Career Services Skill Development

Career Services Skill Development

Skill Development

Resumes and Cover Letters

Parts of a Resume
  • Name and contact information (complete address, phone, e-mail) 
  • Type of position you are seeking and the field/industry of interest 
  • List degrees - most recent first
  • Include relevant details (courses, special projects, minor or area of emphasis, etc.)
  • List study abroad experiences (use the same format as your Penn State entry)
  • Provide your overall and/or major G.P.A. (if below 3.0, discuss options with a career counselor) 
  • List your experiences - most recent first
  • Give specific details; use numbers to show percentages, dollar amounts, etc.
  • Use bulleted statements
  • Start statements with action words
Activities (optional)
  • List relevant activities and leadership positions first
  • Add details to demonstrate skills and experiences, if applicable  
  • Include honors/awards, hobbies, and interests, if relevant
Skills (optional)
  • Highlight your skills (i.e. computer hardware/software, foreign languages or other skills required for the job)
  • Include the level of proficiency (basic, intermediate, etc.)
  • List relevant certifications
References (optional)
  • Seek prior approval from references
  • List references on a separate page (formatted to match resume)
  • List three to five references (who are familiar with your academic achievements, leadership and teamwork skills, and/or work ethic)
  • Include current contact information (name, title, organization, mailing address, phone number and e-mail address)

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

A CV, which is longer than a typical resume, is often required when applying to graduate or professional programs, employment with international firms or when promoting oneself primarily within academic fields. As appropriate, your CV may include:

  • Professional, vocational or research objective
  • Summary of qualifications
  • Professional licenses or certifications
  • Education: post graduate, graduate and undergraduate degree
  • Listing of relevant course work
  • Educational or professional award
  • Research, laboratory experience and related skill
  • Description of thesis or dissertation, papers written
  • Publication
  • Academic or professional presentation
  • Related extracurricular activities
  • Professional and association membership
  • Community involvement
  • Work experience - paid or volunteer
  • Technical and specialized skills
  • Travel / exposure to cultural experiences as related to goals
  • Foreign language skills
  • References
General Tips
  • Organize the categories to reflect the priorities of the hiring organization and/or position (i.e. if research is a core component of the work, your research section should be displayed prominently)
  • Provide details about skills and experiences
  • Provide a date of completion (if you are currently working toward your degree)
  • Proofread and spell-check
  • Have your CV reviewed multiple times by career counselors, advisors, professors, etc.
  • Be prepared to elaborate and discuss the content of your CV during your interview


Parts of a Cover Letter
Opening Paragraph
  • Express interest in the position and organization
  • Share how you learned about the opportunity (especially if referred by an individual)
  • Provide a broad overview of your most relevant experience and education
Middle Section
  • Summarize how your education, experience and personal qualities prepare you for the position
  • Write to persuade the employer to read your resume – without repeating your resume
Closing Paragraph
  • Reiterate your continued interest in the position and organization
  • Specify the next steps (either request in-person meeting or state that you will follow-up by phone)
  • Thank the employer for their consideration


The interview is one of the most important steps in the job search process. It is your chance to elaborate on how your education, skills, and experience fit what the employer is seeking in a candidate and ultimately gets you the job offer. The keys to interviewing success are knowing yourself, researching the employer, and preparing for and following-up after the interview.


Preparing for the Interview
  • Be able to discuss your skills, interests, values and goals that relate to the position
  • Research the employer and know about their mission, services and products (visit Hoover’s Online through University Libraries or use
  • Demonstrate that you have the necessary position requirements
  • Know what type of interview to expect (i.e. initial screening interview, telephone interview, second/site interview, panel interview)
  • Be prepared to respond to common interview questions
  • Practice your interview skills through a mock interview by signing up through career services or use Interview Stream


During the Interview 
Make A Good First Impression
  • Be on time – plan to arrive 10-15 minutes before your interview is to begin
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer during your greeting and throughout the interview
  • Extend a firm handshake and use appropriate salutation (Mr./Ms./Dr.)
  • Turn off your cell phone
Know What to Wear


  • Wear a clean, pressed dark suit and tie
  • Avoid whimsical ties
  • Wear polished dress shoes
  • Present a clean-shaven or neatly trimmed beard


