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Don't turn your cover letter and resume into a mass marketing exercise. Get personal. Get revenge. (No, wait, skip that last part.)
Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer
Don’t turn your cover letter and resume into a mass marketing exercise. Get personal. Get revenge. (No, wait, skip that last part.)

Whether you’re angling for a part-time gig at a coffee shop or a summer internship at a swanky corporate office, it’s never too early to craft a stellar resume.

A resume is often your first chance to show a potential boss you’re the best fit for the job, so don’t be humble about your accomplishments. Be specific about your accomplishments — a 4.0 GPA is great, but did you also graduate in the top 1% of your class?

“Quantifying with numbers can make a resume look really sharp,” said Ben Wurzel, a manager in University of Colorado Boulder’s Office of Career Services.

Wurzel said one of the biggest mistakes students make when crafting a resume is leaving out work experience they think isn’t relevant to the job. But any job you’ve had is relevant, he said, because it proves you can hold a job.

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Darren Drouge carried his resume in a Peanuts lunchbox during Tube to Work Day in Boulder. Your resume should be detailed and well written, but don’t go too flashy with the template.

Most employers, particularly for entry-level jobs, are less concerned with specific majors students have but more with the strengths they potentially bring to the table.

Wurzel recommends having a master resume with all your credentials on it, then creating a one-page resume that targets a specific job.

“Keep it simple and basic,” he said. “Stay away from anything that’s too flashy. One important thing to keep in mind is your resume is your marketing material. The goal is not to get the job, it’s to get the interview.”

Equally important is a cover letter that clearly and succinctly convinces a company you’re the best candidate for the job. Don’t just restate what’s listed in your resume — look at what skills the job needs and give specific examples of how you have demonstrated those skills in previous jobs or experiences.

Be confident you’re the right fit and that confidence will come through to the person reading your letter.

You must write individual cover letters for each job you’re applying for — don’t send out mass mailings.

“Do not send out 100 of the same cover letters just changing names of company,” Wurzel said. “For jobs you really want, write a cover letter for each individual job. It shows you’ve done your research and matched what you’ve got to offer with what they’re looking for.”

Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Never write your resume in a hurry. Also never shave in a hurry. Especially downstairs. Give yourself plenty of time to do the job right.

Check, double-check and triple-check your resume and letter for typos — reading starting at the last sentence and reading up often helps — and ask someone you trust to read over your resume and letter, particularly if they have experience in the field you’re pursuing.

Counselors in the Office of Career Services are also willing to take a look and review your efforts and can help you figure out what types of jobs you should apply for in the first place, Wurzel said.

If you can reach out to someone at the company you know through LinkedIn or the CU Alumni Association, all the better. Don’t be shy about asking for help.

“For those looking to enter the job market, it’s essential they understand their strengths, weaknesses, goals and values,” said Brad Graham, licensed professional counselor and founder of Collaborative Careers in Boulder.

Graduating seniors should be actively looking for information about the jobs they are interested in by connecting with people in the industry, he said. Using LinkedIn is a great way to network and find out about potential job opportunities, Graham said, and many people end up finding their first jobs through the people they know.

A professional resume, a solid cover letter and refined interview techniques help market a job seeker better, but nothing beats active networking, Graham said.

Graham said he wants students to know the difference between a job and a career, and to remember: “You’re never too old to get an internship.”

Once you’re asked to interview for a position, make a short list of possible questions you might be asked. Ask classmates to practice interviews with you, and challenge each other with questions that might come up. Often, interviewers want to judge your suitability for the position based on your education and experience and whether you’re willing to learn new skills.

If your phone interview goes well and you’re asked to an in-person interview, dress professionally — yes, if you need to ask, you should iron your shirt —  and show up 10 minutes early.

Above all, remember it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the job. Thank the hiring manager for their time and if you’re open to critique, ask what you could do to improve your chances of landing the next job.

Spring career fair

This year’s spring career fair will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 6 in the UMC Glenn Miller Ballroom.

Learn more at

Craft a killer cover letter

Ah, the cover letter. One of the trickiest skills to master.

In the first paragraph, you say “why them” — why you want to work there.

Use the second paragraph to say “why you” — why they should want you to work there.

And the final paragraph is when you say, “Let’s get together and chat some more.”

Ask for an interview or prompt a follow up, with a line in there about the mutual benefits of bringing you on board. Keep it to a page or shorter.

Nail your next interview

You’ve got your foot in the door. Don’t make them slam it shut on you by looking sloppy and incompetent.

There are three questions every interviewer is thinking when they talk to you: Do you have the skills (or the ability to learn) needed to do the job? Do you have the enthusiasm to do the job? and Do I like you?