I. Basic Facts
A. Writing Skills
o Hiring personnel likely to hold a poorly written resume against the applicant
o Used as a weed-out tool
o Should use minimal wording, thus making sure each carefully chosen fact produces a lasting
impression on an employer
B. Time Allotted and Length
o Average time spent on a resume is 10 to 30 seconds
o Should be one page
C. “Does it Help” Rule
o When adding information, ask yourself “does it help?”
o Will the piece of information help get the interview
o Is it relevant to the position I want
o Does it solve their problem
o Is it more important than something else
II. Resume Defined
o A resume is a summary of your experiences and skills relevant to the field of work you are entering.
o It highlights your accomplishments to show a potential employer that you are qualified for the work
you want. It is not a biography of everything you have done.
o Its purpose is to get you an interview.
o A resume can and should reflect more than just your paid work experience. Include the details of your
more important extracurricular, volunteer, and leadership experiences.
B. Tailored Resumes
o Tailor separate resumes to fit each career field in which you are job searching. You can create slightly
different resumes tailored to each job opening.
III. Resume Types:
Objective statement followed by chronological job history, including some highlighted achievements at
Shows progress in a single profession, thus puts emphasis on work experience (may not be the best choice
for a college graduate)
Emphasis on abilities instead of work history
Objective statement followed by list of skills an employer wants with a brief example of the qualifications;
employment history follows at the bottom in a brief format
Combines the strengths of both resumes
Objective statement followed by a list of a few key skills followed by an in-depth employment history
similar to a chronological resume
Good for students who have internship experience and career-oriented extracurricular activities
IV. Getting Started
Step 1: Make a list of your various activities over the years
Include paid work, volunteer positions, extracurricular activities (especially those in which you had a
leadership role) and internships.
Can go as far back as four or five years. Graduating seniors will often have one or two items from high
school on their resume if those items stress an important skill.
Step 2: Write a paragraph about each important item in your list.
“Important items” would include most paid work, internships, extended volunteer activities, and activities
in which you had a leadership role.
Don’t worry about the wording of your paragraphs at this point ; “resume language” will come later
Describe accomplishments as well as duties (provide a skill and its result)
An example of a duty might be “I maintained ten computers, loading new software and resolving problems
as needed,” while an example of an accomplishment might be “I created two self-paced PowerPoint
presentations to train people in our office on the new company software, and it was so successful that my
manager asked me to present it to five other managers in the company.”
Note: You will eventually change your wording into “resume language,” dropping any
“I’s” and making your phrases more concise. For now, use whatever language you want.
Step 3: Pick the items that you will highlight or emphasize on your resume.
Give this some thought. Consider two factors here:
o What are your greatest strengths, and how can you demonstrate those strengths through your
experience? All employers value certain qualities: team player; good communication skills; leadership
abilities. In addition, you have particular skills that you consider your strong points, you would
generally try to bring those to light, as well.
o What are the requirements and needs of this particular industry, this particular employer and this
Here’s an example of the needs of an industry and a job:
Advertising industry – account executive:
The industry tends to value creativity, high energy, and the ability to work in a hectic, deadline-driven
The job of account executive demands that you be detail-oriented, good with people and able to handle
many projects at once.
Your task, then, would be to demonstrate those qualities through the activities described on your resume.
Step 4: Create the sections of your resume.
Section 1: Name and Address
Put your name in at least 14-point. Recruiters often must look through stacks of resumes in search of a
particular one. Make it easy for them to see your name.
Include both your school address and phone number, as well as the address and phone number where you
can be reached during school vacations or after you graduate.
Include your e-mail address. If you check your e-mail during school vacations, you may want to center the
address on your resume in a way that implies it is not just associated with your school address.
Section 2: Objective
Objective: An objective is optional, but should be included. If you have worked out a clearly targeted job
objective, then definitely include it.
1-2 sentences about the job sought and why you would be a valuable part of the team
Avoid pronouns and flowery language; don’t be too general (“a challenging position enabling me to
contribute to organizational goals while offering an opportunity for growth and advancement”)
Focus on what you have to offer rather than on what the job can offer you. Employers want to know if you
fit their needs, not what you hope to get out of a job.