  • Wear a clean, pressed suit - either pants or skirt
  • Skirts should be no shorter than 1” above the knee
  • Wear polished dress shoes – flats no more than two inches high
  • Hair should be neatly arranged
  • Anything that could detract a recruiter from paying attention to your qualifications (i.e. facial hair, jewelry, heavy perfumes/colognes) will negatively impact the professional impression you want to achieve
  • When in doubt, be conservative!
Gather What to Bring
  • Professional portfolio to carry documents and take notes
  • Extra copies of your resume
  • Samples of your relevant work
  • Reference list
  • Any requested documentation
  • A writing utensil
After the Interview
  • Send a prompt thank-you note for the interview
  • Follow-up regarding your status in the process if the employer has not contacted you within the agreed upon time frame (you can initiate contact and ask if a hiring decision has been made)
  • Continue applying for additional opportunities

Interview Questions

Common Interview Questions
Tell me about yourself.
  • Keep your answer to one or two minutes
  • Give a short version of your resume—general goals, skills and background
  • Focus on the skills, experiences and education you will apply to THIS specific position within this organization
Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Strengths: Relate your skills to the position description (give an example of your strength in action)
  • Weaknesses: List a weakness you are working on to improve and does not directly disqualify you from the position (employers want to see that you are self-aware and taking steps to better yourself)
Why are you interested in our organization? What interests you about this job?
  • Share an informed interest and passion: know the organization’s mission, products, size, reputation, history and how your role will support/impact the organization
  • Talk about their needs and how you can make a contribution to the company goals
Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Demonstrate that this position fits into your short and long-term goals
  • Be realistic: research the structure of the organization and identify where entry-level employees progress
  • Before sharing graduate school plans, research whether the employer supports further education (typically, educational benefits are to be discussed after an offer of employment has been made)
What experiences have prepared you to succeed in this position?
  • Relate your experiences (work, volunteer, research, student activities) to the requirements of this position
  • Share specific examples which apply to your desired position

Behavioral Interview Questions

Employers ask behavioral-based questions to learn about how you have responded to specific situations in the past. Keep in mind that by them asking about your past behavior, they can get a better sense of how you will perform on the job in the future.

  • Prepare and share specific examples – do not give hypothetical responses
  • Anticipate the questions you’ll be asked by looking at the specific job description
STAR Technique

Considering this technique can help you organize responses to behavioral questions.

Situation: What was the SITUATION?

Task: What TASK(S) did you identify that had to be completed?

Action: What ACTION did you take?

Result: What was the RESULT of your actions?

Sample Questions
  • Tell me about a situation in which you demonstrated leadership.
  • Describe a time when you did not succeed and how you handled that situation.
  • Describe a difficult co-worker or customer and how you successfully worked with that person.
  • Tell me how you manage time amid competing responsibilities.

Case Interview Questions

Case interview questions are most common in consulting and strategic management interviews where your ability to listen effectively, analyze information, seek additional details and present your approach to solving the question will be related to your future work. Questions usually center on real-world problems so that the interviewer can see how you structure and think about solving the problem.


Case Interview Questions
Tips for Case Interview Questions
  • Ensure that you understand the basic elements of the question
  • Identify what information you need about the case (geographic location, budgetary information, number of employees, competitor information, etc.)
  • Explain why you are seeking this additional information and how you are making decisions – the employer will want to understand your thought process
  • Organize your response so that you are presenting your ideas in a logical and coherent manner
  • Emphasize how you plan to solve the problem, not the actual solution (keep in mind that there is not one right answer)
Common Categories of Case Interview Questions
  • Addressing changes in business conditions (increasing and decreasing revenues and market share)
  • Deciding to expand into new markets and products
Sample Case Interview Questions
  • You are a utility company in a small town and your customers are not paying on time. What would you do?
  • You have just been promoted to be the President of the University that you are currently attending. What do you think is the biggest challenge you would face?
  • Your client is considering launching a new product. What should you consider to bring the product to market?
  • The CEO of XYZ Company has asked for your advice in developing a business plan. How would you approach this assignment?


Questions to Ask the Interviewer

  • What specific skills or qualities are especially important for me to be successful in this position?
  • What characteristics do the achievers in this company seem to share?
  • What kind of assignments might I expect the first six months on the job?
  • What products (or services) are in the development stage now?
  • What are your growth projections for next year?
  • What are some opportunities for improvement in your organization?
  • What do you (the interviewer) like best about your job/company?
  • How will my performance be evaluated? How often are reviews given?


What Employers Look For
  • Interest – Do you want the job?
  • Skills, abilities and experience – Can you do the job?
  • Motivation – Will you do the job?
  • Personal qualities – Are you a good fit with the organization?


Reasons Employers Do Not Hire Interview Candidates
  • Lack of enthusiasm and interest in the position
  • Inappropriate attire
  • Responses do not contain enough detail
  • Inability to connect experiences and education to the position and the organization
  • Unclear and/or unrelated career goals
  • Limited knowledge of the organization and the position