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.

Contact Information

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.

Education

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.

Experience

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.

Skills

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.

Activities/Leadership

Use this section to describe activities not included in the Experience section, especially if you played a leadership role.

References

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.

Organization

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.

Length

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.

Appearance

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.

Visual Presentation

  • Does it look neat? Is the layout pleasing and easy to scan
  • Is it too busy? Are there too many different fonts or sizes?

Organization

  • 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?

Section Review

Contact Information

  • Does your name stand out?
  • Are your address, phone and e-mail easy to find?

Education

  • Have you presented college(s), degree(s), course(s), honor(s)?
  • Are GPA(s) presented?
  • Did you include any study away experiences?

Experience

  • 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?

Activities

  • Have you listed appropriate activities, noting leadership?
  • Have you avoided using acronyms?

Special Categories

  • 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:

Academic Highlights
Academic Honors
Achievements
Areas of Expertise
Awards
Classroom Experience
Coaching Certification
College Activities
Community Service
Course Concentration
Degree
Departmental Service
Education

Employment
Extracurricular Interests
Field Experience
Honorary Societies
Honors & Distinctions
In-service Training
International Experience
Internship Experience
Languages
License(s)
Objective
Part-time Work
Presentations

Professional Activities
Professional Leadership
Professional Societies
Publications
Scholarships
Service
Skills & Competencies
Special Training
Student Teaching
Study Abroad
Teaching Certificate(s)
Volunteer Activities

accomplished
adapted
administered
advised
analyzed
appraised
approved
assembled
assisted
authored
broadcast
budgeted
built
catalogued
clarified
coached
communicated
compared
competed
compiled
composed
conducted

constructed
consulted
controlled
coordinated
copyrighted
correlated
corresponded
created
delegated
demonstrated
designed
developed
devised
discovered
directed
discovered
earned
eliminated
enhanced
established
evaluated
examined
facilitated
financed
fostered
founded
generated
guided
illustrated
implemented
increased
installed
integrated
interpreted
interviewed
introduced
invented
investigated
launched
lectured
maintained
managed
marketed
mastered

measured
mediated
modeled
moderated
motivated
negotiated
organized
originated
performed
persuaded
planned
prepared
presented
prioritized
produced
programmed
promoted
proposed
provided
publicized
published
purchased

questioned
realized
recommended
recorded
recruited
redesigned
reduced
regulated
reorganized
represented
researched
reviewed
scheduled
screened
simplified
solved
sponsored
strengthened
succeeded
supervised