Resume & Vita

Your resume is a professional summary of your education and experience related to the type of employment you seek and should illustrate to employers the value you will add to their organization. Your resume will evolve as you grow professionally, gain new experiences and take your career in different directions.

Overview

Is it Résumé, Resume, or Resumé?

Merriam-Webster describes résumé and resume as variants of one another, both equally correct in describing your job search document. Resumé is also technically correct, though is a less common variant. We use resume throughout this site for simplicity, but you should feel free to spell it whichever way you prefer.

What, Exactly, is a Resume?

A resume is a concise, written statement highlighting the qualifications and skills you possess as a result of your life experiences. It communicates a maximum amount of relevant information with a minimum number of words. A resume aims to persuade an employer to grant you an interview or to request your formal application.

Who Should Have a Resume?

Everyone! Even if you never change career paths, you are likely to change jobs several times throughout your life. Resumes are a primary tool used by almost every employer to conduct initial evaluations of prospective employees. Your resume is your entry ticket to the job market.

Where Do I Start?

Think of your resume as an advertisement. Before you write the advertisement you must understand the product you are selling: Yourself!! Make sure you can clearly state the benefits of your product: Your skills, abilities, competencies, motivation and potential. When you are ready to begin building your resume, you can get ideas for layout and format through a simple web search and through resources available from Career Services.

Formatting Fundamentals

Page Setup

Do not be tempted by the convenience of a template or wizard! Start with a blank Word document and build your resume line-by-line. Start with 1" margins all around and try to stick to it. If you find yourself needing a little extra space, adjust your top and bottom margins slightly. If you must adjust your left and right margins, try not to go smaller than 0.75".

Paper

It is increasingly common to apply for jobs exclusively online, meaning that you may never need to print a resume and mail it to an employer during your job search. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to bring printed copies of your materials to any in-person interview. Your resume should always be created for standard 8.5" x 11" paper and printed on 24 lbs. or 32 lbs. paper. White and off-white colors are acceptable. Paper with a cotton content of at least 25% may add "gravitas" to your resume, but make sure it has a smooth finish, rather than a woven finish.

Length

Most undergraduates should plan to build a 1-page resume containing information that is relevant to a particular position of interest. A 2-page resume is acceptable if you have extensive, relevant experience, and in situations like a graduate school application. Your cover letter and reference sheet should be separate documents and do not count against your resume length.

Fonts

Selecting a font for your resume is a surprisingly important decision. First, you must understand the two basic categories of fonts: serif and sans-serif.

  • Serif fonts contain small, decorative lines, or flairs, that embellish the type. Serifs make text easier to read in printed materials. Examples of popular serif fonts include Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia and Bookman Old Style. 
  • Sans-serif fonts ("sans" meaning "without"), unsurprisingly, do not contain decorative flairs. Sans-serif fonts generally are preferable for reading on computer and mobile screens. Examples of popular sans-serif fonts include Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma and Verdana.

Font Size

In general, your main text should be between 11 pt. and 14 pt., depending on the particular font. You want to avoid making your text so small that it becomes unreadable, or so large that it looks like you are just taking up space.

Text Formatting

For most of your resume you will want to use plain text, but basic text formatting should be used (sparingly) to help bring order to your materials. You may want to use bolditalicsunderline, and ALLCAPS in a limited fashion to highlight your name, job titles, transitions between sections of your resume or other important information. Be careful not to overdo your formatting though, as too much can make your resume feel chaotic and difficult to read.

Lines

Lines, or "horizontal rules," can help break up your resume and provide a sense of order to the reader. For example, you may insert a horizontal rule at each new section or under your heading. Insert horizontal rules using the Borders function in Word, rather than typing out a string of dashes or using the underline tool. 

Symbols

You should avoid inserting symbols into your resume, with the exception of bullet points. When creating bullet points, keep them simple. The standard black dot is your safest bet, though the black square may be a reasonable "stretch" if it complements the larger aesthetic of your resume.

Color

Black type on white paper is standard practice in the resume world. This traditional combination is easily readable and avoids potential complications should your resume be printed in grayscale or black-and-white. If you prefer, you may use color conservatively (for example, to highlight your name or horizontal rules at section breaks), but only if you feel that the color improves the readability of your document.

Crafting Your Content

Heading

Your heading will contain your name and basic contact information. An email address and contact number are standard. Mailing address has long been a resume staple, but in the era of digital communications it is increasingly common not to include a postal address. You may also include a link to your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio. This heading should match exactly the heading on your cover letter and reference sheet.

