What is a resume?
A resume is a concise marketing piece that describes your experiences, education, and skills, as they pertain to the position that you are seeking. A prospective employer will frequently form their first impression of you based upon your resume. The ultimate goal of your resume is to get you an interview.
Brainstorm your master list
The first step in creating your resume is to itemize your experience from the past several years. Your list should include internships, full-time, part-time, and summer jobs, volunteer/community service, campus activities, student organizations, and all of your educational experiences. There is no specific rule about how far back you should reach. For a first-time first-year student, it probably makes sense to include experience from high school. For an experienced professional, on the other hand, high school experience is probably too far in the past, and is unlikely to be your strongest selling point, but you probably want to include all of your fulltime work experience.
Fill in the details
After your master list is complete, you can start to elaborate on each item you listed. Sometimes it’s helpful to work with a friend and ask him/her to take notes while you describe specifically what you did and what you accomplished in each position. As you revise and rewrite these descriptions, be sure to include relevant details. For example, if you managed a budget, how large was the budget? If you worked with children, what ages? In groups or individually? In writing your descriptions, remember to focus on those skills and accomplishments that will be of interest to the employers you’re targeting. Use strong action verbs to begin all of your statements.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to write a resume. Your resume is a unique document that presents a picture of you as a unique individual. It should be targeted to the type of employment you’re seeking, and should highlight your background in light of this. That said, however, there are a few basic hints that you should keep in mind to create the best first impression of yourself as a candidate.
- Do not use a resume template. It’s tempting to fill in the blanks in a resume program or template, but this is not the best way to make your resume present the unique individual that you are.
- Describe your experiences accurately and positively.
- Prioritize your experiences, and make sure the most important items appear toward the top of the page.
- Try to keep your resume to one page. People with extensive work experience may need a two-page resume. However, current students and recent graduates seldom need more than a page to present their relevant experience. Your resume is not your life history, and should be confined to experience that is relevant and interesting.
- Format your resume so that it is easy to read. Choose a font that is easy to read. (Times New Roman works well.) Whether you use a bullet or a paragraph style, start each phrase with an action verb. Do not be wordy, and do not use personal pronouns (such as “I”) in describing your experience.
- Never send out a resume that hasn’t been proofread by at least one person in addition to yourself. Typos and mistakes can cost you an opportunity.
- Print your resume on good quality white or off-white linen paper.
Organize your document
Following is a list of the sections frequently found in a resume. Your resume may not contain all of these sections. Remember to organize and title the sections to correspond with the types of positions for which you are applying.
Name and Contact Information
If your current address is different from your permanent address, you may wish to include both on your resume. You may include a home and a cell phone number, but be sure that the outgoing messages on your voicemail are professional sounding. If you include a current work phone number, be sure that it is acceptable for you to receive calls there. Include an email address, and check for messages frequently.
This section is optional. If you choose to include an objective, make it concise and specific. (For example: To obtain a summer internship in the account management department of an advertising agency.) You will elaborate on this more fully in your cover letter, so if you can better use the space on your resume to list relevant experiences and skills, skip the objective.
List the name of the institution, city and state, and degree you received (or expect to receive). Include your majors and minors, as well as your GPA (or major GPA) if it’s above a 3.0. You may wish to include relevant coursework (relevant to the position for which you’re applying), major research projects, academic awards and honors, or study abroad experiences.
For each entry, indicate the name of the employer, your title, the city and state where you worked, and the dates of employment. In describing each experience, begin each phrase with an action verb (see list of action verbs if you need help). You may choose to use bulleted lists or phrases separated by semicolons or periods. However, avoid using personal pronouns, such as “I.” Instead, aim for concise, telegraph-style statements. If you currently hold the position you’re describing, you can use the present tense. For all previous positions, use the simple past tense.
You may wish to include college or community organizations to which you belong, particularly if you have an active role. This section is particularly valuable for students or recent grads who have very little professional experience.
You may wish to use this section to highlight your language, computer, or other relevant skills.
This section is helpful for academically focused resumes. You can highlight scholarly work relevant to the position for which you are applying.
Formatting your resume
It is important to present your resume in a format which allows the employer to see quickly and easily your most relevant skills and accomplishments.
Do not use a resume template. This will not allow you the flexibility you need to present yourself in the best possible way, and will not help you to stand out from the crowd.
Action Verbs to Use When Describing Work Experiences
Chronological or Functional?
Two of the main types of resume formats are the Chronological Resume and the Functional Resume.
Most people use some variation of a chronological format. In a chronological resume, you list your experience in reverse chronological order (starting with the most recent and working your way back). If possible, you might consider breaking up your experience into categories based upon the types of positions for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for a writing position, you might divide your experience into “Writing Experience” and “Other Experience.” Remember that your goal is to list your most interesting and important experience as close to the top of the resume as possible. Separating out your relevant experience and listing it all under one heading will help you to do that.
Functional Resume (see sample below):
Functional Resumes allow you to organize your resume by skill or “functional” area. This type of resume allows you to focus on a few key professional skill sets. The majority of the resume will provide detail about and demonstration of these key skill areas. Your employment history will be listed at the bottom of the resume, with very little detail, aside from the employer name, your position, the location, and dates of employment. This type of resume can be effective for career changers or people who have been out of the workforce for an extended period.
The main goal in designing the layout of your resume is to create something that can be easily read and is appealing to the eye. Toward that end, here are a few things to keep in mind. Length: Your resume should be one page in length. If you have a significant amount of professional experience, you might be able to create a two-page resume. However, keep in mind that unless all of the material presented on the first page is compelling and relevant, it is unlikely that the employer will ever make it to the second page. If you find that you don’t have enough information to fill one page, you should consider readjusting the formatting so that it has the appearance of fitting well on the page with no large blank spaces at the bottom.
Margins: One-inch margins are standard. However, you can decrease that a bit if needed. Just be sure that the text is centered nicely on the page.
Font: Stick with a plain, easily readable font. It’s best to use a serif font (such as Times New Roman) as opposed to a san-serif font (such as Arial). Use a font size that is easy to read. 11-point is standard, but you can go slightly smaller if necessary.
Paper: Use plain white or off-white paper. The paper should be of better quality than standard printer/copier paper, but does not need to be on heavy card stock.
Finalize your resume
You will likely go through many drafts when creating your resume. Get as much feedback as possible, preferably from career counselors, professionals in your field of interest, and/or faculty members. You will probably get different and sometimes conflicting information from the various people who critique your resume, but don’t let that frustrate you. It is common for different people to have different resume preferences. In the end, it’s up to you to take as much or as little of the feedback you receive in creating your own unique resume.
One aspect of your resume about which there is no disagreement, is that it must be completely free of typos and misspellings. Proofread, proofread, proofread! Never send a resume out without having at least one other person read it. You can’t rely upon a grammar- or spell-checker to catch all of the errors. Many employers refuse to consider candidates who have mistakes on their resumes, so be absolutely certain that your resume is perfect before you send it out.
Hardcopy samples are also available in our office.
Advanced Resume Samples
Preparing a Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Our Career Counselors are available for assistance with preparation of a Curriculum Vitae. Print resources are also available for loan from our library.