Once you have determined the key elements of your resume, organize these in a way that best markets your skills and abilities. Your name and contact information always go at the top of the resume. Usually an “Objective” or “Career Summary” follows your contact heading, with your “Education” section listed next. After that point, your career interest will determine what section follows next. Since an employer usually spends about 45 seconds initially scanning a resume, it is essential that related skills are listed closer to the top of the resume. For technical majors, a “Computer Skills” section might be listed after “Education.” For students without related work experience, a “Course Projects” section might be listed highlighting coursework related to the field. Those with some amount of work experience may want to organize their experience separately into “Related Work Experience” or “Internship Experience” and “Additional Work Experience” sections to better highlight related work and allow flexibility in their placement on the resumes. Keep in mind that each section should be written in reverse chronological order with most recent experiences listed first and least recent experiences listed last.
Sometimes candidates utilize a functional resume instead of a reverse chronologically ordered one. Functional resumes identify key skill areas for a career field and emphasize those on the resume. A work or experience history is included, but descriptions of responsibilities and accomplishments are only listed if they fall into one of the key skill areas. A functional resume is usually used when a candidate makes a major career change, has very little related experience, or is reentering the workforce after an absence. This format is not used very often, as employers prefer reverse chronological resumes.
After determining the organization and content of your resume, focus on the actual writing of the resume. The following information will detail important aspects to include in typical sections found on a resume.
The beginning of your resume should always contain your contact information. This includes your name, street address, city, state and zip code. A phone number and email address should also be included in the heading. A home or cell phone number may be used. However, make sure that the number you use has an answering machine with a professional sounding message or good note takers answering calls. If using your cell phone, make sure you answer it in a quiet place where you are able to take notes. Email addresses should be of a professional nature and the account listed should be checked on a daily basis. If you will be moving during the course of your job search or have a campus and a home or permanent address, both should be included on the resume indicating the dates when you can be reached at those locations.
The purpose of an Objective/Career Summary is to state your job objective or career goals and qualifications. An Objective should be specific, concise, and 1 to 2 lines in length. The type of positions, the industry area, and your personal qualifications should all be mentioned, and your resume should support the stated objective, goal or summary. Someone who has more extensive work experience often uses a Career Summary (or Summary of Qualifications). A Career Summary identifies a career goal and summarizes previous work experiences, skill sets, and accomplishments. Career Summaries are usually bulleted or written as a brief paragraph. Objectives/Career Summaries should be brief, short statements that exclude the pronoun “I” and often are incomplete sentences grammatically. To keep the statement brief, “to obtain,” “seeking,” or similar phrases do not need to be used at the beginning of the Objective/Career Summary. The term “entry-level” may also be excluded as employers will determine what type of position best fits your background. Statements of personal opinion such as “top/prestigious/respected company” or “competitive/challenging position” should be omitted as all companies feel that they offer that to a candidate. An Objective/Career Summary should be specific but not so specific that it is too limiting and not so general that it fails to provide any information. If you are looking for positions in two unrelated areas, you may want to build two different objectives and perhaps even two different resumes. Including an Objective/Career Summary on your resume is not required but highly recommended as it portrays you as a focused candidate.
For recent graduates or students currently in college, the education section usually follows the “Objective” or “Career Summary” section. Job seekers who have more extensive work experience often place their “Education” section below their “Work Experience” section. Students in their first or second year of college may want to list their high school if activities and work experiences from high school are included on the resume. Otherwise, colleges attended are listed and technical certifications if they are not mentioned in a “Computer Skills” section. Always list the university you are currently attending first. If a degree was obtained from another institution or if you attended another institution for close to 2 years, it should always be listed on the resume after the current institution you are attending. If you attended a school for a semester or two, it does not need to be included on the resume unless you have recently transferred from that institution. Credits that count from that institution will appear on your current college transcript. Always list your degree and major and the month and year of graduation or the dates of attendance at prior institutions on a resume. Your overall GPA and/or major GPA may be included in this section of the resume. The major GPA is usually only listed if it is significantly higher than the overall GPA. Generally, a GPA of 3.0 or above should be listed on the resume; however a lower GPA is acceptable for some majors. Academic honors, scholarships, student organizations, training and certifications may also be listed in this section.
