A résumé is an outline of your accomplishments, highlighting the strengths and skills that make you unique: your education, experience, skills and interests. The purpose of a good résumé is to get an interview, so the picture you paint should highlight areas relevant to the kinds of positions that interest you. The employer's point of view will be your guide.
Create a Master List
The first step is to list every experience you can think of, without worrying about the format. Include volunteer/community service, internships, paid jobs, and major research projects, as well as campus activities, student organizations, and all of your educational experiences.
Elaborate on Your List
Next, write descriptions for each of the items on your list. Include information about your specific responsibilities, skills used, and outcomes you achieved.
Organize Your Résumé
Think of category headings for your different experiences (see p. 4 for ideas). You do not need to include everything: be strategic. Experiences that will be of most interest to your prospective employer should be included in a section near the top.
It’s a good idea to include both your current school address and a permanent address. Be sure that your phone numbers are correct, and always include an email address. If you use an email address other than your Oberlin one, be sure to use a professional sounding address. Do not include your social security number or date of birth.
This section gives details about your college, degree, graduation date, and majors. An overall GPA and a Major GPA are optional. Typically, include your GPA if it is 3.0 or higher and add your Major GPA if it is higher than your overall GPA. Include study abroad, additional educational institutions, or select coursework if appropriate. Generally, you will not include your high school or high school experiences.
This includes the organizations where you’ve worked since high school. List your title, the organization you worked/volunteered with, and the dates of employment, and give an overview of your duties and your accomplishments.
- Position descriptions should not be written in full sentences.
- Omit all personal pronouns and use action verbs in your description.
- Write the description of your experiences either using bullets or in a paragraph style, making sure it is easy to read.
- Do not simply list job responsibilities; instead focus on accomplishments and results. Illustrate position descriptions with specifics about numbers, outcomes, and goals you met. Use quantitative information when appropriate and be concise.
This is a list of your “hard” skills—that is, quantifiable abilities that can be measured and taught, such as computer software or programming, foreign languages, or specialized equipment.
Use this section to describe activities not included in the Experience section, especially if you played a leadership role.
Don’t include references on your résumé. If references are requested, use a separate sheet of paper to list at least three people who know you well and who are willing to be positive references for you. Be sure to ask their permission first, tell them what kinds of positions you are seeking, and provide each of them with a copy of your résumé. If possible, include at least one professional reference (someone who knows about your work habits), at least one education reference (someone who knows about your educational abilities), and at least one personal reference (someone who knows you as a member of the community and can vouch for your character).
Example List of Duties and Skills Using Action Verbs:
- Created a safe and supportive atmosphere
- Maintained highly accurate database for Marketing Department
- Supervised clerical staff of 12 regarding all administrative activities
- Planned and organized special events: concerts, dinners, receptions
- Consolidated client database and performed market analyses on 100+ organizations
Since most employers now accept and even prefer online applications, keep the format of your résumé simple and straightforward. Be sure to convert the file to a PDF if you are sending it electronically. Hard copies should be printed on the same paper as your cover letters. Choose a conservative color: white, ivory, off-white, light gray or eggshell.
Your résumé should emphasize experiences or transferable skills the employer is looking for, so you will likely create different versions for different audiences. If your most relevant experiences are not your most recent, or if they involve volunteer or extracurricular activities, you may want to separate your experiences into different sections; for example, you may have “Internship Experience” listed separately to draw special attention to your relevant work history and list other positions under the heading “Work Experience.” Within each section, list your experiences in reverse chronological order (most recent first). You can list either your employer or your job title first—whichever is stronger—just be consistent.
Most entry-level résumés should be no more than one page, although two-page résumés may be acceptable under certain circumstances, such as with science résumés that require more detailed descriptions. Remember that employers spend very little time scanning your résumé, so good information on the second page might never be seen. If you must use a two-page résumé, make sure your name is at the top of both pages.
Your résumé must be easy to scan, so make sure you have a good balance of text and white space, with clear distinctions between each section. Three-quarters to one inch margins are standard, and don’t use font sizes smaller than 11 or 12 point. You may use one font style for the headings and another for body text, but no more. Don’t try to be too creative—the format should enhance your content, not distract from it.
Proofread, proofread, proofread!
Even if you use spell-check and grammar-check, proofread carefully and have your résumé critiqued by at least one other person. Bring it to the Career Development Center for review by a Peer Advisor or a professional advisor. If your résumé is for a specialized or technical field (science, theater or computer science for example), be sure to have a faculty member in your department look it over.
A CV (curriculum vitae) is an academic version of a résumé, and emphasizes earned degrees, teaching and research experience, publications, and presentations. It is usually longer than the typical one-page résumé, and may include more detail about each item listed. You may be asked to provide a CV when applying to graduate school or for research positions. If you finish a PhD program, you will need a CV for your job search. As an undergraduate, you probably do not have a great deal of this type of experience, but you can still tailor your résumé to fit an academic environment by including relevant academic information, presentations or poster sessions at professional conferences, and publications, if applicable.
Use the following guidelines to self-critique your résumé’s quality & effectiveness.
- Does it look neat? Is the layout pleasing and easy to scan
- Is it too busy? Are there too many different fonts or sizes?
- Do headlines/categories stand out? Were you consistent in placement of headings?
- Is it free of typographical errors and misspelled words?
- Are experiences grouped according to topics? Do the categories correspond to the experiences?
- Have you presented experiences in reverse chronological order?
- Does your name stand out?
- Are your address, phone and e-mail easy to find?
- Have you presented college(s), degree(s), course(s), honor(s)?
- Are GPA(s) presented?
- Did you include any study away experiences?
- Have you included experiences that project skills and accomplishments?
- Did you describe experiences in active phrasing? (see action verb list)
- Do job titles, organizations or both stand out?
- Have you listed appropriate activities, noting leadership?
- Have you avoided using acronyms?
- Have you presented your skills in an easy to read format? (i.e. computer skills, language skills)
Headings will depend upon your background and what will be of interest to the prospective employer. You may choose to include some of the following: