Purpose of Your Resume

Your resume is a document that outlines your experiences—professional, academic, extracurricular —and the skills you have acquired as a result.

The impact of your resume depends both on the skills you choose to include and the way you match those skills to the position description. A person with limited experience, but strong writing skills can put together a compelling resume.

Be sure to think of your resume as an advertisement for yourself, i.e. a strong resume should demonstrate your excellent written communication skills and make the reader want to interview you.  

Is There Such a Thing as a "Correct" Resume?

Not necessarily. There is no right and wrong when it comes to resume content and format. Each resume is as unique as the individual it represents. It is up to you to select the appropriate content that best highlights your skills for the employment you hope to acquire, and then effectively communicate your qualifications in a format that is clear and easy to read.

Tips for Writing Your Resume

Convey your overall competence through content. 

  • Be attentive to detail. Proofread carefully to ensure correct spelling and grammar. 

Avoid the use of first and third person pronouns, such as “I,” “he,” or “she.” 

  • Keep verb tenses consistent throughout. Use present tense for current activities and employment. 
  • Use past tense for activities and employment not presently held.

Use action verbs and concise statements to articulate your relevant experiences

  • Phrases, rather than complete sentences, are generally most effective. 
  • Use a variety of action verbs to bring your skills and experiences to life. 
  • Avoid using each verb or adjective more than once. 

Refrain from using slang, jargon, overused expressions, or anything that might confuse the reader. 

  • Spell out all acronyms the first time they are used, followed by the acronym in parentheses. 
  • Thereafter, in the same document you may use the acronym alone.

Print your resume on paper of good quality. 

  • While it is not necessary to purchase special paper, if you choose to do so, use neutral colors such as white or cream.
  • If you are including a cover letter, it should be printed on the same type of paper as your resume.

Get your resume reviewed. 

  • Have your resume reviewed multiple times. This gives you varied insights and multiple perspectives. The Career Center provides opportunities to have your resume reviewed.  
  • Faculty, academic advisors, family and friends can also provide good insight.

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Formatting Your Resume

Distribute the content evenly on the page. 

  • Take advantage of white space. Use it as a mechanism to appropriately convey emphasis and organization to your information and skills. 
  • Be consistent with alignment and appropriately use left, center, and right alignment.
  • Make use of bold, underline, and italics to emphasize different aspects of your resume, such as headings and titles. 

One-page, conventional resumes are typically most appropriate. 

  • The length of your resume depends on your degree level, academic major, and number of relevant experience you have conducted.   
  • Rather than being creative in the design and format of your resume, demonstrate your creativity in the content you choose.

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Consider Your Audience & Reader

When writing a resume, be sure to keep your audience and reader in mind. Information should be clearly communicated, consistent, and relevant so the reader can quickly identify your unique strengths and skills.

Do your homework. 

  • Investigate industry standards and each potential employer. Consider preferences for length, format, and content of your resume. 
  • Be sure to follow special instructions for supplemental application materials. Provide all documents requested, and determine if appropriate to send additional, e.g. reference list.
  • If possible, save all of your documents in one PDF and attach them to your application.

Customize your resume for each application. 

  • A potential employer typically spends around 30 seconds initially reviewing a resume. Therefore, it is important to carefully select experiences that emphasize the skills most relevant to your desired position. As you make your choices, remember to stress quality over quantity.
  • Review the job description and consider the responsibilities for each position you apply to. Consider the perspective of the potential employer, and what the organization would desire in the ideal candidate for the position. Make changes to your resume accordingly.
  • Reflect upon your specific experiences that demonstrate the skills and credentials listed in the position announcement.

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When Should I Write My Resume?

A resume is always a work in progress, and students who start early benefit from improving and refining the document over time. It is good to keep your resume updated regularly to reflect new experiences, ensuring that an up-to-date resume is available whenever necessary. You never know when and where your resume will be needed.

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