A computer skills section is essential on a resume. Every employer requires a certain level of computer knowledge. Even if it is a short list, it is important to list those skills on a resume. List the programs individually instead of as a package (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access instead of Microsoft Office) as companies will often conduct a key word search for a specific program. Internet or Internet Research and Email can also be included; however individual types of Internet browsers or email programs do not need to be listed unless you will be in technical position troubleshooting those programs. Technical candidates may want to categorize their computer skills by software, hardware, web design, languages, etc. in order to make it easier for the reader to locate certain programs. Knowledge levels of programs can be broken down and described as “familiar with,” “working knowledge of,” or “proficient in” if needed.
The experiences detailed on your resume should be from your work history, volunteer involvement, course projects, or leadership activities. These are listed in more detail than other items on your resume. Each experience should have a job or project title, the name of the organization, employer, or class, the location (city & state only), and dates of employment or involvement. This information is written in the same order and format throughout the experience section.
A description of your responsibilities is detailed below the heading. These descriptions are usually incomplete sentences that are bulleted to make them easy to read. They do not include a subject and always start with an action verb to provide an immediate idea of the types of skills being used. These sentences should be short but descriptive. Each sentence should have enough detail to answer who, what, where, how or why. Emphasis should be placed on accomplishments, cost reductions or profits, and supervisory skills if applicable.
Activities, Honors, and Professional Memberships can be combined or listed separately. Items included in this area are usually listed on one line. If all activities and honors are connected to your current institution, you do not need to list it with the activity. You also do not need to include dates. However, if you do include dates or the name of the institution, you need to include them for all of the activities or honors listed.
Any knowledge of foreign languages should be listed on a resume and broken down by level of comprehension through the terms “familiar with,” “proficient in,” or “fluent in” as they apply. Oral and written levels should be mentioned separately. Example:
Any significant research projects/papers that have been published should be included in a resume if they pertain to the type of work you are seeking or illustrate research and writing skills marketable to employers. The full title and date of the work should be included along with co-authors and name of the publication (if applicable).
Do’s and Don’ts of Resume Writing
- Proofread your resume and have 3 other people proofread it is well. Spell check cannot be relied upon and an error free resume is essential. Resumes with errors are likely to be dismissed by employers.
- Organize each section in reverse chronological order with most recent experiences listed first and least recent experiences listed last.
- Verb tense should be in present tense for any work or activity you are currently performing and in past tense for anything that you have completed.
- “References Available upon Request” statement or a “References” section are not needed on a resume. Most employers know they may request references and you should have a separate list prepared.
- City and state should be listed for each employer or school mentioned. Street addresses, zip codes, supervisor names, and phone numbers are not necessary.
- Dates listed should always include the year, and, if you desire, the month, but do not include the actual day. Dates should be written in the same format throughout the resume. For example, don’t put “July 2003” in one section and “07/03” in another.
- Create two versions of your resume emphasizing different skills and experiences if you are seeking employment in two different types of fields.
- Age, sex, marital status, height, weight, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and personal photos should never be included on a resume. Involvement with organizations that imply one of the above factors is perfectly acceptable.
- High school experiences should not be included unless you are in your first or second year of college. Employers are primarily interested in information related to college or post-college accomplishments.
- Hobbies or interests sections may be included on a resume if space allows and should consist of a brief (2-4 items) list. Employers are most interested in experiences that relate to your field of work, such as travel, personal investing, personal web design, and non-professional clubs that relate to the career area.
- Salary information should not be included on a resume. If an employer requests a “salary history” or “salary requirements,” include a salary range that you are seeking in your cover letter.
- Abbreviations other than “GPA” should not be used on a resume. Acronyms may be used if the title is first written out in this manner.
- parenthesis should be avoided. If the information is important enough to have on your resume, it does not need to be in parentheses.
- Periods may be used at the end of sentences or descriptions in resumes. However, if you use periods be consistent and use them everywhere.
- Availability only needs to be mentioned if you are able to work full-time prior to your graduation date or if you are seeking part-time employment during a distinct period of time, such as summer.
- Ability to Relocate/Willingness to Travel are appealing factors to many employers and should be noted.
- Work status information such as citizenship, visa, or residency status may also be included on a resume.