Example: “OBJECTIVE: Editorial assistant position in the publishing industry, utilizing my academic
background in literature and my three years of experience writing for campus and local newspapers.”
Section 3: Education
This section always goes first on your resume, as long as you are in school.
Include major, minor, type of degree, honors distinctions, GPA
If you are still an undergraduate and applying for an internship, list your high school below your college in
this section. Note: Your significant activities from high school can be listed in this section, though many
students benefit more from listing those in more detail in their Experience or Activities sections.
Once you have graduated from college, your education section goes first on your resume from one to three
years, depending on such factors as whether your education was relevant to your career field and how
impressive your work experience has been in the intervening years. If you have recently received a
graduate or professional degree, your education would usually go at the top of your resume.
As a graduating senior, your GPA should always be mentioned, as long as it is above 3.0. Most recruiters
will assume that it is below 3.0 if they do not see it on your resume.
“Courses studied” or Relevant Coursework” is an optional section. If you have taken courses outside your
major that are relevant to the job (or if you simply want to emphasize your academic training relevant to
the job or internship), you would definitely benefit from including this section. For example, if you were a
Philosophy major trying to find work in the computer industry, and you had taken three courses in the
Computer Science department; you would definitely include them in a “Relevant Courses” section.
Significant honors and awards can be included as a sub-category of your Education section.
Section 4: Experience
Don’t limit this section to paid work experiences. Employers understand that the most valuable or most
challenging experiences often occur in internships, volunteer work or other extracurricular activities.
Opportunity to show how transferred skills learned in the classroom to the workplace.
Student Teaching Experience – Include name and location of placements, dates involved, and grade level of
assignment. Major responsibilities in teaching area should be emphasized.
How should you describe your experiences?
Consult the paragraphs you wrote about each of your jobs or activities: choose from one to eight sentences
that encapsulate the skills you used at this job or activity, your duties and your significant
accomplishments. (skill and result)
Include both your duties and your accomplishments.
Duties tell the employer you can do the job. Accomplishments indicate that you will go above and beyond
the call of duty:
Duties alone can sound bland: “Wrote articles, researched topics, filed documents”?
When you add your accomplishments and contributions, you set yourself apart from the other applicants:
“Researched and wrote weekly Music Notes for local arts newspaper. Created archival database that saved
staff several hours of work per week. Chosen from among seven interns to represent newspaper at
MusicFest 2001 festival; wrote feature story that ran on front page.”
Use action verbs (“wrote,” “managed,” “researched,” “coached,” “planned,” etc.).
Where possible, use keywords.
Cite numbers to make a point (e.g. number of people supervised; size of event created).
Be concise; use telegram rather than narrative style.
Include “buzz” words only if you are sure of their meaning.
Include employment dates (month and year).
Section 5: Activities, Volunteer work, Interests
If you choose to separate your work experience from your extracurricular activities or volunteer work, they
can go in a separate section, but they don’t have to go in a separate section.
You do not need to demote these activities to the bottom of your resume. What’s left at the bottom of
your resume may not get any attention.
Listing your “interests” or hobbies on a resume is okay, but generally you should not do so at the expense
of leaving out other, more important information.
When should you list your interests?
When your interests or hobbies are so unusual that they are bound to attract positive attention.
When your interests or hobbies reflect positively on your job skills. For example, if you are applying for
work as a paralegal and you love chess, the recruiter may equate your hobby with analytical abilities.
Section 6: Skills
This is an optional section depending on the type of resume written.Computer skills:
You may wish to list the systems (Macintosh, IBM, UNIX, etc.) and applications (Filemaker Pro, Microsoft
Word, PageMaker, HTML, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) with which you are capable.
List specific programming languages
You may even want to use italicized sub-categories:
List languages in which you are proficient or conversational and indicate your level of ability (“basic
conversational ability,” “proficiency,” “near-fluency,” “fluency”) or the number of years of college-level
If you are applying for scientific or laboratory positions, you may want to create a list of your lab skills. A
biology major student might break those skills down into sub-categories such as “histology,” “cell culture,”
and “staining.” Of course, the sub-categories and skills mentioned should be relevant to the particular job.
Always check your skills list with a professor or mentor, unless you have significant professional experience
in that career field.
