Creating Your Resume

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A resume is a brief, easy to read summary of your skills and experience. Your resume should be honest, positive, and most of all, concise. Remember, on the first review an employer only spends about thirty or forty seconds reviewing your resume, and it is the first impression you will make. An effective resume will serve its purpose of getting you an interview.

Three Resume Formats

Samples of each type of resume described below can be found in the career library at the Center for Career Services.


This is the most commonly used style of resume. It presents information about your work experience in reverse chronological order. List your current work experience first, and work your way backwards. A key aspect of this format is to describe each work experience in such a way as to highlight the responsibility you had and the skills you employed. This format is useful to use if your training and experience relate to your current job objective.

Functional / Skills

The emphasis of a functional resume is on the skills you have acquired rather than when and where you have worked. You do not describe each work experience in a functional resume as you would in a chronological resume. You should select skill headings (i.e. leadership, research, computer skills) based on the skills you have which you feel are the most desirable to an employer. Then indicate how you have used or developed these skills through work, education, or other activities. What is important is that you have the skills that can be transferred to the work place. This format is useful if your training and experience does not match the current job objective.


The combination resume takes the best aspects of the chronological and functional formats and combines them. This type of resume usually begins with a skills summary and then a description of work experiences in reverse chronological order. The advantage of the combination format is that you can both highlight your skills and describe your work experiences so that the employer has an understanding of your duties and responsibilities.

What resume format is right for you?

The chronological resume works well for most candidates but particularly well for those with established work histories, new graduates with some work experience, and individuals whose work history is directly related to the job they seek. It is also the most conservative format, and as a result, works well for candidates applying to conservative organizations. The functional format works well for those who have varied work backgrounds or little direct experience for the type of job they seek. The combination resume works well for any candidate.

Components of a Resume

There are many ways to create your resume, but the following are standard components that employers expect to see. You may need to create your own sections to accommodate specialized information about your background.

Name and Address Header

The header of your resume should include your name, address, phone and email if you regularly use it. Include both a local and permanent address and a phone number so that an employer has no difficulty reaching you. This is especially important when sending resumes close to graduation.

Professional Objective

Though optional, an objective informs potential employers that you are moving in a certain direction, relays your work preferences, and serves as a focal point from which to review and analyze your resume. It allows the employer to immediately identify kind of position you are looking for. Therefore, if you are simultaneously seeking positions in a number of fields, you may need to have a different job objective for each position you are applying for. To address this problem, prepare two resumes; one with an objective and one without. Do not write an objective that is vague and meaningless. If the objective does not specify a focus within a career field, do not use it.


Your education background is most commonly the next heading. Include in this section information regarding your college degree(s); where obtained; date(s); major; minor or concentration; certification; academic awards and honors. Include your GPA if it is an asset. If not, focus your resume on your non-academic strengths and skills. A general rule of thumb is that if your GPA is a 3.0 or higher, include it. If your GPA for your major is strong, you may just put that down but make sure that you specify that it is only for classes in your major. If you do not have a lot of relevant experience for the position you are applying for, you may choose to list courses and class projects of interest to the employer.


This section includes the positions you held, names and locations of employers and dates employed. In the chronological resume responsibilities, achievements or significant contributions, and demonstrated skills are listed. To assist you in writing this section, refer to the list of action words included at the end of the booklet. Mention your most impressive or important duties first.
You may also include independent study or volunteer work in this section if it is relevant to the position you are seeking and you gained significant skills and/or experience from it. If you choose to describe your volunteer work, do not describe it under a heading which implies that you were paid, such as "Employment" or "Work History." Use "Experience" instead. Better yet, use headings like "Communications Experience", "Human Resources", Experiences", "Research Experience", etc. to further emphasize your related skills.


If you have been involved in campus or community organizations, such as athletics, clubs, or student government, you should mention them in this section. Identify any leadership roles that you had in these organizations. If you have too many organizations you to list, choose the ones that have the strongest connection to the type of job you seek. Don't pad this section with organizations you were involved in "in name only". Employers may ask you about these involvements during an interview.