Summary of Qualifications
Education and Training
Career Related Experience
Course Project Experience
“Functional” Experience (e.g. Finance Experience)
Related Course Projects
Activities and Honors
Special Skills and Training
Areas of Experience
Areas of Expertise
Areas of Knowledge
Career Related Skills
Language Competencies and Skills
Current Research Interests
Action Verbs for Resumes
Resumes should be printed on high quality, letter size, 24lb. cotton or linen/cotton paper in a cream or white color. Sold in all office supply and copy stores, it is usually referred to as resume or parchment paper and is preferred for resumes as it is more durable and provides a professional impression. Cover letters and reference lists should be printed on the same paper.
Font and Margin Size
In order for a resume to be easy to read, font size should be between 10 and 12. The font type should be fairly simple, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or New Century Schoolbook, so that it is easy to read and loaded on most computers in case an employer is reading an online version of a resume in Microsoft Word. With the exception your name and section headings, font size should be consistent throughout the resume. Margins should be at least .5 on the top and bottom and .7 on the left and right. Any text outside of those margins will not print on most computers.
Most resumes of entry-level graduates should be limited to one page. Accomplishments and work experiences need to be rather significant before expanding a resume to two pages. A two-page resume should fill at least 1/3 of the second page. A resume section may be split between the two pages, but a particular work experience should not be divided. Unless you are attending a career fair, a two-page resume does not need to be stapled, but the top of the second page should contain some contact information.
There are several different types of layouts to choose from when creating a resume. The choice of style is a personal preference, however a few key items should be considered. The resume format should be consistent throughout the document. All dates, locations, job titles, etc. should be in the same position for each description. The layout should be easy to read and allow for some spacing to ensure it is pleasing to the eye. Resumes that are too cramped are hard to read and do not allow for key items to stand out. Although using a resume template, such as Microsoft Word’s, may be a bit easier, try to avoid using one as it limits the editing, spacing, and font selections that may be used.
Scannable Resumes and Sending Resumes via Email
Any time an employer requests a scannable version of your resume or a resume is sent via email or submitted through an on-line application site, certain formatting changes must be made to ensure that a resume is easy to read. Employers who request scannable resumes or take online applications through their web site often download the resumes into a software system that enables them to search resumes in a database. As a result, resumes need to be in a certain format in order to scan or download easily. When emailing an employer a resume, a scannable version should be included below the body text of your email (the cover/application letter) in addition to attaching a Microsoft Word version of your resume. Many employers will not open attachments to avoid viruses or prefer the convenience of the resume included in the email.
To create a resume that is easy to read in both a scanned and emailed format, follow these guidelines:
· Left justify all text in your resume, including your name and address, section headings and dates and location of employment. Do not use columns.
· Do not use text boxes, tables, lines, graphics, tabs, parentheses and brackets.
· Do not use underlining or italics.
· Bold may be used but will not appear when the document is transferred into email.
· Bullet points may not be used but should be replaced with a – or * sign. Do not allow Microsoft Word to automatically format these, as they need to be hand entered, not computer generated.
· Use CAPITALIZATION to make key items such as your name, section headings, and job titles stand out.
· Two page electronic versions of the resume do not need a heading on the 2nd page.
· Printed versions should be on plain, white, copy paper and should not be folded or stapled.
· A key word section is not necessary, as key industry words should be included within the text of the resume.
After completing this version of the resume, save it in a Microsoft Word file, cut and paste it into an email, and send it to yourself to ensure that it is easy to read. Once the version is finished, print as needed or cut and paste it into emails or application text boxes for job applications.
Creating a Reference List
An employer may ask for a list of references. References should always be prepared separately and should not be listed on the resume. Occasionally a list is submitted when applying for a position but most of the time employers will ask for a list of contacts during or after the interview process. The list should be in the same font and on the same paper as the resume and should include your name and contact information and the names, titles, employers, and work contact information of your references. Select 3-4 possible contacts that have knowledge of your work performance. Previous and current work supervisors, student organization advisors, and professors are good options. If your current employer is a reference and is unaware that you are seeking new employment, include the text “please notify me before contacting this reference” next to their name so that you are able to speak with your employer first. Occasionally employers may ask for a personal reference, but one should only be included in a reference list if it is specifically requested.
Always ask for permission to use individuals as a reference before submitting their information to an employer. It is also a good idea to spend some time with your references explaining the types of positions you are seeking and highlighting recent skills and experiences you have that relate to your career choice. All references should be given a copy of your resume as well. Once you have secured employment, don’t forget to write a thank you note to your references and inform them of your new position.