Summary or Objective

This optional section gives you an opportunity to address right up top what you will do for the employer. A common mistake is to write an obvious and uninspiring objective (e.g., "To attain a job in such-and-such a field") or to write a vague summary (e.g., "Motivated professional looking to make a difference in my next role"). If you prefer to include one of these sections, your focus should not be on what the job will do for you, but on how you will contribute to the organization's success.

Education

Depending on your field, this section may come either before or after your Work Experience. Provide the name and location of the educational institution, credential earned, and date of graduation or completion. Optionally, you may include honors and awards earned in the course of your academic program. You may list your high school diploma initially, but by about your Junior year of college you will want to remove your high school experience and focus on your forthcoming postsecondary credential.

Work Experience

List any current or past employers along with location(s), date(s) of employment and a description of your experience(s) and achievement(s) in each role. Early in your career, you may find that you need to list every job you've held before, but as you gain experience you will be able to remove less relevant positions and focus more on your relevant work experience. Experience and achievements typically are listed in bullet format, are not written in complete sentences and therefore do not end in a period.

Other Relevant Information

Depending on your experience and the particulars of the position to which you are applying, you may choose to include any of a number of additional sections. These sections include, but are not limited to:

  • Honors and Awards
  • Community Engagement or Volunteer Experience
  • Co-Curricular Involvement
  • Leadership Experience
  • Computer Skills
  • Professional or Community Memberships
  • Publications and/or Research Experience
  • Certifications

General Tips

Keep it Simple

Your resume, especially after you've been in the workforce for a few years, should not include every job you've ever held. A resume is not the definitive list of your life's work, but a sort of marketing document that highlights your experiences and skills that are relevant to a particular job. 

Keep It Concise

Strictly speaking, there is nothing inappropriate about a two-page (or a three- or four-page) resume. It is a matter of practicality. Numerous studies indicate that employers may spend as little as six seconds scanning your resume. In order to increase the likelihood that they will see the most relevant information, keep your resume short and well-organized. A one-page resume should be plenty for most college students and recent graduates.

Use Reverse Chronological Format

While there are several ways to format your resume, the standard reverse chronological format is the most common, and therefore the easiest for most employers to understand. In this format you will list your work experience in reverse order with your current or most recent job at the top, and then work backwards toward your oldest or earliest work experience.

Maintain a "Master Resume" with Everything

Although you will want to submit resumes that are short and concise, you will want to a keep a master resume just for yourself. This master resume should be an ongoing document containing every job you've held. A certain experience may not be relevant to your current job application, but it may be to the next, and you don't want to have to make up the details later.

Curate Your Online Presence

You might not list your LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook accounts on your resume, but employers are looking at them. Adjust your privacy settings, clean up any questionable content and use these platforms to highlight things that you want employers to know about you. If you like, you can build yourself a website or online portfolio and encourage employers to learn more about you there.

Show, Don't Tell

Just like your high school English teacher told you, it's better to show than to tell. Adding a bullet in your Skills section that says "Effective communicator" actually tells an employer very little about you. What kind of communication? And how do you define "effective"? Instead, use your work experience to highlight ways in which you've communicated effectively (e.g., public speaking, publications, social media or web content, etc.)

Avoid Clichés and Vague or Empty Descriptors

Great, you're passionate. What does that mean? And do you think you are more passionate than every other candidate? Avoid describing yourself with clichés and empty words. Examples include team player, detail-oriented, hard worker, good communicator and go-getter. Find more direct and meaningful ways to describe yourself.

We encourage you to consult friends, parents, faculty and the Career Services office to receive feedback on your resume before you are ready to apply to jobs or internships. In the meantime, run through this checklist to make sure you've got the basics covered.

Appearance

  • Looks original and not built on a template
  • Inviting to readers, with clear sections and ample white space
  • Length appropriate to your career level and objective (generally, one-page for new college graduates)
  • Spacing, typeface, font size and layout used consistently throughout

Sections

  • Clearly labeled and formatted to stand out
  • Ordered to best highlight your strongest skills, experiences or credentials
  • Targeted to a specific position
  • includes relevant volunteer experience, awards, co-curriculars and professional affiliations

Heading

  • Name at the top of the page, bolded and larger than the other text
  • Includes your preferred phone number and email address in proper format
  • Email address professionally appropriate

Education

  • Includes your degree, institution name and location
  • Includes your major and, if relevant, your minor and/or emphasis
  • Does not include high school diploma

Experience

  • Includes all relevant paid, volunteer and internship positions
  • Each position includes your title, organization name, location and dates
  • Descriptions (bullet points) are concise and emphasize specific accomplishments, evidence of your effectiveness and transferable skills

Writing Style

  • Written in an implied first-person voice
  • Includes short, action-oriented descriptions rather than lengthy paragraphs of narrative text
  • Focused on keywords, with appropriate reference to industry language and buzzwords
  • Employs strong action verbs

Other

  • Completely free of spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors
  • Consistent formatting of dates, titles and punctuation
  • Contains the same heading as cover letter and reference sheet
  • Does not refer to your references (between three and five references should be included on a separate document and provided only upon request)

Helpful Links

An easy way to update your resume is by replacing redundant, boring action words with more interesting variations. Try some of these:

Management SkillsCommunication SkillsResearch SkillsTechnical Skills
administeredaddressedanalyzedactivated
accounted forarrangedcalculatedassembled
analyzedauthoredchartedbuilt
assignedcollaboratedclarifiedcalculated
attainedconvincedcollectedcomputed
chairedcorrespondedcompareddesigned
consolidateddevelopedcritiqueddevised
contracteddirecteddiagnosedengineered
coordinateddraftedevaluatedfabricated
delegatededitedexaminedmaintained
developedenlistedextractedoperated
directedexpressedidentifiedoverhauled
evaluatedformulatedinspectedprogrammed
executedinfluencedinterpretedremodeled
improvedinterpretedinterviewedrepaired
increasedlecturedinvestigatedsolved
organizedmediatedorganizedsynthesized
oversawmoderatedreviewedtroubleshot
plannednegotiatedsummarizedupgraded
prioritizedpersuadedsurveyedutilized
producedpromotedsystematized 
recommendedpublicizedtested 
reviewedreconciled  
scheduledrecruited  
suggestedspoke  
supervisedtranslated  
transformedwrote  
Teaching SkillsFinancial SkillsCreative SkillsOrganizational Skills
adaptedadministeredactedaligned
advisedadjustedadaptedallocated
clarifiedallocatedcombinedassociated
coachedanalyzedconceptualizedbudgeted
communicatedappraisedcondensedcataloged
conductedassessedcreatedcentralized
coordinatedauditedcustomizedclassified
critiquedbalanceddesignedconsolidated
developedcalculateddevelopedformalized
enabledcomputeddirectedindividualized
encouragedconserveddisplayedintegrated
evaluatedcorrectedentertainedlocalized
explaineddeterminedestablishedofficiated
facilitateddevelopedfashionedoutlined
focusedestimatedformulatedpackaged
guidedforecastedfoundedplanned
instilledmanagedillustratedpreserved
instructedmarketedinitiatedprocessed
motivatedmeasuredinstitutedreconciled
persuadedplannedintegratedrecorded
simulatedprogrammedinventedremodeled
stimulatedprojectedmodeledreorganized
trainedreconciledmodifiedrepositioned
transmittedresearchedrevitalizedrestructured
tutoredretrievedshapedstandardized

Helpful Links

Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are virtual application platforms that many employers now use to filter and "rate" resumes and other application materials. These systems often use algorithms to decide which applicants are qualified for a position and make decisions about whether your resume will ever even been seen by a human at the hiring organization.

According to a recent study, 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies use ATS, along with about two-thirds of large companies and one-third of small organizations. These systems simplify the recruiting process for companies by identifying candidates who meet minimum qualifications and those who don't. As a general rule you can assume that only one-quarter of applicants will make it through the ATS and get seen by a hiring manager. 

So how do you make sure you are part of the select group of candidates who get seen? Here are some basic tips to consider as your prepare your resume and other applications materials.

  • Use specific keywords and phrases taken directly from the job posting and from the organization's website or recruiting documents.
  • Incorporate keywords and phrases throughout your resume and cover letter, not just in a single section. 
  • Avoid generic or unnecessary "creative" descriptors. Many ATS are programmed to ignore vague phrases like "effective communicator," so be sure to use specific terms that are relevant to the job posting and to the line of work. 
  • List specific skills, certifications, licensures and software that are relevant to your potential line of work. For example, instead of "web editing," you might list "HTML5/CSS" or "WordPress."
  • Include your name and contact information, but do not place them in a header or footer, as some ATS ignore those sections.
  • If using an acronym, make sure to spell it out, too. For example, use both "CNA" and "Certified Nurse's Assistant," since you don't know which the organization has programmed its ATS to look for.
  • Avoid graphics, tables and photographs as these can confuse the ATS, leading to a lower rating.
  • Use common fonts that are at least size 11 or larger.