Writing a Better Resume

Writing a resume and cover letter takes finesse and several drafts, and is the first step to getting an interview. Career Coaches at the Ferguson Career Center will help you to make a polished, cohesive and compelling resume!

3 most important things about your resume and cover letter:

  1. Their main purpose is to get you an interview. Not the job, but first the interview.
  2. They are ALWAYS tailored to each opportunity you apply for.
  3. They provide a compelling answer to the question of "Who am I, and why am I a good fit for your company?"

Where To Begin?

First, step away from your computer. There's a bit of planning involved before you start typing. Grab some paper and answer the following questions. You don't have to write for pages, but you should be able to come up with something to get you started.

  1. Why am I interested in this opportunity?  How does it relate to any goals or aspirations I have for myself? If you can not articulate this, why should an employer care?  This is often one of the first questions candidates are asked in interviews. 
  2. Why do I think I am a good fit for the opportunity?  This is often one of the last questions asked by interviewers.  This is important because employers are looking for candidates that will fit their organization and their role, and it shows you've done your homework.
  3. How do my past experiences relate to SPECIFIC components of the job description?  Can I think of times when I've been in situations that the job description calls for?  The best resumes offer specific examples of how the candidate's work positively impacted the organization, and tied to specific related skills.  Examples of those could be: decision making, leadership, team motivation, goal setting, and more. 
  4. How has my liberal arts education benefitted me?  What are some of the important takeaways I have from Hampden-Sydney? This is an absolutely vital question to answer as you search for jobs or internships.  Especially in today's economic climate, you have to make the case for how your education has played a role in making you the right candidate for the job.  When competing against non liberal arts candidates, you need to demonstrate how your education is a benefit to the employer.
  5. What is it about me, my background, or my knowledge that will set me apart from the other candidates?  Again, it's a tough market out there.  You always need to think of your competitive edge.  Think of particular experiences that stand out in your life, your motivations and values, and your future goals.


Now that you have done some brainstorming, you're ready to develop your resume. The answers you developed while brainstorming are going to form the basis of your content.

Here are some basic things that need to be on your resume no matter what:

  1. Your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. You should choose the address and phone number that it will be EASIEST for employers to reach you with at all times. Please use your H-SC e-mail address or other professional e-mail address for employer correspondence. E-mails describing your hobbies, how you spend your time, or personal information about you are not appropriate.  Something like lovetoparty2011@gmail.com, for example, is not appropriate.
  2. Your education. You may list high school as a freshman or sophomore, but after that it becomes a bit redundant. Your academic information at Hampden-Sydney should be front and center.

When it comes to developing content to support your experiences, there are as many ways to write as there are resumes in the world. Remember that your resume content MUST be specific, action oriented, and highlighting your key skills. 

Check out our comprehensive resume packet for more details and samples!