A résumé is a brief history of your accomplishments that you prepare for potential employers. Specifically it is a marketing tool to highlight your strengths and unique qualifications. Take time and care in writing this important document.
A good résumé is:
- Clear: presents the facts about you in a clear easy-to-read-style
- Well Organized: The reader can see your strong points in a glance
- Dynamic: Action verbs make your accomplishments come alive
- Neat: the appearance says, "I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve done."
What to include on your résumé
These are the standard resume elements, but remember that you can (and should) organize your résumé so that it works the best for you and highlights your unique strengths. Below are examples of categories to include on a résumé:
Include full name, complete address (if you’re a college student include your present address and a permanent address), phone number (at college and at permanent address if applicable), and e-mail address. Be sure the message on your answering machine and your email address show that you are a mature, business-like person.
- JOB OBJECTIVE OR PROFESSIONAL PROFILE
An objective statement is optional, but it can let the employer know what kind of position you’re looking for. If you include a job objective, avoid being vague but don’t be so specific that you eliminate yourself from other closely related positions.
Poor Objective: A challenging position that uses my education and creativity.
Good objective: A position as a writer in a public relations firm.
A Professional Profile is also optional, but it gives the employer a summary of your skills and experience you would bring to the job. This is your chance to highlight your key skills and achievements and make an employer want to learn more about you.
Poor Profile: Many work experiences.
Good Profile: Worked 20-30 hours per week to finance 70% of college education.
This section should contain: Name of School (s), location, date of attendance, degrees/certificates awarded, major(s) and minor (if applicable). You may also want to include your GPA, coursework that may be related to the job you want, honors or awards.
- RELATED EXPERIENCE
For this section think of all the work and volunteer experiences you’ve had. Think about the skills and knowledge you’ve gained from those experiences and emphasize those qualities. Remember that employers hire you because of your skills, knowledge and personality, not necessarily because of what was your college major. Always be sure to include the names and locations of employers, dates of employment and job titles. Try to be descriptive and qualitative when telling about your work but write it in quick phrases or short narratives. Leave out experience that’s more than 10-15 years old unless it relates to the job you are seeking.
Internship(s): describe your key accomplishments and responsibilities, the type of work environment you were in, experience with computers, industry-specific tools, etc.
Full-time and Part-time Work: consider the work environment, your skills and accomplishments from the job. Which of these skills will transfer to other jobs? Describe as you did for your internship.
Volunteer: these experiences can be valuable as they show your commitment to helping others; they can also show your leadership skills and your ability to manage your time. Leadership: include descriptions of skills you have gained and used in various leadership positions on the job or on campus. Leadership skills are among the top skills sought by employers.
- ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE
These are other work or volunteer experiences that may not seem closely related to the job you’re applying for but will demonstrate employability and work ethic to an employer as well as your ability to get along with co-workers and customers.
- TECHNICAL SKILLS
Let’s the employer know what you feel comfortable using on the computer. If you are fluent in a foreign language, you can mention it in this section or under your Professional Profile section.
- ACTIVITIES AND/OR LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE
Interests or activities that will show an employer you have leadership, organizational, social skills, etc. To decide how much and what to include, ask yourself: ‘What am I trying to convey to a prospective employer? Does this activity illustrate my strengths in relation to this position?’
- PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
List membership in organizations related to your career. Shows an employer you want to further your career by getting to know other professionals in your field.
The Tone of your Résumé
Set the right tone in your resume by showing that you’re a dynamic individual with a lot to offer! Here’s how:
- Emphasize the positive.
- Sell your strengths.
- Focus on the positive contributions you’ve made to your employers, your school and your community.
- Highlight accomplishments. If you’re a college student or a recent graduate, list education before experience since that’s your most important qualification at this time in your life.
- When listing job experiences, don’t just list the duties, list what you actually achieved and be specific.
Poor example: Supervised staff at a store.
Good example: Supervised 6 staff persons at a retail clothing store.
- Use action verbs—especially at the start of a descriptive phrase. Check list for good verbs to use.
- Avoid wordiness. Use keywords and phrases instead of complete sentences.
- Don’t use the pronoun "I". Be direct.
Poor wording: Staged an extensive campaign to increase membership and raise funds for the professional women’s organization at my company.
Good wording: Increased organizational memberships and fundraising profits by 10%.
- Use familiar terms. Use common language appropriate to the job and the industry that interests you.
- Be neat. Make your resume look professional. Check and double check for spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors and word usage. Have several professionals proof it for you. Use a quality printer and print on high quality bond paper in white or off-white. Use matching envelopes when sending in the mail.
- Incorporate Action Verbs in your employment correspondence. Listed below are words you may want to use:
Using Data, I have: Interacting with People I have: Dealing with things I have:
administered advised adjusted analyzed coordinated altered compared counseled assembled computed directed balanced compiled encouraged built coordinated entertained driven designed evaluated fabricated developed guided guided directed helped handled edited instructed inspected figured interviewed lifted implemented managed made innovated motivated mixed organized negotiated moved planned organized operated recorded persuaded repaired reported protected set up researched referred shaped synthesized served tended theorized shared tested written supervised trained supervised trained
- Creating a Scannable Keyword Résumé Many employers are using computerized tracking systems to manage the large numbers of resumes they receive. Instead of a person reading your resume and deciding if your qualifications meet their needs, the resume is scanned into a database. The tracking software searches the database for keywords that describe essential qualifications desired for the position. Success in having your resume selected from the employer’s database is determined by how effectively you have used keywords in your resume. Keywords are usually nouns that define skills, experience and education. Employers are searching for the presence of keywords from their industry. To help you identify appropriate keywords you should be using, answer these questions:
- What are some ‘jargon’ words commonly used in the industry?
- What are some of the ‘catch phrases’ used in the profession?
- What are some of the skills required for the posted position?
- What are some of the qualifications the employer is seeking?
- Follow these steps to create a scannable keyword resume:
1. Remove all graphics; they confuse scanners. This includes art, shading, and horizontal and vertical lines. Bullets confuse some systems, so replace bullets with asterisks.
2. Be sure your name is on the top line of the resume and no other text is on that line.
3. Move all text to the left margin, remove tabs and use the space bar to indent.
4. Use common and easily recognizable fonts. Ideally use a sans-serif font (without the little ‘feet’ on characters) such as Arial or Helvetica, or common fonts such as Times or Times New Roman.
5. Keep all point sizes between 10 and 14 points.
6. Use standard line spacing. Do not compress lines of text.
7. Remove italic, bold and underlining. Use all caps as an alternative to bold.
8. Keep ‘To’ and ‘From’ employment dates on one line. Use only a single date on college degrees.
9. Don’t use parentheses around the area codes in telephone numbers. Replace them with a hyphen: 303-345-6789 vs (303) 345-6789.
Résumé Writing Do’s and Don’ts
- Be honest. Employers can usually spot any exaggeration or false information
- Keep it brief. Most employers only spend 20 seconds looking at a resume so try to limit it to one page.
- Write your own resume. You know yourself better than anyone does.
- Don’t include any unnecessary personal information such as race, age, religion, political affiliation. It is not legal for an employer to see this information because it may give them opportunity to discriminate.
- Don’t include any salary requirements. If you’re asked for this information, put it in the cover letter (but be careful how you state it so not to eliminate you from a job).
- Don’t use gimmicks like photographs, unusual formats, loud colored paper, etc. It may attract the wrong kind of attention.
For sample resumes please contact Career Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.