excited me. The ability to see multiple different aspects of a project and how they interact with each other is very important for younger engineers to gain experience with project management. Through my work on the SAE Baja cars, I have had the ability to manage multiple different teams and integrate their designs into one complete vehicle. Also, as the lead of one of those teams, I have had the opportunity to design, analyze, and fabricate multiple components and then incorporate them into a finalized car.

This past summer, I was granted an internship position with NASA under the USRP program. In this position, I conducted multiple CFD analyses using CFDesign. The skills which I gained from using this program would be immensely useful for setting up and analyzing intake flow rates and exhaust flow rates and EGT’s via the heat transfer capabilities.  I also created multiple CAD drawings of mounting brackets for experimental equipment to fly on a DC-8 aircraft.

CLOSING PARAGRAPH

In the closing paragraph, thank readers for their time and consideration. Share your contact information (one email address and phone number – the same ones you share on your resume) and mention that you look forward to hearing from them.

Example 1:  If there is any other information I can provide you with that would be helpful as you assess my candidacy, please contact me at PHONE or at EMAIL. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration!

Example 2:  Attached, please find a copy of my resume.  I will be contacting you in the coming weeks to discuss further opportunities within your company.  Please feel free to contact me at (xxx) xxx-xxxx or by email at xxxxx@virginia.edu if you have any questions.  Thank you for your time and serious consideration.

Example 3:  Attached to the Handshake site is my resume for review. Please feel free to contact me at PHONE or at EMAIL if you have any further questions or would like additional credentials. Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

And, be sure to include a professional closing of choice, such as "Sincerely" or "Best regards" before including your first and last name.