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Resumes: What You Need to Know
The resume is an opportunity to market yourself to a prospective employer. It should be succinct, target an employer's needs, and distinguish you from your competitors. Before you get started, think about your strengths, weaknesses, personal preferences, and motivations. You should also consider the company's needs, who your competition might be, and your unique skill set. The best way to convince employers that you will add value is to show them that you've done it before.
Alumni Resume Book
Our Alumni Resume Book connects you with organizations looking for talent. Visit 12twenty (our recruiting platform) and upload your resume to get started. You should complete your Profile in 12twenty by updating your Background tab which contains information about your career experience, skills, preferences and more. Ensuring your Background tab is complete and accurate will greatly improve your chance of being contacted by an organization. Looking to connect with fellow HBS alumni? Upload your resume to the Alumni Networking Resume Book to kick start those connections.
Resume Makeover Using VMock and Aspire
Gain instant feedback on your resume and LinkedIn Profile
VMock is a smart career platform that provides instant personalized feedback on your resume and LinkedIn Profile to help improve aspects like presentation, language, and skills.
VMock Smart Editor tool will enable you to:
- Receive an objective score on your resume based on recruiter criteria
- Review line-for-line targeted feedback on your resume
- Re-upload your resume up to 10 times to track improvement
Sign up using your HBS email address. Account requests are granted within 24 business hours. During holidays and winter break (December 24th – January 1st) turnaround time will be delayed until the CPD office reopens. Please note, we recommend you review your resume before considering it final.
Resumes: Sections, Templates & Examples
- Contact details - Let others know who you are and how to get in touch with you. In addition to your name, you should list your mailing address, phone number, and email address. It is expected to be found at the top of the page. No need to include it on additional pages.
- Professional history - Start with your most recent role and list in descending chronology. For each role, provide a sentence or two that describes the scope of your responsibility. Then in bullet format, provide accomplishment statements. To write an accomplishment statement, state the problem you encountered, the action you took and the result or impact of your actions. For example, "Led team in implementing a new general ledger package by providing expertise and encouragement, which contributed to a successful, on-time project completion."
- Education - Spell out your degree so it will stand out better. It is not necessary to include your GPA or GMAT score. Do not list courses. Do list any leadership roles or study abroad experiences.
- Summary/Profile - A great opportunity to tell the reader exactly what you want them to know. It should be 3-4 sentences in paragraph form following your contact information. Be careful not to load up on overused resume jargon and avoid listing previous jobs/education as it is redundant. Instead, focus on your branding statement, unique themes in your career path, and skills.
- Key skills - Listing your skills is a great way for the reader to quickly evaluate your skill set. List skills that are relevant to your next position. For each skill, you will need a proof statement in the form of an accomplishment stated in the professional experience section. A good way to set up this section is in 2 or 3 columns with 3-4 skills in each column. The heading could be "Key Areas of Expertise" or "Core Competencies".
- Personal/Interests - Only include if it helps tell your story.
- Additional roles - If you participate in organizations outside of your professional employment, you may list these in a separate section. Headings are typically "Volunteer Leadership Roles" or "Community Service".
- Licenses and Professional Certifications - If you possess a license or certification, these should be called out in a separate section.
- Objective - No longer in style. Do not include in your resume.
- References available upon request - No longer in style. Do not include in your resume.
- Zip file of all resume templates (login required)
Chronological - This is the most commonly used layout. Recommended for a mostly consistent record of employment showing progression/growth from position to position. Not recommended for gaps in employment dates, those out of job market for some time, or changing careers.
- Template 1 (login required)
- Template 2 (login required)
- Template 3 (login required)
- Template 4 (login required)
- Sample 1: C-Level Resume (login required)
- Sample 2: Consulting to Operating Company Resume (login required)
- Sample 3: VP with Long Tenure Resume (login required)
- Sample 4: C-Level Biotech resume (login required)
- Sample 5: Exec. Ed. with Long Tenure Resume (login required)
- Sample 6: Financial Services Resume (login required)
Streamlined Chronological - This layout also shows progression from one job to the next, but does not include extra sections such as Summary/Profile or Areas of Expertise. Recommended for recent alumni.
- Template: Streamlined Chronological (login required)
Chronological/Functional Hybrid Resume - In this layout, you can highlight your employment history in a straight chronological manner, but also make it immediately clear you have filled a variety of roles that use different but related skill sets. This is useful to provide a few accomplishments in the beginning to show a theme. Each role would also have specific accomplishment statements.
- Template: Chronological/Functional Hybrid (login required)
- Sample: Accomplishment Focus Resume (login required)
Cover Letter Writing
It is essential to send a cover letter with your resume to provide a recruiter with insight into your qualifications, experience, and motivation for seeking a position. The letter also conveys your personal communication style, tone, and professionalism. An effective employment letter should:
- Be targeted and personalized
- State why you are interested in the company
- Explain how you can fill a need
- Convey your enthusiasm about the opportunity
- Suggest next steps for communication and action
Guidelines & Examples
Investigate your target company. What is the company's "breaking news?" What drives their business? What are their greatest challenges and opportunities? How can you contribute? eBaker can help with your research.