Section 7: References
Don’t write “References Available on Request” on your resume.
Do create a references list as soon as you can and have it available, in case an employer asks for
Step 5: Format your resume.
Direct the employer’s eye to the most important information: (remember, 10-30 seconds)
- Leave plenty of white space on your resume – don’t make your resume look crowded.
- Emphasize job titles by boldfacing them (except where the name of a prestigious organization you
have worked for will grab their attention first).
- Place the most important information closer to the top of your resume. (For example, if you are a
student and your paid work has been fairly mundane, but you have great computer skills or excellent
extracurricular leadership experience, then put the skills or the extracurriculars near the top of your
- Where appropriate, descriptive category headings can attract an employers attention (for example,
“Counseling and Tutoring Experience” or “Leadership Experience” instead of just “Experience”).
- Leave blank space between the separate sections and items on your resume.
Other formatting details:
Condense to one page. Exceptions: two-page resumes for nursing, for education and for those alumni who
have over two years of experience in that field (however, before going with a two-page resume, check with
others in your career field).
Center and balance your resume on the page, leaving approximately 1 inch margins.
Design your resume for easy skimming: emphasize by boldfacing, capitalizing and italicizing.
Use 8 1/2″ x 11″ white, off-white or very light-gray bond paper. Do not use colored paper.
Proofread carefully and have others review your final draft.
V. General Resume “Don’ts”
Include information for leaving a job
Letters of recommendation
Race, religion, age, sexual orientation
Starting date (should be included in the cover letter)
Use clichéd adjectives like “dynamic” or “self-starting”; use detailed descriptions of accomplishments to
Just use job duties—prove what you have done
Send a resume without a cover letter
Use a resume wizard or place your resume in a table
Use elaborate fonts (Arial or Times New Roman will suffice)
Avoid unnecessary personal information such as marital status and date of birth.
VI. General Resume Do’s
Use consistent format and alignment
Keep in plain text
Vary sentence structure to avoid bored
Keep sentences to under 25 words; average about 18 words, but change it up so the resume is not the
same line after line
Shorter sentences: start with a clause: follow with a colon, then add bullets of information relating to the
Add bullets to accomplishments to make them stand out
Proofread by you and other people; watch out for spelling and grammar—spell-check does not catch
everything (manger v. manager)
Use quality paper (at least 50% cotton); no scented or decorative paper
Potentially include preferences on job location and personal hobbies
Revise, revise, revise
VII. Electronic Resume Formats
Never attach a resume or cover letter to your e-mail unless specifically requested. Some employers
automatically delete e-mails with attached resumes. Always put your cover letter and resume as text
within the body of your e-mail message.
Though the content of your resume remains the same, whether you send it by e-mail, by fax, over the Web
or by snail mail, you will need to put your resume into several distinct formats:
o A fully-formatted text resume (created in word-processing software, such as Microsoft Word). Most
people start by creating a fully-formatted resume and then convert that resume to the other two
o A plan-text resume, (also know as an ASCII resume) when applying for jobs by e-mail or submitting
your resume via a form on the Web.
Use a plain-text resume for the following situations:
When you are applying for a job through an e-mail link (or when an employer has asked you to e-mail them
a resume). You place your plain-text resume in the body of the e-mail message, preceded by your cover
letter. Never send a resume as an attachment to your e-mail, unless an employer specifically instructs you
to do so.
When entering a resume onto most resume databases on the Web. (A few job sites, such as Net-Temps
and JobOptions.com, allow you to upload your Microsoft Word resume to their database.)
o Scannable resumes are printed on paper, in a format that can be easily scanned into a computer
database (rarely used today).
This is a paper resume that an employer can physically scan into a resume database, to be retrieved later
by computer. Scannable resumes contain no extra formatting – no bullets, no italics, no bold, no
underlining, no fancy fonts and no tabbed columns.
Few employers go to the trouble and expense of scanning paper resumes into a computer database. When
an employer requests that you send a resume through the postal system, ask if they would prefer a fullyformatted resume or a scannable resume. If you do not know the answer, you may want to send both
types, and add the words “Scannable Resume” at the bottom of that resume.
VIII. Using Resume Keywords
Many employers use database technology to store and search the resumes that are sent to them by
potential employees. Employers and recruiters search these databases using industry-specific keywords.
Keywords are nouns and phrases that highlight technical and professional areas of expertise, industryrelated jargon, achievements, projects, task forces, job titles, etc.
If your resume does not contain at least some of the keywords that the employer is using, then your
resume will be skipped by the computer, even if you have all of the experience and skills required by the
Some experienced job seekers may enhance their resume by including many of these keywords in a
“Summary of Qualifications” near the top of their resume. This section may also be called a “Professional
Summary” or “Skills.” And while most graduating seniors’ resumes do not benefit from such a summary, it
is still imperative to include the appropriate keywords in the text of your resume.
Here a few basic principles for using keywords in your resume:
The best source of keywords is the actual job listing, which is likely to contain many, if not all, of the
keywords that an employer will use to search the resume database.
Talk to people in the career field you are targeting, and ask them what keywords are appropriate to the
positions you are applying to.
Visit professional association Web sites, and read the content carefully. Many of these are loaded with
industry-related jargon which may be appropriate for your resume.
Link: Galenet-Association search (be sure to unclick the ALL box, and click on “National Associations,” THEN
enter a career field in the “Description of Purpose and Activities” or “Subject Descriptor” lines.)
Find a copy of Electronic Resume Revolution, by Joyce Lain Kennedy
Try the Occupational Outlook Handbook, an excellent resource produced by the U.S. Dept. of Labor.
Try Rebecca Smith’s “eResumes and Resources”.
Include plenty of keyword nouns and noun phrases throughout your resume. If you have a “Summary of
Qualifications” section at the beginning of your resume, try not to repeat verbatim the contents of this
In some fields, a simple list of skills does not sufficiently describe the job seeker’s background. Where
appropriate, include accomplishments, as well, but be sure to include enough keywords to satisfy the
Here are two examples, taken from Job Searching Online for Dummies, by Pam Dixon:
Keyword summary, example 1
PROFESSIONAL SUMMARY: Award-winning corporate controller with more than ten years’ experience in
two $500 million corporations. Impressive record in implementing financial record database architecture
that saved over $2 million annually. Proficient in Oracle, Prism, Red Brick, and SAP systems, as well as MS
Project, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and FrontPage.”
Keyword summary, example 2
Languages: C, SQL, C++, Assembler, Pascal
Software: Oracle Developer 2000, Informix NewEra, FoxPro
OS: UNIX, Windows NT/95/3.11, MS-DOS
RDBMS: Oracle7, Informix 7
Other important ideas:
o If you’re still in college, try to get at least one internship in the career field you’re targeting. Even if
you’re internship lasts only a few weeks, you will significantly increase your keyword count.
o You should have a minimum of 4 industry- or job-specific keywords. The ideal is to have at least 12
o Choose both general and specific keywords: For example, general = psychology; therapist;
psychologist. Specific = addiction; behavioral therapy.
IX. Online Resume Banks
o JobStar.org – highly recommended – topics include “Descriptions of Major Resume Banks,” “Should You
or Shouldn’t You? Evaluating Resume Banks,” and “Let’s Get Electronic: Why Employers Use Resume
o eResumes.com – Great advice, well-organized. Also, links to select resume databases.
o ResumeRabbit.com – enter your resume on this site, and the site posts your resume to multiple major
job sites. NOTE: There is a fee of $59.95 for this service.
o Confidentiality of your resume.
o Marketing surveys – many resume databases include marketing surveys on their Web sites, often
integrating them into the forms used to post your resume. If you start seeing questions about your
age, your gender or how you heard about their Web site, you are responding to a marketing survey.
You may even be asked about your race or nationality. Skip all these questions. If the Web site is set up
so that you must respond to them in order to proceed with your resume submission, ditch that Web
site (there are plenty of others that won’t make you respond to those questions).
o Upgrades for a fee – some resume databases now offer you an “upgrade” for your resume, charging a
fee so that your resume is in front of others who do not pay the fee. We recommend not using these
databases – why should you pay extra when any good resume database system will allow your great
resume with great keywords to stand out?
o Co-branding agreements – some employment sites on the Web have joined forces with one or more
other Web sites. When you post your resume to one site, you might be sharing that resume with up to
fifteen other databases. Always read the privacy agreement at any Web site where you’re considering
posting your resume.
o Cover letters – don’t submit a cover letter with a resume you send to an online resume database. Cover
letters are discarded from most of the employment databases that accept resumes.
Don’t depend solely on resume databases. Maybe they will help in your job search, and maybe not. But
your best bet is to proactively network with professionals in your targeted career field, and use a wide
variety of other job search strategies.
If your resume does not contain at least some of the keywords that employers are using to search the
database, then your resume will be skipped by the computer, even if you have all of the experience and
skills required by the job.
Specialized vs. general resume banks – The large commercial resume databases are easy to locate. BUT – in
many fields, the smaller, career-specific databases are more effective (seek out the Web sites of the
professional organizations in your career field, or ask other professionals for recommendations).
Cost – Most resume databases are free (if you find a database that charges a fee, and you are considering
using it, ask for information on number of searches the database receives before paying any fee; the
number of resumes on the system; etc.).
Should you use resume databases? The main consideration is the time it takes to enter your information.
o On the one hand, people in a wide variety of career fields attract good job leads this way (it’s not just
the techies’ world anymore).
o On the other hand, many resume databases have specialized forms through which you must
painstakingly enter your information. Others allow you to upload an ASCII-formatted resume version,
but unless you know what you’re doing, your resume may appear misaligned or almost unreadable to
Keeping your resume and job search private
o The Problems:
If you are currently employed, your current employer may be searching for your resume on the
Internet (many employers do this).
Your resume is pirated by other databases and by recruiters, and it may float around the Web for
months or even years.
Identity thieves may use the personal information in your resume to establish credit in your name
or to post inflammatory messages to the Internet.
o The Solutions:
Don’t put your full name or address on a resume you post to an Internet resume database. But
remember that potential employers need some way of getting in touch with you, so list an e-mail
As a general rule, only post your resume to databases that offer password protection, which limits
viewers to legitimate employers. Otherwise, anybody can view your resume.
Many employers and recruiters still prefer to contact you by phone, so if you don’t include a phone
number, you may be overlooked.
Reports are circulating that identity thieves have been placing fake job postings on online job
boards in an attempt to trick job seekers into giving out personal information. The perpetrators
then contact those job seekers who have replied and ask for personal information, such as social
security numbers and bank account information, supposedly for the human resources department.
Never give out social security numbers or bank account information to someone over the phone or
via email or the Internet.
Set up a separate e-mail account to receive correspondence from employers. This way, when you are done
with your current job search, you can simply close out the e-mail account, rather than continue to receive
messages from recruiters and employers for months or even years to come.
If you are currently employed and don’t want your employer to know you are job-hunting, don’t list your
current company name on your resume. Instead, list the industry. (Monster.com recommends this
If you want to be as safe as possible, don’t post your resume onto Usenet (otherwise known as
“newsgroups” or “bulletin boards”), and don’t post to resume databases that are not password protected.
Only legitimate employers are allowed access to most password-protected resume databases.
Put a date on your resume. Your resume may float around in cyberspace for months or years after you
have found a job, bouncing from one resume database to another, while you receive unwanted phone calls
If you have a Web site that includes your resume, you may want to protect it with a password, which you
then only give out to the employers you choose. Be sure to sign up for a Web-hosting service that offers
X. Curriculum Vitae
What is the difference between a resume and curriculum vitae (CV)?
o A resume is a one-to-two-page document that lists your experience and education in a concise form.
Often your resume will only receive up to sixty seconds of attention, and so it must convey the most
relevant information in an easily grasped format.
o A CV usually contains three or more pages and, in addition to the items on a regular resume, can
include separate sections for your teaching experience, research, publications, presentations, grants
and fellowships, professional affiliations, associations and licenses, awards and any other information
relevant to the opportunity for which you are applying for.
