Everyone needs a great resume.
Whether you intend to go directly to graduate school, need an internship, or are seeking your first full-time job, at some point every one of these situations will require you to submit a resume.
Why is a resume so important?
- It is your first chance to make an impression on your future employer or academic program. You will be judged on the quality of what you produce and details matter.
- The goal of a resume is to get to the next step in the process, like a job interview. The resume doesn’t need to tell the reader EVERYTHING. It is your chance to share the most important information based on the goal. TARGET it to the specific opportunity.
Let’s get started. This guide will give you:
- Step-by-step tips on how to complete each section of your resume to promote yourself effectively.
- Examples of finished resumes to use as a reference.
- Detailed instructions on crafting powerful accomplishment statements to help differentiate you from other candidates.
- A checklist for you to use to double-check your final draft.
Also need a COVER LETTER? Get tips on how to create one here
1. Take an Inventory of Yourself
- Who are you at this point in your life? What have you done? Where have you been? What have you learned? What skills do you have? What recognition have you received?
- Focus on your skills–competencies developed from learning and practice. They can be acquired from paid employment, research experiences, volunteer work, work-study jobs, internships, extracurricular activities (on or off campus), varsity athletics, hobbies, and academic projects. Here are the ones employers have told us they are looking for: NACE Career Readiness Competencies
- Once organized and fine-tuned, your inventory will be the content of your résumé.
2. Before You Start Writing: Remember to Use Clear and Consistent Formatting
- Use bold, italics, underlining, and ALL CAPS TEXT in moderation to create visual appeal and to help the reader quickly pick out the key information. Be consistent, but selective. These tools lose their impact of they are overused. A simple border or the use of shading to draw attention to certain sections is fine when used sparingly.
- Do NOT organize your information using text boxes or tables and don’t use colored text, pictures or logos in the resume (there are some exceptions to this for “creative” majors like art or game design where employers expect to see creativity in the resume). DO NOT start from a Microsoft Word or online template (which have some of these things built-in)!
3. The font size for the body of the résumé should be between 10 & 12 points
- Serif fonts are generally best. Some hiring managers believe Times New Roman to be overused. You may want to stick to something like Arial, Calibri, Garamond, Helvetica or Tahoma. The résumé should be one page, unless you have a lot of relevant experience; two pages are then fine. Almost all students and recent graduates should have a one page resume.
- Don’t worry about how long it is in your initial draft. Get all your ideas and experience out on paper and refine the language in later drafts.
- If you find yourself extending onto a second page, carefully examine your content and ask yourself if this is critical information as it relates to the specific job you are trying to get. If you must use a second page, adjust your formatting to completely fill both pages.
- An entry-level CV format can be two pages.
4. Select a Resume Type
There are many resume format types from which to choose. However, a Reverse Chronological Resume best serves most entry-level candidates.
5. Create a Header Section
A Header section with name and contact information (school address, permanent address, telephone number, e-mail address) should appear at the top of the résumé.
6. Summary/Profile Section
After the header, begin your résumé with a summary statement, sometimes called a profile. Summary statements are excellent opportunities to emphasize succinctly your fit with job description.
7. Create an Education Section
As a current student, or recent graduate, your education is typically your most important asset and should be featured prominently at the beginning of the page. After your first full-time job, this section is typically reduced in detail and moved to the bottom.
8. Create an Experience Section
For each job or internship, use bullets to emphasize your accomplishments and provide thorough, yet concise, explanations of what you do or did. Employers want to know not just what you did, but also how well you did it!
9. Additional Sections
Make your case! Professional experience in your field is a great thing to have, but it isn’t all that employers and graduate programs want to see. Did you develop strong public speaking skills by serving in a leadership position for a campus club or organization? Did you assist a faculty member with their research? Did you organize and manage projects during a volunteer experience? Your resume should present all your skills and experience. Some additional sections to consider might be: Research, Skills (or Technical Skills, or Lab Skills), Activities, Varsity Athletics, Volunteer Experience, Professional Associations, Leadership, etc.
10. Make the YOU Shine Through!
Use the rules and information provided here to make informed decisions about what to include, what to omit and how to arrange the information to best REPRESENT YOU specifically for the JOB or PROGRAM in which you are interested.
There is no ONE right way to make a resume. Follow the rules and examples provided here to craft a resume that will help you shine and differentiate yourself from the competition, not with design gimmicks but through effective presentation of your knowledge, skills, abilities and accomplishments!
Need to see a few examples?
Below you will find a few samples to use as a guide. Remember, these are only to give you a rough idea of what you can do. You can find hundreds of different designs on the internet. Choose one you like and adapt it to your needs. Remember, however, use what you find as a style reference but don’t use templates you find directly. Start from a blank Word document and emulate the design you prefer.
Think you have a final draft?
Use this checklist to make sure you covered all the important points.