Table of Contents
Writing Your Resume
Resumes may vary in content as well as form, appearance, style and layout. It is important to remember that a resume is a personally written document that allows for some individual creativity. It should present a positive image to the potential employer. Highlight your strengths by positioning the most important information related to your objective first and devoting the most space to it.
Many employers use optical scanners to enter resumes into databases and then electronically search for candidates using identified criteria.
The same basic principles apply to all resumes. Everything that makes sense for computer scanners to easily "read" resumes makes sense for human readers, too. The simpler your resume, the better. Once a computer has selected your resume, based on the identified criteria, a human will read it to make the final decision about contacting you for an interview.
The following checklist is provided to assist you in drafting your resume:
Tip: Print this page to get a list with checkboxes.
- Paper type: 8-1/2" x 11" quality bond paper with some cotton content. Use the same paper for your resume, cover letter and reference page.
- Paper color: White paper is best for scanning; however, off-white, ivory, or other lightly tinted paper could be acceptable. If you use a lightly tinted paper, it should make clear copies and have good contrast for readability by humans and scanners.
- Printing: Use a high quality printer and use black ink only. Print on one side of the paper.
- Mailing: When using regular mail to send your cover letter and resume, use an envelope large enough to avoid folding them. Creases from folds may lead to inaccurate scanning or difficulty in feeding the resume into the scanner. Employers may even throw away resumes that have been neatly folded to fit into the standard #10 business size envelopes because of the additional problems associated with them. Do not staple pages as they may stick together after a staple is removed.
- Word process: Word process your own resume. Do not use resume templates, programs or resume writing software.
- Length: One-page resumes are generally what are expected for recent college graduates in all fields except teaching, where two pages may be necessary. Graduates with advanced degrees may also have two-page resumes.
- Margins: One-inch margins on both sides, left and right, are required. This means you will need to adjust the default margins of most word processing programs. Top and bottom margins should be equal, to center the text on the page and between one-inch and 1/2-inch to fit the information on the page.
- Point size: Use one point size throughout, size 10-12. Your name may be as large as 14-point. Some say point sizes up to 14 are acceptable for the body of the resume but, to the human reader, anything over 12 may appear as if you are just taking up space. Anything smaller than 10 point may be too small to be read.
- Font style: Use one common, non-decorative font style throughout. The two most common styles are Times New Roman and Helvetica. A few other common fonts are Arial, Palatino and Calibri. Do not vary the font style within the resume.
- Italics and Underlining: Do not use italics or underlined text. The letters may touch or run together and scanners may have difficulty recognizing the individual characters.
- Capital letters and Bold: Capital letters and bold type may be used for effect and to grab the reader's attention, but use them sparingly.
- Graphics and Photographs: Do not use graphics and shading. Scanning equipment is set to read text only. Do not include a photograph.
- Bullets: You may use bullets that are solid, not hollow, in your "Experience" section. The text should be right next to the bullet or up to two blank spaces between, but not more. You will have to adjust the automatic spacing for bullets within most word processing programs because they place a full tab space between the bullet and text.
- Parentheses and Brackets: Do not use parentheses or brackets. Computer scanners may interpret them as letters, numbers or punctuation and will not be able to "recognize" the text within them.
- Lines: Do not use lines, vertical or horizontal. Some scanners have been known to interpret the lines as page breaks and information may not get appropriately credited. Do not underline any text.
- Wording: Use industry specific jargon and buzzwords. Maximize your use of keywords and words that define the requirements of the particular job you want to do. Consult job descriptions for ideas of words to use. Ask people in your target industry to review your resume to make sure you haven't missed anything.
- Format: Put the most important categories first and in the most detail. Work keywords into the body of the resume. Use an outline format. Use sentence fragments, phrases and lists, not full sentences. Do not use personal pronouns. No "I," "me," or "my" on the resume.
- Within each category, the entries should be listed with the most recent first.
- Spacing: Single space your entire resume. You may double space between sections if you have space.
There are several acceptable styles for organizing material in your resume; however, the following categories should be included:
- Place your name in all capital letters and in bold at the top of the page.
- If you will be at the same address for at least one year from submitting your resume, place your address, telephone number, e-mail address and, if you have one, a professional website, directly under your name.
- To conserve space you may divide your contact information across the top of the page; street address, city and state on one side, telephone number and e-mail address on the other.
- If you plan to leave your current residence within a year from submitting your resume, use two addresses. Your current address should be placed on the left side and, on the right side, place the address of someone who has agreed to accept your mail and will be at the address for at least one year. Most students use their parents' address but you don't have to. Under each address specify the dates until which you can reached at your current address and after which you can be contacted at the other address.
- Do not bold your contact information.
- Turn-off hyperlinks for e-mail addresses and web pages.
- If your resume is two pages, your name should be the first line on the second page with "Page 2."
- Do include an objective. Although some employers may not place importance on having an objective, many do. An objective helps the employer see that you have direction, that you've thought about what you want to do and have a sense of what you are getting into.
- Everything on your resume should follow from and support your objective.
- An objective quickly identifies what you are interested in and assists the employer in making appropriate referrals.