When do you use a CV rather than a resume?
o A CV may be required when:
Applying to graduate or professional school
Applying for research positions
Providing information related to professional activities (e.g., applications for professional
memberships and leadership positions, and presentations at professional conferences)
Creating proposals for grants or fellowships
Applying for academic positions, including
Elementary or secondary principals, superintendents, deans of schools,
Institutional research positions,
Teaching, research, and upper-level administrative positions in higher education.
o Though the CV has traditionally been limited to those who have completed a Ph.D. (or are pursuing
one), many more employers and organizations are asking for CV’s from their applicants with only a
Masters or even a Bachelors degree.
o A CV should only be used when specifically requested. If you have any uncertainty about whether to
submit a resume or a CV for a particular position, don’t hesitate to call the organization and ask which
they would prefer.
o Cover Letters – your CV should always be accompanied by a cover letter which focuses on those skills
and accomplishments that are most relevant to the opportunity at hand. The cover letter is your
opportunity to draw out key abilities on which you want the reader to focus. Though you often can
ignore the “one-page cover letter” rule, you still must be concise and focused in your letter.
o Proofreading – always have your CV and cover letters critiqued by both an experienced career advisor
and by someone with experience in your field of expertise. In addition, be sure to have all your
application materials carefully proofread.
Possible Sections To Include In Your CV
o NOTE: These are suggested categories, and most CV’s will not include every category included below.
Just as with a resume, you should tailor your CV to the particular opportunity for which you are
o You have a great deal of flexibility in the choice, naming and placement of your categories. While your
heading and education will usually be listed first, other categories can be place in virtually any order,
based on your strengths and the requirements of the position or opportunity.
Heading: Name, address(es), phone number(s) and email address.
Education: list academic degrees, beginning with the degree most recently earned or in progress. You may
wish to include the title any thesis or theses you have written, using the format appropriate to your
discipline (check with a professor in your field if you do not know the proper format).
Certifications: list all relevant certifications and the year received.
Honors and Awards: Receipt of competitive scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships; names of
scholastic honors; teaching or research awards.
Relevant Experience: Listing of positions (part-time, full-time, volunteer, temporary and permanent)
related to the type of work sought. The section of your CV is written following the same principles of a
strong resume — list accomplishments as well as duties; use action verbs; wherever possible, quantify
accomplishments. List in reverse chronological order.
Other Experience: Groupings of other experiences (including volunteer work and/or internships) can
enhance your CV. Your experience can also be broken into other categories such as: Teaching, Counseling,
Administration, Volunteer, Community, Internship, etc. Entries within each section should be in reverse
o Give bibliographic citations (using the format appropriate to your particular academic discipline) for
articles, pamphlets, chapters in books, research reports, or any other publications that you have
authored or co-authored.
o If you have more than a few publications, you would generally divide your publications section into
o In fine arts areas, this can include descriptions of recitals, performances and art exhibits.
Presentations: Give titles of professional presentations (using the format appropriate to your particular
academic discipline); name of conference or event; dates and location; if appropriate in your discipline,
also include a brief description. Presentations should be listed in reverse chronological order.
Areas of Expertise: Particularly appropriate when applying for teaching positions.
Grants Received: Include name of grant; name of granting agency; date received; title or purpose of
research project, etc.
Professional Associations: Memberships in national, regional, state, and local professional organizations
should be listed Also list significant appointments to positions or committees in these associations. Student
memberships in professional associations are appropriate.
Recent/Current Research: Description of research projects recently conducted or in progress. Include the
type of research and a brief description of the purpose.
Institutional Service: List institutional committees you have served on, including offices held, student
groups you have supervised, or special academic projects you have assisted with.
Courses Taught: List the names of courses you have taught, institution and dates where taught, and brief
Community Involvement: Appropriate and relevant volunteer work, church work, community service
Educational Travel: Names of countries, dates, purpose (typically, only include if relevant to the
position/grant for which you are applying).
Qualifications or Skills: A summary of particular or relevant strengths or skills which you want to highlight.
Typically, this is not included as a separate section, but addressed in other sections. Occasionally, however,
it may be appropriate to list special computing, language or laboratory skills.
References: Optional to end vita with statement “References Available upon Request.” If you are
responding to an advertisement that asks for references, include those requested on a separate addendum
Sample CV’s and CV templates
o The best resource we know of is “How to Prepare Your Curriculum Vitae,” by Acy L. Jackson, Kathleen
Geckeis, and C. Kathleen Geckesis, 2003, McGraw-Hill Companies.
o University of California website for a CV