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Resume Overview

This information represents the most current information gleaned from references in the Career Services Center and from our continual interaction with employers, students, and alumni. There is no one way to write a resume, and no one should write it for you. The job seeker is the expert on themselves and is, therefore, best qualified to present unique strengths and capabilities appropriate for specific career objectives.


  • Provides employers with information about your abilities and experiences so they can assess your potential for a successful job match
  • Serves as a marketing document designed to catch the interest of an employer
  • Creates a clear and critical first impression since as little as 15 seconds may be devoted to looking at each resume
  • Shows focus on the needs of the employer, not on the needs and desires of the job seeker
  • Space is critical; carefully evaluate each item and its relationship to your career objective


  • Take a complete inventory of your resources, i.e., higher education and training, work experiences, activities and special skills (particular emphasis should be placed upon achievements, especially as they relate to education and work experience
  • Technical aspects:
    • Format- structure component or how the information is organized and presented
    • Content- information component or what is presented


There are three styles of format that are most commonly used for resumes: chronological, functional and combination.

  • Chronological
    • Used for an individual who is staying in the same field, has training and/or experience consistent with the career objective, has relevant job titles, or is applying for a job in a highly traditional field
    • Most effective for the majority of new college graduates (See page 9)
  • Functional/Skills
    • Emphasizes skill areas
    • Most helpful for people who are changing careers, re-entering the job market, applying for positions for which their training and/or experience does not directly qualify them, or whose background does not emphasize their abilities for the job
    • Skill categories should be rank ordered to support the career objective (See page 10)
  • Combination
    • Hybrid of a chronological and functional resume
    • The skills or qualifications section identifies your skills in relation to your job or career objective. This format grabs the reader’s attention early.

Choose the format that you believe will best market your abilities in conjunction with your past experiences, unique skills, and immediate career objective.

General Tips

  • An employer will evaluate you as a person when scanning your resume:
    • Neat resume= neat person
    • Well-organized resume= well-organized person
    • Error-free resume= careful person
    • Professional appearance= careful and competent person
  • Be consistent in format:
    • Centered or left-handed headings for any of the formats
    • Capitalization, underlining, boldface, and/or indentation
  • Present information only once on a resume:
    • List only one employer with multiple job titles instead of listing the employer twice
    • List only one educational institution with two or more degree instead of listing the institution twice
  • Use parallel construction when listing skills
  • Spell out numbers one through ten, e.g. “four” instead of “4”
  • Avoid using parentheses; they tend to give a resume a cluttered look
    • Use a dash, comma or series of dots instead
  • Rank order major headings by relevance to the career objective so that the most significant information appears first
  • Confine your resume to one page whenever possible
  • Balance the material on the page
    • Use equal margins on all sides
  • Double check for spelling, typographical, and grammatical errors and have another person check your resume; NOTE: be careful when using a computer “spellcheck” program
  • Use only letter-quality final copies; final copy must be neat, well-organized and easy to read
  • Use 20# bond paper, and purchase additional paper for the cover letter
    • White, off-white, cream, tan, and pale gray are accepted colors for most areas
    • Pastels are not recommended
    • Creative fields such as advertising, graphic design or performing arts have more leeway in using a variety of colors and formats, while other fields require a standard, conservative resume

NOTE: The first impression is a lasting one. You don’t have a second chance to make a first impression!



“Resume” or “Resume of…” should be omitted unless the writer is in a creative field and has used an atypical format.

Identifying Information

  • List your name, address and telephone numbers of both present and permanent residences, if appropriate, at the top of the page
  • Some writers believe that placing the heading on the left side should be avoided, since the name may be covered if materials are paper clipped together
  • You may include a business address or telephone number if it is not a confidential job search
  • It is a good idea to also include your e-mail address
  • Internet home page URL may be included if it is a professional representation of you, but exclude it if it contains pictures of your dog, links to favorite Web sites, etc.

Career Objective

The purpose of the career objective is to communicate clearly the type of position in which you are interested and focus the content of the resume toward the job desired. It is usually written in up to four parts:

  • Type of position desired
  • Kind of company, industry, or organization for which you want to work
  • Any special skills or abilities that you have and would like to use (optional)
  • Strong geographic preference or restriction
  • Many people like to add their desire to advance into management; this does not impress employers, however, unless you identify a specific management area compatible with your long-range career goals
  • Do not imply that the position desired is to gain experience for your own long-range career objectives
  • Do no mention graduate school plans

The career objective must be condensed into one or two short simple phrases.

