Help With Resumes and Cover Letters

It's never too early to start putting together a resume; you can always polish and add to it as your experience level increases. Below is a sample resume organized in a way that we recommend. It differs slightly from similar examples you might find on the W&L Office of Career and Professional Development  or on other job-service sites. Once you're ready to send your resume out, have the intern coordinator or a department faculty member review it.

The general resume rules are these:

  1. Keep it to one page. (References can be on a separate sheet.)
  2. Make it typographically simple. No fancy fonts or colors.
  3. Order experiences chronologically in each section. Most recent on top.
  4. Emphasize any writing or communication experience.
  5. Stick to Associated Press style.
  6. Be completely accurate.
  7. Proofread to perfection.

Click on the image below to see a sample resume.

Sample ResumeHere are some thoughts about each of the sections in the sample:

Keep it barebones. Don't include your GPA. Generally exclude high school accomplishments.

Journalism Experience or Communications Experience:
You're looking for a job in this field, so this section should come first. Writing/communication is the fundamental skill and any such experience counts. On campus, that could mean anything from Gnosis to the Phi, Rockbridge Report to In General. Note: On the resume, include an explanatory phrase for your work/activity venues so prospective employers will know what a Ring-tum Phi is.

Other Work Experience:
Prospective employers want to know if you have the essential work skills. It doesn't matter if your past jobs involved mopping floors or waiting tables or lifeguarding at a local pool. The point is that you're familiar with the responsibilities that come with going to work every day and getting a paycheck. Here's where your (non-academic) high school experiences count.

Activities and Volunteer Service:
You want to show that you have varied interests and that you are an active member of a community. However, it's important to distinguish between being active and just being busy. You're trying to convince a prospective employer that you have workplace skills. Being the treasurer of your frat or sorority may not be such an indication. In fact, depending on the attitude of a prospective employer, Greek life can be a plus or a minus. Choose your activities carefully.

Skills and Interests:
The three crucial elements here are: foreign language skills (especially Spanish), computer proficiencies and facility with social media. Characterize your language ability with phrases like "fluent in" or "proficient in"; list the computer programs you're familiar with; list the social media you use or are familiar with, such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.

"References on request" is not a helpful phrase. List your references (on a separate page if you like). There is no magic number for references though three is standard. Keep them simple: name, title, phone number, email address.

Cover letters

A cover letter is meant to introduce you to a potential employer and to distinguish yourself from other applicants. It's also proof to a media or communication organization that you can write. Because the cover letter is the first sample an employer will have of your work, it's important to make a good first impression. Write clearly and directly: no typos, no clichés; no vague, feel-good phrases. Make it grammatically perfect; be sure all names are spelled correctly. Say something about yourself that is not apparent from the resume. It's vital that you show a cover letter to the intern coordinator or any of the journalism professors for review before you send it out. Click here for some suggestions for opening lines and approaches. 

There are as many approaches to writing a cover letter as there are interns, but here are some guidelines:

  1. Contain it on one page.
  2. Don't start by introducing yourself. After all, your name and signature are at the bottom and on the attached resume.
  3. Do start with an explanation of why you're interested in this particular media/PR/marketing/advertising company. Explain, too, why you're interested in the field.
  4. Make a case for why the prospective employer should hire you. You can expand on items in your resume or, if your work experience is minimal, you can emphasize your enthusiasm, work ethic, and eagerness to engage in the field.
  5. It's OK to include anecdotes, but don't try to be tricky or flowery or literary. Keep it business-like and brief.
  6. Say something about the company to which you're applying that indicates you have a good working knowledge of its goals, style and history.


Clips bolster your resume and cover letter. They are samples of published work. Do not include class assignments. Stick to work that reached a general audience: stories in the Phi, digital files from a Rockbridge Report, ads from a marketing campaign you worked on during a summer internship, etc. Unless it was extraordinary, avoid including high school material.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Around 4-6 clips are sufficient. Don't overwhelm a prospective employer.
  2. Make copies of your articles on 81/2 x 11-inch paper; be sure to include the publication's name and date.
  3. Digital files displayed on a Web site (not Facebook or MySpace) are OK, if it's clear that the work is from a publication.
  4. Include clips that show your range, but be wary of satiric or humor pieces; they often translate poorly to an outside audience.