Resume Writing Tips

What is a Resume?

Your resume is a concise summary of your qualifications that relate to the position for which you are applying. It serves as an advertisement of what you have to offer and creates a prospective employer’s first impression of you. Employers screen resumes in between 2.5 and 10 seconds, so your resume should quickly capture the reader’s interest.  A resume distills to one page all of your education, training, leadership, and work experience in relationship to your potential value to an employer or an opportunity.

Tips on Getting Started

As you build your resume, here are some tips to keep in mind.  

Tip # 1: Brainstorm

Brainstorm a list of experiences and skills that you might want to include in a resume. Consider your academic background, paid and volunteer work or internships, research projects, awards, and special skills. Once you have compiled your list, you can start organizing this information to the position or industry that you are targeting.

Tip # 2: Gathering Career Information

After you have completed your personal inventory and have developed your career goals, you will then want to research these career areas and those employers that are active in them. For each potential position you need to know the qualifications, duties, and skills required for the job, and any special talents or personal characteristics sought by the employer.

Tip # 3: Organizing Your Resume

Your name, address, telephone number, and email address are centered at the top of the page or placed to one side. Do not use headings such as "name," "telephone," "resume." This information is self-evident and the headings are unnecessary.

  • Career Objective

    If you state a career objective, it should be brief, concise and address the current job only, not future career plans. This category should be used only when your job objective is clear or definite.

  • Education

    Your educational history should be placed near or at the top of the page if it is your most important qualification. Under this heading include the names of schools, degrees, major, minor or concentration and dates received or expected graduation.

  • Experience

    These areas can be titled "Work Experience," or "Professional Experience,”  “Volunteer Experience,”  Internship Experience" or "Related Experience.” In describing your work experience, use action words which will show your strengths and skills.

  • Professional Activities and Honors/Awards

    This category can include club and professional memberships, awards, honors, volunteer experience, and community service.

  • Skills and Accomplishments

    Skills included should be hard skills, technical experience, or knowledge of another language. Academic or work accomplishments can be included.

Tip # 4: Choosing a Format

There is no single prescribed resume format, but t he two basic styles of resumes   are chronological and functional. Some resumes use features of both and are called combination resumes.

  • Chronological Resume
    • This is the most widely used and familiar format. The experience section is listed in chronological order, starting with your most recent experience. It is most effective when the job target is in line with your experience and academic background.
    • If your most relevant experience for a particular career field was not your most recent, it can be featured by creating two "experience" sections. These can be called "Related Experience" and "Other Work Experience." By separating the information into two categories, you can maintain a chronological format while emphasizing your most pertinent skills.
  • Functional Resume
    • The functional resume highlights skills and accomplishments and de-emphasizes specific job titles, organizations, and dates of employment. Functional resumes are appropriate if you have held a number of unrelated jobs, the position that you are seeking is outside the academic field, or there are significant gaps in your work history.

General Resume Guidelines


  • Font: Use an easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Cambria, or Garamond.
  • Size: Stay between 10 pt. and 12 pt. Your name can be larger than 12 pt.
  • Margins : .5-1” margins all around


  • Must be well-organized, neat, and concise.
  • Proofread to make sure grammar, punctuation, and spelling are flawless.


  • Use "bulleted" statements rather than complete sentences where appropriate.
  • Use quantities, amounts, dollar values where they enhance the description of what you did.
  • Do not use "I".
  • Do not include hobbies, avocational, or social interests.
  • Put the strongest statements or qualifications at the top.

Common Mistakes in a Resume

  1. Spelling Mistakes - Be sure that there are no spelling errors, poor word choice, or misuse of language.
  2. Repetitive Words - Do not use the same action verb repeatedly to describe your work experience. List of action verbs
  3. Leaving Out Dates- It might seem like you are trying to hide certain information.
  4. Just having One Version - Tailor your résumé for each job for which you are applying.
  5. No Cover Letter- A cover letter should be sent out with every résumé.
  6. Unprofessional Email Address - Use a professional address such as your school email or email that only includes your first and last name.
  7. Cluttered Information- Filter out information that might seem irrelevant to the position.
  8. Including Personal Information - Personal information, like age, gender, and head shot should not be included on your résumé (unless you are a performing arts student).
  9. Using Abbreviations or Contractions - Be sure to omit abbreviations or contractions in your words or sentences.