College of Media & Communication Career Center
Tips compiled from the advice of employers, career counselors and recent graduates.
- Organize information in a logical and chronological fashion.
- Keep descriptions clear and to the point utilizing action verbs.
- Quantify your experience wherever possible (For example, present budgets, show funds saved or money raised).
- Tailor information to the job you're seeking.
- Use a simple, easy-to-read font, such as Times, Palatino, Helvetica or Arial.
- Confine your information to one page, unless you have extensive experience specifically related to the job or internship.
- Proofread carefully, using a dictionary and stylebook, and have several other people proofread as well.
- Laser print on plain, white or light-colored paper.
- Don't sell yourself short. This is by far the biggest mistake of all resumes. Your experiences are worthy for review by hiring managers.
- Seek help at The COMC Career Center or Career Planning and Placement.
- Begin a "master portfolio" in a three-ring binder with plastic page shields.
- Select items that represent your experience and skills and place them in the binder. You can include news releases, feature articles, memos, brochures, newsletters, student newspaper articles, artwork, synopses and/or photographs of projects, excerpts from extensive plans, award certificates-anything that illustrates your professional skills, experience, and work habits.
- If your work allows, highlight different types of writing skills you have acquired.
- As your experience progresses, eliminate weaker pieces to showcase only your best work.
- When you have a job interview, select the pieces that most clearly represent the skills you'll need for the job. Copy them and place the copies in a smaller binder, folder or stapled packet that includes a copy of your cover letter, resume, references and a table of contents.
- Practice describing the items in your "portable portfolio" with a friend or career counselor. Try to anticipate interview questions that would allow you to refer to the portfolio.
- Do not ever sell yourself short. Utilize pieces from class, work and internships.
- Do not take your "master portfolio" to the interview. Make sure you keep originals of all items in case the smaller portfolio is ever lost or damaged.
- Take your "portable portfolio" to the interview and use it to illustrate answers to interview questions. If you can, leave it with the interviewer so he or she can peruse it further and/or refer it to others involved in the hiring process.
- Absolutely, positively proofread all documents and make sure everything is prepared neatly and professionally.
Tips from the Pros
- "Some of the things we at Edelman look for in portfolios are writing samples that show an understanding of AP style as well as capability to communicate professionally in the business world. Sample press releases (with a correct dateline!), articles, pitches, etc.
I saw an exceptional portfolio from a student who had a binder, divided into sections that included releases, articles, pitches, coverage attained and references… even had a section with some work she had done at an internship (an excel spreadsheet with quotes from editors and analysts regarding a client's product)."
Melissa Anderson, Senior Account Supervisor - Edelman/GTT
- "I like to see examples of writing in whatever area they may be writing in: for PR, some news releases, fact sheets, advisories, and letters; for advertising AE's, the same; for copywriters, ad copy and some concepts possibly in the form of rough layouts. Of course, the writing samples should be flawless. I never have time to read term papers or projects but may glance over them for signs of good writing, organization of information, and strategic thinking."
Patti Douglass, V.P. Account Service - Fellers: A Marketing and Advertising Company
- "I suggest the applicant arrange the work from most significant to least significant and bring a copy of the best work to leave with the interviewer.
When reviewing the portfolio during the interview, the applicant will want to draw out specifics about the project - what they specifically did ("I wrote it, edited it, did illustration/photo work, designed layout, sent it around for review, handled production/printing bids and arrangements" etc). I've had students include Excel spreadsheets to illustrate the budgeting work they did on a big event project (which I found very impressive)."
Roxanne Greene, Marketing Communications Manager - National Instruments
- "I like to review pieces that resulted from a job, an internship, a class, or an organization (i.e. student organization, non-profit organization, church, etc.) and a wide variety of items that showcase the student's design and writing skills, as well as campaign ideas/strategies. If the samples come from a class, I like to see a polished, unmarked piece (i.e. no grade and edit marks).
I have seen news releases, articles that resulted from the news releases, ads, flyers, newsletters, brochures, campaign outlines, newspaper submissions and the actual article that resulted, photography samples, promotional items, invitations, logo creations, media kits, and postcards.
On packaging - as long as it is organized, I'm happy. But, the student leaves a better impression if the packaging is creative and a marketing piece itself."