Computer Skills: With more and more employers relying on the use of computers in the workplace, you should include a section where you list any computer programs, hardware, software and/or INTERNET functions with which you have working knowledge.

Other Skills: If you have any notable skills like foreign language abilities, musical talents, writing skills, etc., be sure to mention them here as well.


Simply indicate that references are "available upon request". You should ask permission in advance to use someone as a reference and should know three possible references you can use. Use faculty and employers as references, not personal acquaintances. Do not include names, addresses or phone numbers of references on your resume itself, however. You may send a separate sheet with this information along with your resume, or wait until the employer requests references.

Reproducing Your Resumes

Before you make copies, bring your resume to the Center for Career Services and have it critiqued. An objective reader can catch typographical errors, grammatical mistakes, and weak spots will want to fix before sending out your resume. Be sure to use the spell checking feature of the word processing software you used, but don't rely on it completely since many typographical errors are actually correctly spelled words--just not the words you intended to use.

Layout and Space Utilization

Employers do not have a lot of time, so make your resume concise and easy to read. Your resume should be visually appealing to the reader. Use an appropriate amount of boldface, capitalization, and underlining to draw the reader's attention. Remember, don't overdo it. Do not exceed one page unless you are either a very experienced candidate or you are seeking a job in the fields of education or human services. These employers are usually tolerant of two page resumes.


Always print your resume on high quality paper- never perforated computer paper. Never send out a resume that is obviously a photocopy. Use high quality paper of at least 20-pound weight. Conservative white, off-white, light tan, or light gray are generally acceptable colors. The darker the color, the more difficult it is to read. The only time dark or creative colors are acceptable is for artistic resumes, particularly for candidates in graphic design areas. In this case, the resume becomes a vehicle for illustrating the candidate's talent.

Following Up

Following up on your resume is the key to job search success. You must try to get in touch with the employers to whom you have sent your resume. Below are a sequence of questions that may assist you.

"I sent my resume to your organization last week. Can you tell me if I am being considered for any openings?"

If the answer is yes: If the answer is no:
"Are there any supportive materials, such as references or a transcript, that I could send to you?"

"Do you have any idea when you might be contacting candidates for an interview?"

"I understand that there are no openings right now for which I am qualified, but do you anticipate that there will be any openings in the future? If so, wi ll my resume be kept in a file to be considered for these positions or should I re apply?"

Since many organizations "clean out" resume files from time to time, you should ask:
"How long do you keep resumes on file for consideration?"

Secretaries and receptionists are important. They may not be able to get you the job, but in many situations their input on you can help or hurt. They can also provide a wealth of information. Be cordial and considerate. Make friends with the secretary who handles your call and ask:

"I am very interested in employment in your organization. Do you mind if I call every now and then to check on available openings?"

Action Words

When describing your work or extra-curricular activities use action words to present your qualifications persuasively. Only use appropriate words. However, never misrepresent yourself. You may choose to use some of these words in your cover letter as well.


activated ... built ... composed ... conceived... constructed ... created ... designed ... developed ... established ... formed ... formulated ... founded ... invented ... set up ... started


calculated ... collaborated ... coordinated ... expedited ... maintained ... programmed ... projected


accomplished ... acquired ... doubled ... demonstrated ... earned ... fulfilled ... helped ... halved ... increased ... improved ... restored ... reinforced ... surpassed ... strengthened ... tripled ... won


adapted ... advised ... analyzed ... assessed ... assisted ... clarified ... controlled ... corrected ... defined ... influenced ... interpreted ... investigated managed ... monitored ... negotiated ... overcame ... reconciled ... recommended ... resolved ... settled ... solved


controlled ... directed ... evaluated ... financed ... guided ... handled ... headed ... hired ... influenced ... inspected ... instructed ... interviewed ... led ... motivated ... negotiated ... oversaw ... promoted .... recruited ... reported ... represented ... scheduled ... secured ... selected ... supervised ... taught ... trained