The resume is a professional marketing tool to introduce you to potential employers for internships, volunteer roles, and on- and off-campus job postings. This written presentation, and sample of your personal writing style, must be concise and error-free to make a positive first impression. The resume should highlight relevant information including:
- Your paid and unpaid experience
- Your skills and achievements
- Your education
The types and amounts of experience students have will vary, but a resume cannot always include everything. In fact, it should not be a summary of everything you have ever done. Your resume should highlight the skills and experience that are most important and relevant to the types of positions you are targeting.
The Purpose of a Resume
The purpose of a resume is to generate interviews. Ask yourself, "What are potential employers looking for?" Do some research, and analyze the job descriptions to be sure you are emphasizing what is most important to the potential employers. Remember that a resume will be read or skimmed in approximately 10 to 15 seconds by a recruiter or manager at the screening stage - that is all! Consequently, a professional resume should be clear, direct, and easy to read, and include the critical information that presents you the best it possibly can for the position you are applying for.
Before You Start Writing
Researching specific job postings that interest you will help you determine what type of keywords - the skills and experience recruiters seek, in their terminology - you should include in your resume. Research job descriptions on CareerLink, Simmons' online job board, to get an idea of position descriptions for full- and part-time jobs, internships, volunteer, and seasonal opportunities. You should also take a moment to screen the short CareerSpots video "Make Your Resume POP".
While there are many different possible resume formats, here is a common resume format and sequence for a graduate student:
- Personal Contact Information
- Education - including Activities, Honors/Awards, and Study Abroad
- Community Service
- Skills (Computer, Foreign Languages, other)
- Certifications (if applicable, such as CPR, First Aid, Teaching License)
- Professional Associations (if applicable, such as student memberships)
The format should be very easy to read so that employers will be able to quickly skim your resume and find the information about your skills and experience relevant to the specific job opening. Using a bulleted format instead of paragraphs as you describe your work and volunteer experience will make it much easier to find these details. Use bold and capitalized letters for the subheadings of your resume. You should make sure you bold and capitalize your name plus use a larger font size (14-16 pt.) to have your name stand out at the very top of the entire document.
Resume Format FAQs
- What do I include on my resume, and in what sequence?
- While there are standard resume sections such as Education and Experience, you have the option of customizing your resume headings depending on your specific situation. Since your resume is a marketing tool designed for your specific career goals, the sequence of your subheadings may vary depending on your experience level, required certifications, if applicable, and specialized skills required for the type of job you are targeting. For instance, if you do not have extensive paid experience working in your desired field, consider including internships or related volunteer roles under your Experience section.
- Do I list Education above Experience?
- Typically recent college graduates, both undergraduate and graduate, will list Education first and then Experience. One of the determining factors is deciding what makes you most marketable to prospective employers. A new graduate, including career changers with an advanced degree, can emphasize up-to-date coursework and recently acquired knowledge about the field, while experienced professionals can stress their recent accomplishments in a work environment. Some graduates, such as nurses (RN), social workers (MSW) or librarians (MLS), might add new credentials after their name at the top of the resume.
- Should my resume be only one page?
- Most recent college graduates will be able to keep their resume to one page. However if you find you have numerous part-time jobs, several internships, leadership roles, and extensive community service, you have the option of expanding onto a second page. With a two-page resume, the first page should include the most relevant experience leaving the second page for sections such as professional association memberships, publications, conferences, etc.
- Do I need an Objective on my resume?
- An Objective section is usually not required on your resume since you can state your customized objective in your cover letter when applying for a specific job posting. Since job titles vary, even in the same industry, you may not want to have such specific wording since it will not match all the types of jobs you will be applying for during your job search. An Objective could be used, however, if you have selected a specific job title such as Nurse, Elementary School Teacher, or Physical Therapist.
If you have more questions about how you should design your resume, plan to meet with a career coach in the CEC to discuss specific details in more depth.
Resume Format Resources
- Review the Resume Checklist to see suggested formats with common resume sections and more details on font styles, margins, subheadings and dates. This checklist will be a helpful guide when you complete the first draft of your resume.
One of the best ways to capture the resume reader's attention is to include concise, results-oriented statements which demonstrate your past achievements with previous employers or volunteer organizations. These carefully crafted statements are mini-success stories, which show how you have made significant contributions or improvements in your previous work roles. Since past performance is often viewed as a great indicator of future success, prospective employers feel confident that you are more likely to be a well-qualified candidate when they read about your personal achievements.
Preparing Your Accomplishment Statements
To prepare accomplishment statements, use the CAR approach to structure your wording:
Challenge - Challenge you overcame, problem you solved, or opportunity you saw to improve
Action - Action you took to address the challenge
Result - Results and positive outcome of the actions you took
Make sure your resume highlights your accomplishments - not just your duties or responsibilities - so that the reader can tell that you were successful at what you did!
Identifying your past successes
To help you recall the details of what you've done well in the past, ask people who are familiar with you and refer to letters of recommendation, performance reviews or supervisors' reports describing the quality of your work. Ask yourself, "Have you. . ."
- Been complimented by customers, supervisors or peers for doing an exceptional job?
- Trained new employees or interns?
- Consistently met deadlines?
- Simplified complex information or streamlined procedures?
- Saved money or time?
- . . .or had other similar accomplishments?
Avoid using weak beginnings such as "Responsible for", "Duties included", "Worked with" and "Assisted." Instead, begin your CAR statements with Powerful Action Verbs.