Misty Heck, Vice President -- Corporate Communications -- Accubanc Mortgage Corporation
- "When I look at a portfolio, I'm looking for varied writing experience, so I like to see news releases, brochures they designed and wrote, event invitations and flyers, booklets, any collateral materials designed and written by the person to support an event, etc. If they did an event that garnered media attention, I like for them to include a clipping or two so I can see the results of their efforts.
I like to see as many different kinds of media clips as possible: feature story, spot news, investigative piece, etc. so I can get a feel for their flexibility and talent in writing You can't teach someone at this level to write."
Linda Rutherford, Manager -- Public Relations -- Southwest Airlines
- Cover Letters are Necessary!
Cover letters are simply a letter of introduction. In these letters, you are explaining who you are and why you are writing to the resume reader. It is a matter of courtesy that you introduce yourself when you are requesting something of them, in this case an interview.
- What Instances Require a Cover Letter
My rule is - if you are not shaking hands with the hiring decision maker and introducing yourself, then you need a cover letter to introduce you. If you are shaking hands with the hiring manager, you are introducing yourself verbally and requesting an interview. In this case, hand them your resume without a cover letter.
If you're sending a resume by mail, if you giving your resume to a friend to hand in, or if you leave your resume with the hiring manager's secretary, you are not shaking the hiring manager's hand and do need to have a cover letter enclosed with your resume.
- Cover Letters Should Be Brief and Simple
Hiring managers only glance at cover letters. They have tons of resumes to read and will select a few candidates for interviews. I recommend letters be approximately 3-4 paragraphs.
Many people provide lengthy autobiographies in the cover letter. They regurgitate their resume and then some. This is a waste of the writer's and the reader's time.
- Cover Letter Content
Simply put, the cover letter should include the following:
- Paragraph 1)
- Who are you and for what position are you applying? How did you learn of the position or company?
- Paragraph 2)
- Why should they hire you? If you're perfect for the position, explain why. Utilize bullets to draw the reader's eyes to the key points in the letter Refer the reader to the resume (or application form) you are enclosing.
- Paragraph 3)
- How should they contact you? Include contact information and outline when you're available.
- Paragraph 1)
- Word choice
Never underestimate the power of your word choices in the cover letter. Be powerful and concise in your writing. Here are some examples:
accelerated - accomplished - achieved - adapted - administered - analyzed - approved - conducted - completed - controlled - coordinated - created - delegated - demonstrated - designed - developed - directed - earned - effected - eliminated - established - evaluated - expanded - found - generated - implemented - improved - increased - influenced - initiated - inspected - instructed - interpreted - launched - led - lectured - maintained - managed - mastered - motivated - operated - ordered organized - participated - performed - pinpointed - planned - prepared - produced - programmed - proposed - proved - provided - purchased - recommended - reduced - reinforced - reorganized - revamped - reviewed - revised - scheduled - simplified - set up - solved - streamlined - structured supervised - supported - surpassed - taught - trained - translated - used - utilized - won - wrote
Cover Letter Writing Tips
- Always write to a specific individual rather than a personnel office. Whenever feasible, use networking sources to introduce yourself in the opening paragraph of your letter. Be sure you spell the individual's name correctly.
- Show the employer that you've done your homework and have a genuine grasp of the organization's personnel needs and philosophy of business.
- Write each cover letter separately, even if you use a common template. Personalize the letter with a sentence or two designed to reflect your sincere interest in that specific employer.
- Use natural language in simple, clear sentences. Don't try to impress the reader with unusual vocabulary or complicated sentence structures.
- Express your capabilities with confidence, but avoid exaggerating your level of experience. Two part time jobs at a department store do not constitute "extensive" retail management experience.
- Check and recheck your letter for correctness with regard to spelling, punctuation and sentence structure. Be sure to have someone who is a good writer review your letter with you.
- Make sure the final letter is completely professional in appearance. Use standard business letter format on stationery that matches your resume. Do not use dot matrix printers or inferior typewriter ribbons.
- Finish your letter with a strong closing which indicates the action you desire. Take the initiative by requesting an interview and/or stating your intention to call in a week or two.
- Let your personality and energy shine through your words. Use a few vivid details about your background to capture the reader's interest.
- It is important to mention activities, honors, and special skills. These can show the skills that employers look for such as leadership, organization, critical thinking, teamwork, self-management, initiative, and influencing others.
- Keep copies of everything you send, and follow up according to your stated intentions. However, don't rely too heavily on cover letters to get your job. Pursue other avenues of inquiry as well.