- State the position you want or the type of work you want to do now. Say: "A summer internship in advertising"î Do not say: "A summer internship in advertising where I can learn about the industry while contributing to the growth and advancement of a cutting edge company."
- If you have more than one objective, you may want to tailor separate resumes - each with different objectives.
- List the institution(s) where you have completed, or will soon complete, your education, with degrees or certifications in reverse chronological order, most recent first. Under specific circumstances you may list schools you attended but at which you did not complete a degree or certification.
- List degree(s), date(s) of graduation and major and minor.
- Write "University of Minnesota Duluth" without any punctuation - there is not a comma or dash in the official name. Do not bold.
- Write-out (do not abbreviate) and bold the correct name of your degree.
- On the same line as your degree, indicate the month and year you received it or will receive it. You do not need the words, "degree," "anticipated," or "expected."
- Bold the subject names of your major(s) and minor(s). Do not bold the words "Major" and "Minor."
- You may list honors and/or coursework under "Education" or you may create separate sections.
- List your grade point average if it is 3.0 or higher and indicate it is on a 4.0 scale. For example, say: "3.3/4.0."
- If your overall grade point average is not 3.0 but the GPA in your major or your last two years is, you may specify and list it.
- High school is usually not listed unless you are a freshman or sophomore seeking a summer or part-time position.
- Experience may include paid and volunteer positions, full- and part-time work, internships and projects.
- If you have experience directly related to your objective, list it in a category with the specific name of the experience, such as "Sales Experience," "Teaching Experience," "Research Experience," or "Management Experience."
- Experience that is not exactly the same as your objective, but still has some relationship to it, may be listed in a "Related Experience" category.
- Experience that is not directly related to your objective but shows skills and abilities important to employers may be listed in a category titled "Additional Experience."
- Within each "Experience" section, list entries in reverse chronological order, the most recent entries first.
- Listings should be formatted with your position title first, in bold. Your title should be a noun, something you could call yourself and should give the reader some idea of the duties in the position. If you don't have a title or your official title doesn't adequately convey what you did, formulate one that does. If you have difficulty coming up with a title and to ensure the title is acceptable, you may want to consult your supervisor in the position. Be careful not to "overinflate" the position (i.e., "Custodian" rather than "Sanitation Removal Engineer").
- After your title, list the name of the organization with the city and state. Do not bold this information.
- Dates should be listed somewhere in the body of each entry. Be consistent with where and how you list the dates. Dates should not be listed on a margin. The dates should include only months and years, or just years.
- For each entry, briefly describe what you did in the position. Begin all lines with action verbs and use outcome/results statements with numbers, quantities and details to emphasize skills, accomplishments and knowledge. Say: "Responded to an average of 200 service inquiry telephone calls a day" rather than "Answered phones."
- Your descriptions may be formatted using bullets or paragraphs; choose one format and use it for all of your entries.
- Use present tense verbs to refer to the things you are currently doing. Describe things you have done and probably will not do again using past tense verbs. Do not use the ìingî form of the verb.
- For each entry, list the descriptive statements in the order of importance or relevance to the position you are seeking, not in the order of the frequency of what you did or are doing.
- State "References available upon request" as a means of bringing closure and visual balance to the resume. Referring to your references indicates your resume has come to an end and there is not a missing page. If there is not enough space on the page, this may be omitted.
- If you include your references with your resume and cover letter, you may say, "References included" or "References enclosed."
- Obtain permission from the people whose names you intend to offer as references. These people should be familiar with your academic and/or work abilities.
- See additional information about references.
The following categories are optional; however, you may want to consider including them if they will strengthen your resume:
- Include a few lines describing any individual or group work youíve completed for classes. List the titles of projects first and then the descriptions of what you did. Use action verbs and results statements as you do in describing entries in your "Experience" sections.
- Use this category especially if you have little or no experience that shows how you can apply what you learned to real-life situations.
- You may want to list foreign language abilities, special licenses or certifications, computer knowledge, travel experience or other skills related to your objective.
- Co-curricular and community activities, especially if they are related to your objective, can be extremely important. Participation in activities can point out your leadership and social skills and demonstrate your interests and energy level.
- If you held a leadership position in an organization, list the title of your position first and then the name of the organization.
- You may list dates, or not; just be consistent for all the entries within the section.
- List more interesting items and not the more mundane such as reading, walking and cooking. That's like saying "breathing."
- Include uncommon or unusual activities to generate interest and make you memorable.
- If you have military training and experience relevant to your objective, include the training under "Education" and the experience under "Experience." If your military experience is not relevant to your objective, you may include a separate "Military" section.
- Include memberships in student groups and local or national organizations. These may also be included under "Activities."
- Include any publications such as an article you co-authored with a professor or a poem you wrote that was included in an anthology.
- List the publication using the appropriate style to your field.
- Final tip: Always proofread your resume for visual quality, content and typographical or spelling errors. Better yet, have several people proofread your resume. You cannot proofread your own writing and expect to catch all the errors. You are too close to the product and because you wrote it, your mind's eye will miss mistakes - you will see what you think you wrote, not what is actually written. Plan ahead. Do not expect to write your best resume overnight. Your resume is an essential tool in your job and internship search. Make it the best possible!
For assistance with your resume, see the options offered by Career and Internship Services.