Writing Your Accomplishment Statements
Distinguish yourself! When you are ready to write your accomplishment statements, make sure you stand out! Take a close look at the wording and then tailor your own personalized resume with your specific skills and achievements. Select and highlight those skills which are most relevant to the type of jobs and employers that interest you most. When you write a specific accomplishment statement, ask yourself:
Challenge - What is the specific situation you encountered to resolve?
Actions - What are the steps you took to improve the situation?
Results - What was the benefit for the employer after you implemented this improvement?
Below are three sample accomplishment statements to give you an idea how to structure your own well-written statements on a resume. Compare:
- Sold merchandise and promoted store credit card applications. (Weak)
- Provided friendly and timely customer service, and successfully promoted store credit card applications. (Better)
- Exceeded weekly sales and store credit card goals by consistently delivering friendly and timely customer service, and actively promoting store credit card applications. Awarded two bonuses. (Best)
For More Sample Accomplishment Statements
See the "Resume Toolbox" on this page or go directly to the following:
- Review the article on Sample Accomplishment Statements
- Review the sample resumes for graduate students:
Including a Summary Statement
The Summary statement is an optional section on the resume for those job seekers with previous professional experience. In general, the more experience you have - ie, the longer you have been in the workforce - the more likely it is that you would include a Summary statement on your resume. After your name and contact information this is the first information a hiring manager sees at the top of the resume. It gives the resume reader a concise introduction to you and should include your area(s) of expertise, industry background, computer knowledge and specific industry skills, personal traits, and values. A Summary statement allows the resume screener, at a quick glance, to focus just on the top third of your resume and find the most relevant information to help determine if you are a good fit for the job opening.
For more on Summary statements and to help you decide whether to include one or not, review the article Building a Summary Statement.
As noted above, you may also want your resume to include a section that lists your specific skills used during paid jobs, volunteer activities, internships, and leadership roles on campus. These can include computer and software skills, language proficiency, and other unique skills that you bring to the table that other candidates may not. See the "Resume Toolbox" on this page for sample resumes with Skills sections.
Other Resume Considerations
These days the resume is as often an electronic document as a paper one. This requires you to be aware of different considerations, such as the use of keywords to make sure your resume stands out in an electronic scan, when your resume will be read only by a computer and not a person. This typically happens in larger organizations at the initial screening stage, when many applicants apply for each job opening and the employer needs to narrow down the pool to those whose qualifications meet their needs. In addition, if an employer asks you to file your job application electronically on their site's application form, many times they will request your resume along with it. In this case it is critical that you follow each employer's specific instructions on preferred format, such as Word, ASCII-text, PDF, or HTML version.
For more information on electronic resumes, view the following:
- CareerSpots video - Make Your Resume POP
- The Simmons Library career guide on resumes lists further resources on Electronic Resumes
- Quintcareers.com has several articles with excellent descriptions on electronic formats and additional helpful tips
- Money-Zine.com offers guidelines and advice on using keywords in electronic resumes.
Occasionally some employers, especially academic institutions, research institutes, and international employers, will ask job applicants for a curriculum vitae (CV) instead of a resume. Unlike the concisely written resume, the CV is a very detailed, multi-page document. Additional sections include educational background with degrees plus teaching assistant positions or scholarships; thesis/dissertation title; research projects; fluency in foreign languages; professional licenses/certifications; professional journal publications and books; conference presentations; grants (awarded and pending); professional references; consulting experience and professional boards or executive committee positions; and more.
The CV, which is more commonly used in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, might even include more personal information such as marital status and date of birth. In the United States you might be asked to submit a CV only when you apply for graduate or professional schools, upper-level administrative positions in higher education or research hospitals, fellowships or grants, and consulting and leadership positions with professional associations.
For more information on curriculum vitae, view the following:
- The Simmons Library career guide on CVs
- About.com, for a description of CVs descriptions including samples
- Quintcareers.com articles on CVs.
When to Meet with a Career Coach about Your Resume
Before meeting with a CEC career coach about your resume, we recommend that you review the above information on crafting your resume, download a sample resume or sample resume outline (see "Resume Toolbox" on this page), and draft your own resume, all to get started on the process. If you feel you would benefit from a meeting with a CEC coach after having done the above, you can schedule an appointment to have a coach review your resume draft and answer any of your specific questions. For a briefer meeting which does not require arranging an appointment in advance, stop by the CEC during Drop-In hours (Mondays & Tuesdays, 3:00-4:30PM, Wednesdays & Thursdays, 1:30-3:00PM) for a brief 15-minute session with a coach.
- Building a Summary Statement
- Powerful Action Verbs
- Resume Checklist
- Sample Accomplishment Statements
- Writing Accomplishment Statements
- Sample Resume - College Jobs
- Sample Resume - Librarian
- Sample Resume - Physical Therapy
- Sample Resume - Social Work
- Sample Resume - Teacher
Resume Tip: Top 10 Skills Employers Seek
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) compiles a list every year of the top skills employers look for when hiring new college graduates. Review this Top 10 Skills List to help you identify your own skills that you might choose to highlight on your resume.
Read tips and download samples that will help get your resume noticed
Career Toolkit for Graduate Students
The purpose of the Career Toolkit is to assist you in your career planning. Whether you are unsure of your career direction or need help with your job search, you will find the resources you need to begin your preparation.
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