Quite often before you’re even invited to interview for a job, it’s your cover letter and resume that express your interest and qualifications for that position. In other words, your resume and supplemental information are speaking FOR you. In today's job market, we're finding that software such as Application Tracking Systems (ATS) are being used to find qualified applicants based on keyword searches. Why is this important to you? Because your resume and cover letter must be well crafted AND address the specific requirements of the job to make the cut.
Therefore, both your resume and cover letter need to be written with care and express your accomplishments and skills in the best way possible. A multitude of resources are available to help you craft a quality resume.
Resume Do's and Don'tsThings to do
- Make sure your resume reflects your accomplishments, abilities and achievements. It is an extension of you!
- Customize your resume to each job application based on the job description.
- Write skill statements as bullet points, not formal sentences.
- Keep your resume concise, yet impacting for the person reading.
- Check to make sure your formatting is consistent.
- Templates. While templates seem like an easy way to organize information, they cause many issues with customizing the format and content of your document.
- Busy or fussy headings. Keep it simple and let your content speak for itself.
- "I" statements. Your resume should be written in bullet point form.
- Sending the same resume to multiple jobs. Without tailoring a resume to address how you can meet the specific needs of the company, you won't stand out (in a good way).
- Personal information in your resume such as a favorite book, marital status, etc.
- Listing every position you've ever had (in cases of having a great deal of experience). This might work in some cases, but can keep your resume from being tailored to the job you are considering.
- Not including a job because you think it isn't relevant. Only worked in fast food? Use the skills you learned there to show how you possess competencies for a prospective job.
- Including activities from high school after the first year of college. (Exceptions are made for significant awards or events that are directly relevant to a prospective job).
General Resume Tips and Guidelines
Keep it clean, concise and consistent and reader-friendly.
- Templates: Avoid using a template if possible. While these can certainly help you have consistency in your resume, they often make it really difficult to customize your information. It is nearly impossible to modify the formatting as you need.
- Text and Font Size: Standard typeface such as Times New Roman, Arial or Century Gothic are good to use. Font size should be 10-12 point for the body text. Your name may be larger, up to 18 point.
- Headings: Subject Headings can stand out from the body of text using bold or ALL CAPS. Italicize or bold categories or specific information you see as important. Avoid underlining or shadowing...keep it simple and crisp.
- Margins: Margins should be between 1 inch and .5 inch.
- Name: Use your legal name with middle initial (Jane C. Smith) unless you go by your whole name. If you go by your middle name, use only the first initial of your first name (J. Carol Smith). No nicknames
- Email: Your email address must be professional. If you don't have a professional looking email, create one via a free service like gmail, yahoo, or hotmail. INAPPROPRIATE email: #firstname.lastname@example.org. APPROPRIATE email: email@example.com
- Address and Voicemail: You can include only your school address or both school and permanent address if you are considering moving closer to your hometown. Phone numbers should include area code and connect to a location at which you can be contacted. Your voicemail must sound professional.
- Paper: When you need to provide a printed copy, make sure your paper is white or ivory and high-quality, cotton fiber 8 1/2 x 11" paper. No staples, paper clips only.
General Resume Types and Tools
There are a few basic types of resumes. The format used will depend on your career field and experience.
- Chronological: This type is best for those who have job-related experience; focus is detailing those experiences. Here, experience is shown through work experience. Skills and accomplishments are tied to each position and used as examples of your work through the position.
- Functional: This type is best for those with little to no job-related experience; focus is detailing skills obtained through life and work experiences. Rather than having skills used as examples of work in a position, skills are instead used as a subheading in the resume (ex. Communication). This frees the writer to pull from any experience where communication skills are used such as a class project, club, or volunteer experience.
Subject Headings and Resume Layout
Choose how to format your accomplishments based on what is relevant for the job.
Apart from contact information and a summary of qualifications, subject headings should be placed in order of relevance on the resume and can be customized to address your specific skills and accomplishments.
- Summary of Qualifications or Profile: This should address skills or attributes needed for the desired job. Examples of these skills can later be addressed in the body of the resume. Avoid using objectives as they are not considered specific and do not address how you may benefit the targeted company.
- Education: The location of this section is generally after the summary for students still pursuing a degree or recent graduates. Include the degree of interest currently being pursued as well as the name of the institution, location (city, state), title of degree (spell out), major, minor, and GPA if above a 3.5. Do not include high school beyond your first-year in college or any institutions where a degree was not completed (like transfer credits). Graduate students can include a thesis or dissertation information here as well.
- Resume Body: The main section of a resume will address experience and skills specifically relevant to the position. The organization of this information varies depending on experience level and type (see General Resume Types and Tools section to learn about different styles of resumes).
- Honors: Include all athletic and academic awards including dean's list, honor society, etc. Some additional awards such as Eagle Scout or Valedictorian fit here, but overall avoid high school level awards. Include dates for all honors.
- Activities: These include organizations of involvement such as social, academic, athletic, community, church related etc. Also include your affiliation or level of responsibility (member, president, chair) and dates. This section can be combined with honors depending on individual needs.
- Volunteer: Any volunteer work you have been involved with including continuous or one-time experiences such as mission work.
- Certifications: Any professional certifications such as licenses or credentials, including dates. These are especially relevant for professions that require specific certifications such as nursing, counseling, etc.
Specialized Resume Tools
At times, specific disciplines require a resume that includes additional information to a general resume example. Use the guides and samples below to assist you with developing a specialized resume. Please note that the following information is intended to be an addition to your foundation of knowledge about resumes, so be sure to review all general resume information first.
What is different about a Curriculum Vitae when compared to a Resume?
Curriculum Vitae, or a CV is a detailed resume used in many academic fields. Specific information about research, publications, presentations or classes taught are provided in detail in a CV.
Supplemental Materials to Accompany a Resume
Cover Letters: Consider the cover letter as an introduction to your resume where you are able to give specific information about how you align with the job description. Use the same heading and contact information, font, and formatting from your resume so your cover letter is consistent (see example). Be strategic and highlight your strengths, how you will be a good fit for the position, and why you are interested. Carefully proofread your document for grammatical errors, etc.
Reference Page: References should be a separate document from your resume and submitted when requested by the employer. Use the same heading and contact information, font and formatting from your resume so your reference page is consistent. Include the references name, phone number, email and address (if applicable). Try to use only professional references unless a personal reference is requested by the employer. Provide 3-5 references. Before including a reference, be sure to ask the professional if he or she is willing to serve as a reference and consider who will be a good choice to speak to your skills and accomplishments in the workplace.