Resumes and Portfolios

November 1, 2023

Cover Letters

A cover letter is an introduction to an employer without meeting face to face.  The cover letter accompanies the resume to explain the position for which you are applying and how you meet the qualifications they are seeking. A winning cover letter catches the reader’s attention and makes him, or her, want to review your resume and schedule an interview.

Winning Cover Letters 


A résumé is an important tool in the job search and worth spending some time on. This isn’t a task you want to leave until the last minute. A good résumé stands out from the rest and reaches your goal of getting an interview. In this section, learn about the different types of résumés, how to strengthen your résumé with action words and create a résumé that ROCKS!

Chronological Résumés:

  • Work best for those who have an extensive work history.
  • List your work history in reverse chronological order (most recent first).
  • Are the format preferred by most employers.
  • Download a Sample Chronological Résumé

 Combination Résumés:

 Functional Résumés:

  • Focus on skill areas that relate to the job you’re applying for.
  • Work well for those with limited education, employment gaps or lack of work experience.
    NOTE: This résumé is not a favorite with most employers.
  • Download a Sample Functional Resume

Electronic Résumés:
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, nearly 70 percent of all employers have an electronic résumé submission system. It’s no surprise then in our high tech society that you need to be prepared to submit your résumé electronically. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Follow any special instructions given by the employer.
  • Use a simple typeface such as Times New Roman or Courier, in 10- to 14-point size.
  • Start all text on the left side of the paper and use no more than 70 to 80 characters per line.
  • Do not use underlining or bullets.
  • Keep it plain and simple.
  • Download a Sample Electronic Résumé

Action Verbs:
Use active language to describe your work, volunteering and extracurricular experiences. The Action Verbs Handout (updated 6/2012) will help you as you write your résumé.  You can also use the Action Verb Circle Activity (updated 6/2012) in a group. 

MSU Career Services Network Fill-In Résumé:
Students at Michigan State University use the same format as the Career Services Network Fill-In Résumé to help them create their résumés.


A résumé isn’t complete without a separate list of references. References are people who can speak about your skills and abilities to your potential employers. Here are some key points to remember about job references:

  • Choose references wisely – make sure they will represent you in a positive way.
  • Ask for permission from your references and provide them with a copy of your résumé.
  • List three to five references on a separate page from your résumé. (It’s no longer required that you put “References Available Upon Request” at the bottom of your résumé, because employers expect that if you want a job, you'll supply references when asked for them.)
  • The page heading needs to match your résumé heading in case it gets separated from the résumé.
  • Include for each reference: name, title, place of employment, address, phone and their relationship to you.
  • You can download the Reference List Sample as an example.

Résumés That Rock! and Job Applications Activity:
The Résumés That ROCK! and Job Applications Activity includes a great ice breaker, covers important information about creating a résumé, along with sample résumés and fill-in résumé handouts. It also has a sample job application and advice on how to make a job application stand out among the rest. The Résumés That Rock! PowerPoint presentation has more tips on résumés and is useful for teaching groups how to write résumés.

Resumes That Rock! and Job Applications Activity:  (updated 6/2012) 

Resumes that Rock Presentation (updated 11/2012)

Portfolios – Personal and Professional

Portfolios are materials and records you collect over time that show a potential employer what you can accomplish. They showcase your skills, interests and activities.

  • personal portfolio is a collection over time of materials and records that showcase what you’ve learned through education, work history and successes. Portfolios communicate your skills, interests and activities. They help show what you’re capable of doing. Portfolios show that you understand who you are and their contents demonstrate what you can do.
  • professional portfolio that you would take to a job interview would be slightly different from a personal portfolio. It would include the pieces from your personal portfolio that are relevant to the position you’re interviewing for – just as you would tailor your resume to fit the job you’re applying for.

MSU Career Services Network – This site has pages devoted to developing personal portfolios and professional portfolios.

Sample Application


Michigan 4-H Pathways to Career Education Resource List 

Accessibility Questions:

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