A resume is the primary marketing tool in your job search. The challenge of effective resume writing is that you must be creative and provide organized and concise thoughts, while working in a clearly prescribed structure. Your ultimate goal is to develop a unique piece, outstanding for its personalized content and its visual appeal. Exceptional resume writing can be extremely challenging and require many revisions, but it is worth the effort – the payoff is attracting the attention of prospective employers. A truly effective resume achieves two goals:
- It presents a concise summary of your skills and accomplishments
- It clearly establishes a relationship between your experience and your career objective
Resume DOs and DON’Ts
- DO write your own resume. Your resume should be authentic and accurately reflect your goals and achievements; you are the best person to accomplish this task. Writing your resume also forces you to organize, analyze, and articulate your experience, a process that enhances your interviewing skills.
- DO find your thesaurus. Select specific, action verbs that convey your experience, results, etc., as clearly as possible. Choose nouns, adjectives and adverbs with the same outcome in mind.
- DO use industry-specific language. Develop your resume with professional jargon and industry “buzzwords” appropriate to the particular occupation you are seeking. Increasingly, employers are relying upon computer programs that scan resumes for keywords – don’t let your resume be passed over for failure to include keywords that demonstrate your job-related skills.
- DO ensure that your resume is error-free. Proofread your final draft and ask at least two other people to proofread it as well. Check for improper grammar, inconsistency in language or layout, spelling or punctuation errors, poor construction of the content, typos, etc. (Don’t rely solely on spell-check!)
- DON’T go wild with the design of your resume. Avoid horizontal and vertical lines, script, shading and graphics, which can bleed or blotch when copied or faxed. Pick a readable font such as Times New Roman or Helvetica (at least 10 pt) and be sure to leave enough white space at the margins. All margins should be at least 0.7”.
- DON’T rigidly follow a template. Prepare a resume that makes the most sense for where you are in your career development. Avoid word processing software templates like those found on Microsoft Word, which arrange information in an order that may not make sense for you and often include very wide margins (which limits the amount of content you can include). Whatever layout you choose should allow readers to easily scan relevant information, and key information should be on the left-hand side of the page.
- DON’T ramble on. Reviewing a resume is NOT like reading a book! The average reviewer has 30 seconds to look at your resume and will typically scan sections and bullet points. Be concise, use phrases instead of sentences and avoid paragraphs. Step back and take a look at your resume while timing yourself, paying attention to what stands out and what you missed. For recent graduates, the resume should be one page. For graduate students and those with extensive work histories, the resume can go onto a second page if necessary.
- DON’T skimp when printing your resume. Use a laser printer to create a master copy of your resume and make 50 copies on high quality bond paper (preferably white, although light beige and grey are acceptable).
Resume FormatThere are various sections to an effective resume. The sections, format and arrangement you use will depend on the resume type you select, and should be uniquely tailored to your education, background, and experience. All resumes should include a heading and education section, as well as a section describing your experience.
Items to be listed in this section include:
- Full Name
- Phone Number(s)
- Email address
- Website and or ePortfolio (if applicable
Your objective or summary is the statement of purpose for your resume, creating a frame of reference for the reader. If you are creating different resumes for different companies and industries, tailor your career objective each time. Examples of Career Objectives
- An entry-level position in marketing management in the consumer products industry
- Participation in a management training program in the banking industry, leading to a career in the loan division
- Research and development in applied biology
- A position in development with a non-profit organization that makes use of my excellent research and writing skills
- An internship in marketing
In this section, list your degrees in reverse chronological order. Note that after sophomore year, high school should not be on this list. Transfer students should only list the college from which they will actually earn a degree.
- Degrees earned or anticipated
- Schools attended, including study abroad
- Areas of study pursued (majors, minors)
- Academic honors and awards
- Thesis work, if any
- GPA, especially if strong
- Relevant coursework
- Certifications you have achieved
- Co-curricular Activities
- Honors and Awards. Include name of the award, date received and any affiliated organizations. Explain the significance of the award if necessary, avoiding acronyms or abbreviations.
This section can be a combination of paid and unpaid work, listed in reverse chronological order (starting with your most recent experience first).
- Organization name and location (city/state)
- Dates of service (e.g., 2005-2007)
- Position title
- Transferable skills you demonstrated
ACTIVITIES (may be co-curricular, community service-based or both) Highlight organizations in which you are/were an active participant, offices held, and the results of your work:
- Dates of involvement (year to year is sufficient)
- Honors received
- Name of Organization
- Noteworthy achievements/activities
- Offices held
This section typically relates to language skills such as level of fluency in speaking, reading, and writing a second, third, etc. language. You may also note any unique or specialized computer skills in this area. Other special skills such as laboratory techniques are listed if they connect to your objective.
MILITARY SERVICE (if applicable) Branch of service and dates
The style or format you choose for your resume is essential to its impact. The style you choose should allow you to bring your most important accomplishments and experience to the top of your resume, and to focus the reader on those skills, experiences or achievements that connect most clearly with your career goals.
The most common resume styles are:
Chronological The most widely used format and the one most familiar to employers, this resume style is arranged in reverse chronological order, with the most recent experience listed first in each section. It is a good idea to first write your resume in a chronological format. The chronological resume is the best choice for most undergraduate students. This style organizes your information, ensuring that you cover all your pertinent experience.
- Advantages: Focuses on the positions held and emphasizes the progression of your work experience. If the experience you have is career-related and reflects the skills and experience you wish to use in your next job, this style will serve you well.
- Disadvantages: If there is not a direct correlation between your previous experience and your future goals, this format may not focus the reader on your transferable skills or potential.
This format highlights skills that best categorize your experience and correlate with the abilities necessary to work in your chosen field.
- Advantages: Emphasizes experience and skills that may be transferable to several fields rather than specific positions held. It allows you to group your most important qualifications under skill or experience headings that can link you to your career goals. This format may provide a distinct advantage to career changers and people with little or no direct experience in their field of choice.
- Disadvantages: Because your "employment history" typically appears at the bottom of this resume format and has no description, it may raise questions for the reader.
Do not list the names of your references on your resume – in fact, you do not even need to state that references are “available upon request.” An employer will request references after you have reached the interview stage. Instead, prepare a reference list to bring with you to interviews. The reference list provides a listing of individuals who can attest to your qualifications for a particular position. These individuals should also be familiar with your skills and personal attributes. References should be individuals who know you professionally and know you well. They may include:
- Supervisors from internships, full-time, part-time, or volunteer work
- Academic advisors
- Student group advisors
Your reference list should include the following information:
- Name of Reference
- Complete Work mailing address
- Work phone number
- E-mail address (if appropriate)