A resume is your most important tool when searching for a job or internship. It serves not as an exhaustive document of positions you've held, but as a summary of the skills and knowledge base you can offer to an employer and a demonstration of your ability.
Resumes differ from industry to industry and sometimes from position to position. Your resume also can be modified toward a specific industry. For example, technical resumes need to highlight computer skills earlier than marketing resumes. Don't limit your experiences to just paid work. Volunteer, extracurricular and athletics are all activities that are appropriate for a resume.
You don't have long to make an impression with your resume. Trying to overwhelm the reviewer with everything you have done rarely works. You should highlight skills and accomplishments you have that will make you a good match for the opportunity.
Helpful cover letter and resume tips and examples
Step one: think through your strengths and what you would like to highlight
Students will want to examine their academic record, volunteer positions, extracurricular activities, internships and jobs.
Alumni will want to focus on their work accomplishments, leadership and civic activities and participation in professional associations.
Step two: consider the type of position you will be applying for, how you fit and what might set you apart from the rest of the applicants
Consider the industry and/or organization to which you are applying. What will this organization value in an employee? What skills do you bring to the organization that will catch the employer's eye? Are they going to be primarily concerned with hard skills like laboratory knowledge or familiarity of general accounting practices? Or are soft skills like teamwork and customer service proficiency more important? It's possible it's a combination of both.
Next, think how you have demonstrated ability in those areas. For instance, if you are going to apply for a position in public relations, employers will want to see the ability to communicate effectively, think creatively and connect with a wide range of individuals. Even if your prior experience isn’t in public relations, can you demonstrate these abilities through other means?
If you plan to apply to different industries or job types, consider creating multiple resumes. A student interested in applying for a human resources job and a sales job will want to have different skills and experiences highlighted.
Step three: craft your resume
Avoid commonly used templates, as they don’t offer a lot of flexibility. See our Resume Guide to learn successful ways to organize and detail a resume, using the right verbs, as well as what information not to use.
Remember, your resume needs to be readable in 30 seconds to one minute. Use spacing, bolding, underlining and italicizing to pace your resume, highlight sections and let the reader quickly find the information they want to see.
If you are a traditional undergraduate, you want to keep your resume to one page. If you are an alumni or nontraditional student with substantial work experience, you should aim for no more than two pages. If you do go to two pages, make sure the second page goes to at least half the page. Remember, you can expand your margins, going to at least half inch off the top and bottom of the margins.
General components include: name and contact information, education, experience and skills. Additional components can include summary (or highlight) of qualifications, honors and awards, relevant coursework, relevant experience, volunteer (or extracurricular) experience, technical competencies, class projects and/or a career objective.
Experience and education should go in reverse chronological order — your most recent first, then on down.
Keep in mind, a resume is an example of the attention to detail you will bring to the workplace. This means there is no room for typos, bad grammar or inconsistent formatting.
Don’t use a narrative style when discussing your experiences — bulleted, concise statements will make a bigger impact.
Create a “References” page that goes on a separate sheet. Choose three references and list out their name, title, company they work for and contact information. Use only professional or academic references, not personal.
When your resume is completed, generate a .pdf and .rtf version of your resume. When emailing a resume, use the .pdf version.
The following information is not needed on most resumes: date of birth, marriage status, name of supervisors for employment (unless they are going to go on a references page), street addresses of your employers or social security numbers.