If you are preparing to write a resume you are most likely applying for one of the following:
- Graduate school
Resumes are targeted and written differently depending upon the specific audience. For example, resumes that are targeted toward a position working in a research lab will be formatted and organized differently than if you were using it to apply for a small, local, non-profit organization. This is why you will want to stop by for drop-in advising and have a staff member evaluate your resume for your specific situation. However, there ARE guidelines that are important for you to consider.
What exactly is a resume? What is it supposed to accomplish?
It is a one or two page marketing tool (typically one for college students), and its primary function is to get the person reading the resume to want to interview you. It should succinctly summarize your qualifications and experience. DO NOT underestimate the role of a resume in your job search process. Preparing a thoughtful and effective resume takes time, so don’t expect that you can come up with your best one the night before it is due!
Format, Design, and Delivery
Resume writing is definitely part art. Show your resume to three different people, and you will most likely get three different perspectives. This is normal because part of creating a resume is about personal preference. You will want to choose a look that best fits your preferences. Still, there are some general guidelines that you will not want to ignore:
- Length: The standard length of an undergraduate resume is one page. Some special circumstances require two pages, but one page is usually the maximum.
- Margins: Keep your TOP/BOTTOM margins and LEFT/RIGHT margins consistent. No less than 0.5 and no more than 1.0.
- Font type: Use a professional-looking font such as Times, Helvetica, Palatino, Garamond…
- Font Size: Use 12 point (your name should be bigger, but not more than 16 point). You can also go slightly smaller than 12, if necessary (11, 10.5 – no less than 10).
- Keep it nice, clean, and simple: Don’t go crazy with too many italics, CAPS, bold, underlines, indentations, columns, and all combinations thereof.
- Not necessary to use complete sentence structure—Use pithy bullet statements.
- Headings: Divide your resume information into clearly labeled sections (see The Main Sections on previous page).
- Print: Laser print your resume on quality 8.5 X 11 inch bond paper that is white or off-white. The CDO provides resumes paper.
In today’s world, resumes and cover letters are often sent via e-mail. Here are some typical guidelines to use when e-mailing your resumes and cover letters:
- Turn your resume and cover letter into one PDF file.
- Create a quick, professional e-mail that states you have attached your resume and cover letter.
- In the subject line of the e-mail, put information that will easily identify your email, perhaps your name and “resume” – i.e. “John Doe Resume” or position to which you’re applying.
Resume Dos and Don'ts
There are no absolutes in resume writing. Here are some suggestions of what to do and what not to do:
- Do be positive – convey confidence in abilities and experience.
- Do stick to the facts - be accurate.
- Do support summary statements with consistent data throughout resume.
- Do use numbers, percentages, or amounts of money whenever possible/appropriate.
- Do tailor your resume as closely as possible to the specific job, function, industry, and organization of interest.
- Do proofread! Proofread! Proofread!
- Don’t use technical jargon, wordy sentences, or personal opinions. Avoid abbreviations unless they are well-known throughout the industry you are interested in.
- Don’t include a salary history - if requested include it in a separate memo or letter, but not in the cover letter or resume.
- Don’t use phrases such as “fluent in...,” “avid sports fan...,” “proficient at...” unless you are.
- Don’t use fluff words: challenging, rewarding, progressive, responsible, unique, growth position, innovative company, etc.
- Don’t bother closing the resume with “references available upon request” - being prepared to provide an actual list of references at the time of the interview is more helpful.
- Don’t use “interesting” email addresses - companies do not want to hire firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- Don’t tout that you received The Skeeter McGee Honorary Scholarship (the who?) - explain briefly what your scholarship was based on.
- Don’t go back to your high school experiences unless you are a sophomore or first year student.
- Don’t stick to a strict chronological format – don’t bury your most significant and relevant experience at the very bottom of the resume for the sake of adhering to a strict chronological format.