Outline your objectives using relevant information that attracts the attention of the reader.
- Salutation Address the letter to a specific person. Capture the reader's attention and briefly introduce yourself. Mention the referral/company contact, if applicable. State the purpose of your letter.
- Body Describe relevant information you discovered about the company. Discuss the position offered or the position you are looking for. Detail how your skills will benefit the company.
- Closing Convey your enthusiasm. Anticipate response.
Pay close attention to sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation. Always print your letter to check for typographical errors. Have a friend, colleague, or family member review your letter whenever possible.
Cover letters are the place to briefly and directly address the gap in your career. For example, "I am returning to the workforce after a period of raising children." Then address your strengths, qualifications and goals. Emphasize your excitement and preparedness to re-enter the workforce now.
Response to Identified Advertisement (pdf)
Resume writing tips , creating visual impact.
A concise, visually appealing resume will make a stronger impression than a dense, text-laden document. Respect page margins and properly space the text. Learn to appreciate the value of "white space." Limit a resume to one or two pages but not one and ¼. Ensure content is balanced on both pages. A CV is typically longer because it includes additional sections such as publications and research.
Use Parallel Construction
Select a consistent order of information, format, and spacing. If one experience starts with a brief overview followed by bullet points, subsequent experiences should follow a similar form. Parallel construction—including the use of action verbs (pdf) (login required) to start all phrases—greatly enhances a resume's readability.
Pay close attention to margin alignment, spelling, punctuation, and dates. Read your resume backward to check for typographical errors. (You will focus on individual words, rather than the meaning of the text.) Better yet, have a friend, colleague, or family member review your resume.
Use Action Verbs
Action Verbs List (login required)
Improve Your Writing
Common questions, past program resources .
How to Build a Resume that Stands Above the Competition
How to Write a Great Resume and Cover Letter
Linda Spencer offers helpful tips and resources to help you write your resumé and cover letter.
What makes a great résumé and cover letter? Linda Spencer, associate director and coordinator of career advising at Harvard Extension School, shares examples of a few strong résumés and explains what makes them stand out.
Perfect Your Marketing Documents
Spencer stresses it’s important to know that your résumé and cover letter are marketing documents. Also keep in mind that the average employer takes about seven seconds to review these documents. They’re not reading: they’re skimming. So you need to make it clear right off the bat how you can add value.
Strong résumés don’t have to be lengthy. One to two pages that feature your most top accomplishments works well.
Use Action Words and Customize Your Pitch
When highlighting your professional experience, use accomplishment statements rather than descriptions of your role. Start with an action verb. Then detail the impact that action had: Did you increase, decrease, modify, or change anything in your work? Finally, be sure to quantify the accomplishments. Data helps.
Your cover letter should be one page, highly customized to each position you’re applying for. It answers two questions: why are you the right fit for the position? And how will you add value to the organization?
While it’s important to have a strong résumé and cover letter, it’s also important to remember that the number one job search strategy is networking. You don’t want to simply be reactive, applying blindly to job postings. You want to conduct a series of informational meetings so that you build a network of people you can reach out to when it comes time to start your job search.
Any Extension student can attend first-come, first-served 15-minute call-ins (via phone or Skype) with Linda. See Career Services for more information.
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Tips on Public Speaking: Eliminating the Dreaded “Um”
Learn how to remove filler words from formal speeches to present with confidence.
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The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) at Harvard University is dedicated to bringing rigorous academics and innovative teaching capabilities to those seeking to improve their lives through education. We make Harvard education accessible to lifelong learners from high school to retirement.
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Cover Letter Template (PDF)
General tips and formatting suggestions to create a strong cover letter https://writingcenter.catalyst.harvard.edu/files/catalystwcc/files/writing… See also: Cover Letter , Grow Professionally , Representing Yourself
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How to write a cover letter in 5 minutes, says Harvard career expert: 'It's professional Mad Libs'
Cover letters can be tedious. They're less formulaic than a resume, more freeform like an essay and for those who struggle with writing in general, can feel like a homework assignment to drag yourself through. But they're critical for showing an employer why you're right for the role.
"A cover letter is like a written introduction of yourself," says Gorick Ng , a Harvard career advisor and author of "The Unspoken Rules." It helps you address some of the questions interviewers will potentially ask you down the line such as, "Why this role? Why this company?" he says. It's like putting a human face to a resume.
And though this document can seem daunting, Ng himself has a developed a hack that cuts his writing time down significantly. He creates a basic cover letter template including all of the key talking points, then leaves out components like the HR representative he'd address and the specific company he's applying for. Going forward, he simply plugs in the relevant information and saves each cover letter as a new document.
