Resume, Cover Letter and References

Your job application materials are often times the first impression a prospective employer will have of you. So it's very important that your resume/CV, cover letter, and references are strategically crafted to be the best representation of who you are and what you have to offer. Before starting, spend time braining storming your experiences, goals, and unique strengths that will form the content of your application documents.


The purpose of a resume is to land you the interview. Knowing how to construct the perfect resume can be daunting. Hiring Managers typically spend 10-30 seconds reviewing a resume, so it is important to have a clean and consistent format, and to highlight your skills, abilities, education and accomplishments that make your resume stand out. You should view your resume as a marketing tool and you are the product. Always ask yourself the following before submitting your resume to any position, “Is my resume marketing me as the best candidate for this position”? If the answer is yes, proceed. If the answer is no, use the following handouts to assist you with building or revising your resume.

  • Resume Worksheet: Use this worksheet to brainstorm ideas in the gathering of appropriate relevant information to construct your resume.
  • Resume Guide: This handout serves as a guide for developing resumes.
  • Action Verb List: Use this handout to assist you with verb usage when crafting your accomplishment statements.

Cover Letter

A cover letter accompanies your resume and allows you to communicate and highlight your experience, qualifications, and abilities. It’s best not to repeat everything that your resume states, but to help the end user connect YOUR accomplishments, passion and interests to their job opportunity and company.


Most companies require you to provide at least 2-3 professional references when applying for a position. It’s typically part of the application form or a request from a HR person or Hiring Manager when they are close to selecting finalists. Professional references should always be someone who can attest to your qualifications, experience and skills.

Who to Ask: It is recommended that your professional references be a former supervisor, employer, client, colleague or instructor that can recommend you for the job. Remember: professional references are NOT your best friend or favorite aunt.

How to Format: Following the same format as your resume and cover letter, your references should be formatted in a professional manner, include contact information and be free of errors.

Job Search

Job searching isn’t easy. National statistics report that it can take up to 6 months for new graduates to find a job. Review the resources below and schedule an appointment with a career counselor to help you along in the process.

Job Search Checklist

  1. Make a list of the types of positions and organizations that interest you, and the skills needed for that type of work
  2. Determine your preferred geographic location—try to narrow it down to no more than 3 places
  3. Ask a minimum of three people (e.g., supervisors, professors) to serve as references
  4. Update your resume and cover letter and have it critiqued by CSLD staff
  5. Create or update your Handshakeaccount with relevant information and your resume
  6. Search and apply for jobs online using various online searching tools
  7. Develop a networking statement or elevator pitch—a concise description of your education and work background and your career goals for the near future
  8. Network with 1) people you already know (friends, family, professors, etc.), and 2) SF State alumni using LinkedIn
  9. Attend CSLD Career Fairsto network with employers and identify job & internship opportunities
  10. Prepare for interviews using Big Interview, and having your video mock interview critiqued by CSLD staff


Networking is building and maintaining professional relationships and it’sthe key to landing a great job in your field. Approximately 65-75% of jobs are filled through networking—it’s who you know.

Step-By-Step Networking

  • Include: friends, family, professors, classmates, SFSU alumni, teammates, current and past supervisors, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances
  • Add people to your networking list as you meet them or recommended by others

Develop a networking statement or elevator pitch that you’ll use to introduce yourself

  • Include: education background, the type of positions you are seeking, and your unique skills and qualifications
  • Example: “I am a current SF State student majoring in nursing. I recently completed summer work at (name of hospital) where I scribed in the ER. I am interested in emergency medicine where I can use calm demeanor and problem-solving skills.”
  • Practice your networking statement often

Begin contacting people on your networking list

  • Start with the people you already know and finish with those you don’t know
  • Use a version of your networking statement as an email introduction to those you don’t already know

Ask questions

  • Can you describe your current role and how you got here?
  • What is something you wish you knew about your career at my age?
  • What do you enjoy most about your role? What is most challenging?
  • Who do you know that you think I should connect with?
  • May I follow up with you? What is the best way to keep in touch?

Stay connected

  • Invest most in the people who invest the most in you
  • Organize your connections in a document or connect via LinkedIn
  • Write a brief thank you note to each person who spoke with you
  • Serve as a resource to those you have connected with

Expand your network with LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the most popular professional networking site and a helpful tool for you to connect with SFSU alumni and professionals in your field. Start your account today to start making connections that could unlock productive relationships and opportunities.


Preparing for an interview is one of the most crucial aspects of the job search process. Your resume, cover letter, and network connections helped you stand out in a pool of applicants, but now is your chance to wow the employer by showing how well you would fit with the company and your excitement for the opportunity. Being well-prepared for the interview will give you the confidence to impress the employer and succeed in obtaining a job offer.

Review our Interviewing resources about types of interviews, common interview questions, dressing for interviews, follow-up thank you notes, and general advice to help you prepare.

Activate Your Big Interview

Big Interview provides students with lessons and virtual interview practice for jobs, internships and graduate school admissions.. Their built-in feedback tool allows students to get analysis from mentors, professors, coaches, friends, or CSLD staff.

Job Offers

Congratulations on the job offer! You should receive a formal, written confirmation of the offer that includes information about position title, start date, salary, benefits, and deadline for responding.

 with a career counselor at CSLD to help you through the process of evaluating the offer, negotiating salary, and deciding whether to accept or decline.

Some areas to consider when evaluating an offer:

Job Duties

What are the job duties and responsibilities? Are they realistic and exciting? Will the work be challenging to you? Is there variety to the work? How is there opportunity for growth?

Work Environment

Do you like the physical work environment? Do you feel comfortable with your future supervisor and fellow employees? Is your supervisor likely to be a good mentor? Do your values and lifestyle correspond with the values and culture of the organization?


What is the organization's reputation? Is the organization growing or downsizing?


What is the compensation package? Does the salary meet your financial needs and obligations? If the salary is low, are there opportunities for significant responsibilities and advancement? What is the benefits package offered? Be aware that some smaller employers offer creative benefits to attract good employees, including stock options, transportation costs, meals, flextime, telecommuting, etc.

Salary Negotiations

Check out web sites such as GlassdoorSalary, or LinkedIn Salary to explore salaries by job title and location. See how years of experience, industry, location and more can impact your salary and use this to inform any salary negotiations you make.