  • Avoid the “shotgun” approach, i.e., using a very general career objective and sending it to numerous companies
  • Prepare different resumes with different career objectives if you are looking for positions that are not similar to nature, such as sales or retail management trainee, or if you are looking for a similar in two different types of companies, e.g., an accounting position in a public accounting firm or a corporation
  • Geographic desires can be mentioned here, but keep in mind they might eliminate you from consideration

Some examples of career objectives might include:

  • Position as field service representative with national software corporation.
  • Management trainee position with a specialty retailer. Willing to relocate and work long hours.
  • Technical sales with an energy-related industry in the Southwest.
  • Long-range goal of regional sales management.

Following the career objective, order the major heading by importance to the career objective.

  • If you are completing a degree that qualifies you for your career objective, start with Education
  • After you have been in a job for a year or more, Experience will usually outweigh Education and should proceed it
  • If you are applying to education institutions, however, always show Education first, regardless of date of degree(s)


  • Degrees should be listed in reverse chronological order with the most recent listed first
  • Information should include degree granted; date of graduation; college or university, city and state (if the state is not part of the institution’s title); major and minor, if applicable
  • Check the catalog to see how your degree will read, e.g.:
    • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Finance
    • Bachelor of Art in English with a concentration in Creative Writing
  • It is not necessary to include core courses, but you may list elective coursework that is relevant to your career objective
  • Indicate dissertation and/or thesis title for graduate work
  • Include certification or licenses relevant to your major and career objective, such as teaching certifications or engineer-in-training

Date Exceptions:

  • If the resume is for part-time work, internships or co-op position, and the date of graduation has not been determined at this time, use the inclusive dates of attendance at the institution rather than graduation date
  • Use inclusive dates of attendance for other institutions when a degree was not granted

Degrees received below the bachelor’s level and other schools attended:

  • Do not list unless they are of special significance to the career objective
  • Attendance at a school in an area where you want to work can be used to let employers know that you are familiar with the area, an advantage in being hired
  • This type of information could also be included under the heading of Additional Information

Honors and Awards

  • Include honors, awards and scholarships
  • Should be rank ordered by importance to the career objective
  • High school honors should be included only if related to the current career objective
  • If you only have one entry, include it with education information


  • Use the term “experience” instead of “work history” or “employment” so that you can include full and part-time jobs, self-employment, volunteer work, and practicum, field and cooperative education experiences
    • Start with the most recent experience and work back in reverse chronological order
    • Do not go back more than five year for work experience unless it strongly relates to your current career objective
  • Indicate the job title, employer, city, state and dates of employment
    • The order of these entries depends on what is being emphasized
    • If job titles are relevant to the career objective, put them first
    • If the employer is well-known, the organization can be placed before the job title
  • Describe your functional skills in short, snappy phrases, starting with descriptive action verbs
    • Avoid the use of personal pronouns and complete sentences
    • Do not be wordy; be specific
    • Convey accomplishments and problem-solving skills
    • Emphasize the following:
      • Leadership potential
      • Organizational ability
      • Communication skills (verbal and written)
      • Ingenuity
      • Teamwork
    • Include any promotions received
      • Indicate measurable results, e.g., “Increased productivity by 15 percent”
      • Do not start descriptions with “responsibilities were” or “duties included”
      • Avoid words like “helped” and “worked”
  • Use past tense for past jobs and present tense for present jobs
  • Vary the words used in descriptions of similar jobs
  • Rank order the phrases by importance to the career objective so if the employer reads one phrase, he/she will get the most relevant one
  • Write the year only once if both months fall within it, e.g., June-September, 20___
  • You may also use periods of time versus actual dates, e.g., “two years”
    • This is helpful when there are gaps in employment or not recent work experience
  • If you want to highlight only two or three jobs, but have had many others, you can include a “blanket” statement such as: “Have held various other part-time and summer positions since early high school”

Professional Affiliations and Activities

  • Rank order by importance to the career objective
  • There is no need to say “Member of..”
  • Emphasize your leadership roles
  • Spell out the name of the organization; do not use abbreviations or acronyms
  • If active in political or religious groups, refer generally to the group rather than to specific party or denomination, e.g., “Campus religious organization, Vice President 20__ to 20__” or “Campaign Worker, State Senate race”
  • An exception is when you are applying for a position with that group

Additional Information

  • Include this category only if the content will include more information than interests and hobbies, and if it will expand the information related to the career objective, e.g., a farm background if the job desired is in agribusiness
  • Include any specialized skills, training, certification or licenses not related to the career objective such as foreign language ability, CPR, etc.
  • Many employers’ desire computer skills and you may want to include this information (programs, languages, applications, hardware, etc.)
  • Other relevant data such as “Traveled throughout Europe” can also be listed