Cover Letters & Resumes: Perfecting the Basics

by Valarie Swayze, Senior Editor, INALJ Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware

Cover Letters & Resumes: Perfecting the Basics

valarie_swayze_300x201Here is a compilation of tools to help you get your cover letter and resume prepared for your next job application. These resources offer a myriad of opinions for formatting, how to convey your personality, and what sections are the most important to feature. Commonalities shared over and over again by the experts include the importance of proper grammar and accurate job history information for your resume to be considered. The tools range from simple infographics to interactive writing guides, and all aim to help highlight your unique experience with a personal touch. It will help you to write a more effective cover letter and resume if you have specific information about the company to which you will be applying, such as the hiring person’s contact name, the company’s mission, and special skills required for the position.


Purdue OWL: Introduction to Resumes – Make your resume count! OWL provides a list of optional sections and offers specific suggestions to tailor your resume for each perspective employer.

ALA JobList: Resumes – the American Library Association resume resource page offers a variety of suggested topics for creating and maintaining your resume, including librarian the Resume Review Service Committee (service requires ALA NMRT membership).

UC Berkeley: Writing Effective Resumes Online Workshop – Excellent example-focused video guide that offers a comparison of presentation formats, sections to consider including, as well as industry and objective-based suggestions. Advice from a panel of human resource representatives provides practical tips for improving resumes and avoiding common mistakes. How to Impress the Robots Reading Your Resume – Entrepreneur offers an entertaining and informative infographic that can help you understand how to tailor your resume to better appeal to filtering technologies, known as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), to make your resume less susceptible to being filtered out of the selection process.

Boston University: Anatomy of a Resume – When researching resume writing you will encounter many terms regarding presentation styles and sections, such as chronological versus functional formats. Anatomy of a Resume is an interactive tool that allows users to identify common formats, sections, and styles with descriptions and tips to help you choose which ones best fit your needs.

Cover Letters

Purdue OWL: Cover Letter Workshop – OWL asserts that the cover letter may be one of the most difficult documents you will write and offers a wide variety of advice regarding formatting as well as writing tips to help you get your audiences’ attention.

The Ladders: How to Write a Great Cover Letter – According to The Ladders’ research-based article on writing a cover letter, generalizations (such as a blanket salutation) can make you seem lazy and work against you. This article provides examples from hiring professionals on content and format to help you connect with perspective employers.

The Muse: The Pain-Free Cover Letter Builder – This interactive tool helps applicants create a custom cover letter (requires Muse account).

Boston University: Anatomy of a Cover Letter – Anatomy of a cover letter is an interactive tool that demystifies the components of a cover letter and provides specific recommendations for each section to help you refine your letter and make an impact.

The Muse: 31 Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter Examples – This article lists introduction suggestions for opening statements to cover letters that will help your resume get attention. You can also sign up for a free cover letter writing guide.