How to write powerful college student resumes and cover letters

by Quentin J. Schultze and Bethany Kim


Fall 2010

A reverse chronology of who you’ve worked for is the familiar definition of a resume. It’s not, however, the best way to land a job, according to Quentin Schultze, author of How to Write Powerful College Student Resumes and Cover Letters.

Schultze, a communication arts and sciences professor, has spent years reviewing best practices for resume writing and interviewing with senior students about to venture into the job market. “I bought every resumewriting book on the market, and then I went and bought out-of-print editions and I was very disappointed at what was out there.

“I know it sounds crazy, but there’s not a book out there that does what this book does, otherwise I wouldn’t have written it,” he said.

What the book does is give practical advice about resume writing. It discusses how to include a cover letter with an e-mail application, how to write a summary statement (in place of the outdated “objective”) and even provides lists of appropriate adjectives and verbs to use.

The book is splashed with examples implementing this advice, including actual resume material, proven tips from Schultze’s experiences and expert advice from human resource professionals and others. Schultze also incorporates academic research on resume writing, suggesting what works and what doesn’t.

But beyond the technical advice is counsel on discovering who one is and how to best represent that on a sheet of paper.

“Employers are looking to hire a whole person,” Schultze said. He emphasizes that a resume should be a persuasive presentation of one’s life experiences as they relate to a particular career.

“The secret behind every great career seeker’s resume is relevant persuasiveness,” writes Schultze. “Knowing what to include in a resume and how to express it are both critically important.”

Taking a cue from himself, Schultze enlisted the help of co-author Bethany Kim to help make the book relevant to more recent graduates. “She had more recently faced the anxiety of looking for a job,” said Schultze. “She helped me connect with younger people— basically kept me from sounding like a fuddy-duddy.” 

What resulted, though, is a volume that is pertinent to any college grad. “I aimed it at more recent graduates, but I’m finding that it’s connecting more broadly,” said Schultze. “People are switching careers much more frequently and need help staying current.”

Finally, given the current economic climate, Schultze and Kim hope to alleviate some anxiety among job seekers. “People lost in the job market need to hear that there’s hope,” said Schultze. “What we’re trying to do is give people an advantage so they can present their whole selves in the marketplace, not just their work selves. People short themselves by writing job resumes rather than whole-person resumes.”