"It's professional Mad Libs," he says, adding that, "It takes me, what? Five, max 10 minutes to do a new cover letter" each time.
Follow this template
To replicate Ng's hack, start by writing your cover letter template, including the following four paragraphs:
- First, write "your introduction of who you are, what you're applying for, when you can start," he says. Leave out any specific details you'll be filling in going forward, such as company name and position.
- "Second paragraph is why this industry, why this company, why this position," he says. If you're applying for jobs in different industries, you may need several cover letter templates. But for cover letters sent to employers within the same industry, you can keep your industry explanation the same and leave room to personalize "why this company/position" for each different role.
- "Third paragraph is what is one or two relevant experiences that you've had" that prove you have the background and know how to excel in this position, he says. Use the same examples for the same industry and change them up for a different one (unless they're relevant).
- The final paragraph is a concise outro. Say you've attached your resume, you'd love the opportunity to discuss your candidacy further and where you can be reached. Then finish with a "Thanks so much for your time." This can stay the same for every cover letter.
"Whereas your first template might have taken several hours, each additional template should only take several minutes to update," he says. Save the master template (or templates) under a title you'll recognize later and, going forward, simply make a copy of each and fill in the blanks.
Ng recommends sending your final cover letter as a PDF, so make sure to read through for correct company spellings and any other mistakes thoroughly. Finally, before sending, save the files under names that would help the companies keep track of your documents. Include your full name, for example, the role you're applying for and the date you're applying.
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7 Essential Tips on How to Format a Cover Letter
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7 Essential Tips on How to Format a Cover Letter was originally published on Resume.io .
When you come to writing one of the most important letters in your life, you may need a few ground rules to help you to get started with the format of your cover letter.
That blank page can look awfully daunting otherwise.
Here are some must-follow tips around the structure and content of your cover letter:
The header section of the cover letter should be attractive and space efficient. Graduates might be tempted to select a header design that reduces the amount of space that they need to fill for their cover letter, but you will have more to say than you think.
The header should contain all essential contact details (in addition to those on your resume) – full name, email, and mobile. You don’t have to include your full address and you definitely don’t have to include the “inside address” of your employer.
The intro of a recent grad or early career cover letter should be far more than a “this is what I want out of my career.” The hiring manager understands that you want the job – applicants need to prove to them that they are worthy of it. Make a compelling case.
The cover letter introduction should lead with your most relevant accomplishment for the role in question, with a hint of personality around how you achieved it. Avoid a generic cover letter that you send to everyone – you might not have much experience, but you should still strive to be as selective as possible.
Only relevant career stories with context
The length and content of your cover letter should be dictated by the amount of relevant experience that you have to share. Do not feel that you need to fill a page by parroting the responsibilities of the role or long lists of skills and personality traits without evidence.
Empty space is better than empty words – employers will value quality over quantity for the early career professional. What they want to understand in the cover letter is that you understand the demands of the role and can justify why you think you will do a good job.
Conclusion with call-to-action
End the conclusion of the early-career cover letter with a final detail about your personality and motivation and share your interest in learning more about the role. Saying that you hope to have the opportunity of an interview to learn more about the role is a powerful call-to-action which demonstrates your belief in yourself. Remember to keep the tone hopeful.
After the raw content come the syntax and visual choices:
Powerful action verbs
When you only have a certain number of sentences to create a favorable impression, your choice of verb can have a surprising impact on how your messages are received. Insightful action verbs can add a new level of meaning. Did you “manage” or “orchestrate” a project?
A word of warning: sprinkle action verbs and other buzzwords liberally. The cover letter should read like a conversation starter, so ensure that it sounds natural enough.
Impactful fonts, sensible sizes, and shot paragraphs
Increasingly the font size to take up more space on the page will fool no one. Stick with a standard 10 or 12 size and choose a suitable professional font that is easy to read.
Use short 2-4-line non-indented paragraphs and leave a line between each one. Give the reader a natural break between each of your career stories and consider using bullet points for your greatest accomplishments (the ones that you can ideally quantify with numbers). The cover letter should be strictly no more than one page – ideally aim for 3/4 of a page.
Right choice of template
Finally, very few cover letters or resumes are send as a blank word document these days. There are a wide choice of resume and cover letter templates – it is a great idea to use the same visual look for both your cover letter and resume. When a hiring manager is viewing a large number of candidates, this association will stick in their minds.
There is a subtle art to writing a persuasive cover letter when you do not have experience.
Strike a balance between outlining hopes for the future and sharing the greatest hits from your past. Your future employer will want to understand both.
If you are curious to explore further (you should be), the following article from Resume.io provides substantial further food for thought: “ How to Format a Cover Letter in 2022: Examples and Tips ”