RESUME WRITING GUIDE

Printable Version

Purpose of a Resume
A resume is a job-hunting tool that is used to market yourself to employers. It is a personalized statement that highlights your education, skills, accomplishments, capabilities, etc. The main goal of a resume is to attract the attention of readers enough for them to want to meet and interview you.

Tips for Writing an Effective Resume 

  • Target the resume to your particular field of interest
  • A resume is not a laundry list of facts about you, but rather a clear, concise, focused presentation of your education, skills, accomplishments, and experiences as they relate to particular jobs/fields that are of interest to you.
  • If you have varied interests, it is highly recommended that you develop more than one version of your resume.

Use a resume format that best presents your skills & strengths

  • There are many formats and layouts from which to choose – the attached samples will give some ideas.
  • Employers spend 20-30 seconds on average reviewing a resume – make sure your resume highlights the most relevant information first.
  • Be creative and make your resume a unique reflection of your competencies.

Writing style and length

  • Keep it concise! A resume is typically one page for college students/recent graduates. Keep in mind that this is a general guideline – brevity is important, but not at the expense of accuracy and completeness.
  • Omit all personal pronouns (e.g., I, me, my).
  • Avoid wordiness, slang, and abbreviations.
  • Develop concise phrases that begin with action verbs. Avoid descriptions that begin with the phrase, “Responsibilities included….”
  • Unlike a job application you are not required to include all experiences on your resume.

Make it readable and visually appealing

  • Develop a resume that is readable, visually appealing, and not cluttered. 
  • Direct the reader’s attention by effectively using space, bullets, bolding, italics and capitalization to emphasize important words and phrases (TIP: Avoid underlining – it is not compatible with many scanners used by employers to read resumes).
  • Be sure to maintain consistency throughout the document (e.g., if you bold your job title in one experience, make sure the title is bolded in every experience listed). 

Presentation and attention to detail are critical

  • It is essential that your resume is error-free! Have several people you trust proofread your resume and have it critiqued by Career and Professional Development.
  • Print your resume on quality business paper using a high-quality printer.
  • Conservative colors (e.g., white, off-white, gray) usually are preferred by employers.

Where to Begin?
Writing a resume can be a time-consuming, but rewarding process. Writing an effective resume requires you to focus on defining what you want to do, and to organize your qualifications in support of your goal or objective. This process results in a thorough understanding of your education, experience, activities, and skills. It also will prepare you for an interview, as it helps you integrate information about yourself, your fields of interest, and your career objectives. It is critical that you give yourself plenty of time to write your resume – a strong resume requires numerous drafts and revisions before it is ready to submit to employers.

Resume Categories

Identifying Information
The goal is to make it easy for the employer to contact you. Include your name, address, email and telephone number (with area code). List your fax number if you have one. While in school, list both present and permanent addresses – list your preferred address on the left margin. Your name should be in bold and larger then any other item listed on your resume.

Objective (optional)
An objective conveys a sense of direction to the reader. The objective states what you want to do for the organization; the rest of the resume is supporting information (i.e., this is why I can do the job). To develop a targeted objective, think about the following questions:

  • What type of position do you want?
  • Where? What type of organization or work environment?
  • What skills are you offering?

Avoid jargon or clichés in the statement such as "challenging and responsible position using my education and experience.” If you are pursuing several career objectives, consider creating a separate resume for each alternative.

Summary (rarely used by new graduates)
A summary can be used in addition to or in place of an objective – its goal is to intrigue the reader to read on. The summary highlights the skills, experiences, qualifications, traits, etc. that are most applicable to your job objective (e.g., Excel at oral communication as evidenced by four successful years on the debating team; Extensive experience in a variety of computer applications; Highly organized with proven ability to meet deadlines; Effective ability to work independently and as a team member on group projects). It can be arranged in either paragraph or bulleted form.

Education
Beginning with your most recent educational experience, include your degree, major, minor, date of graduation, and name of school and its location (city and state). High school information is generally not included unless it is of special interest to your audience. Other academic information could be included, if relevant and supportive of your objective, including:

  • Relevant Coursework
  • Honors
  • GPA (if it is strong)
  • Honors project topic
  • Study Abroad

What is my degree? Below you will find a list of majors associated with each degree. NOTE: if you are a double major you do not receive 2 degrees, but you do have the opportunity to choose between the two.

Bachelor of Arts
American Studies
Anthropology and Sociology
Art
Business and Economics
Classics
Dance
East Asian Studies
English
French
German
History
International Relations
Media and Communication Studies
Philosophy
Philosophy and Religion
Politics
Spanish
Theater
Bachelor of Science
Biology
Chemistry
Exercise and Sport Science
Computer Science
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Mathematics
Neuroscience
Physics
Psychology

Skills (optional)
Any specialized “hard” skill can be highlighted in this section.  Skills included will vary depending on your objective, some skill areas include: computer/technology, language, and laboratory skills. If relevant, you may want to state your level of expertise, distinguishing between those with which you are fluent, proficient, and familiar (e.g., fluent in written and spoken Spanish).

The first step in developing a resume is to write an extensive rough draft of your background in reverse chronological order using the categories that are listed below. At this stage do not worry about length. Once you have all possible information from your background in front of you, it will be easier to construct logical groupings and organize a resume that best represents your qualifications. This process will ensure that you do not omit pertinent information.

Experience
In this section include full-time jobs, part time jobs, internships, and significant extracurricular/volunteer experiences (if they are relevant to your objective). Some guidelines:

  • Consider dividing the section into more than one category (e.g. related experience and other experience). This allows you to emphasize your most relevant experience.
  • List entries in reverse chronological order within the section (i.e. most recent job first).
  • Job title, name and location of employer and employment dates should be included in each entry.
  • As you progress through college, emphasize college experiences and de-emphasize high school experiences.
  • Write concise, descriptive phrases that summarize the key components of each experience. Make sure that your phrases show the scope and results of your activity (e.g., improved a procedure, resolved a problem).
  • Use strong action verbs in describing your skills, tasks/functions, and accomplishments. Avoid using passive phrases such as “responsibilities included…” See the Action Verb List below.
  • Qualify and quantify what you have accomplished (e.g., trained 100 new employees). Descriptive details help communicate your initiative, follow-through, and skills.
  • Give special attention to your responsibilities that were most relevant to your targeted job objective.
  • Focus on transferable skills in your descriptions if you do not have any related experience.
  • Keep in mind a resume is about your future, not about your past.

Activities (optional)
Employers often look for this information from recent graduates. Involvement in student activities, community service, and leadership positions may significantly strengthen your resume and highlight marketable experience. It is especially important to highlight activities that are closely related to your career goals and/or the needs of the employer.

Other Categories (optional)
Certifications, Professional Memberships, Publications/Presentations, Research Experience, Leadership Experience

E-Resumes (resumes uploaded to an online search engine)
Your e-resume may vary from your printed resume. Keep in mind these three things when posting your resume online. 

   1)    Zip Code: Be sure that the address you list on your resume corresponds with the city, state and zip code where you are seeking employment.

   2)    Skills, Techniques, Computer Technology, Companies: Recruiters will search for qualified candidates using keywords to identify those possessing skills need for the job or who have a history of working for a competitor. Identify what skills are valuable by searching for and reviewing job descriptions similar to the one you are trying to obtain.

   3)    Refresh: Recruiters view resumes in order of most recently posted. Keep your resume at the top of the pile by refreshing your posting at least once a week.

 

Keyword Search Matters Video