This guide to writing resumes includes tips and hints, contents, headings, and layout ideas to think about while crafting your resume. Developing a good resume takes time and often involves many revisions. It is important to get feedback from CPD Peer Advisors and Coaches, faculty, advisors, alumni mentors, or other professionals. This feedback can help guide you to ensure you are presenting yourself in the best light.
Understand the process: realities of the job search
- Account for the real world: busy employers, timing, etc.
- Grab attention; employers typically scan a resume for no more than 15 to 30 seconds.
- Take advantage of that time by crafting a resume that is clear, concise, and quickly demonstrates how you meet their needs.
- Understand how employers hire; this will help you plan a successful job search - Advertisements, Internal Postings, Job Fairs, etc.
- Employers select candidates based on both qualifications and fit
- Your resume will land you the interview, it is the interview that gets you the job. Employers want candidates whose values align with their own; they can teach someone how to do a job, they cannot teach them to love how the company operates.
Understand the audience: construct compelling narratives
- Define your target audience (job, internship, volunteer program, etc.)
- Match audience needs with personal story
- Jot down the qualifications and skills important to the position/program for which you are applying, and highlight them in your application materials
- It is wise to share parts of your personal story that relate to your interest in the opportunity or job
- Write tailored love letters not generic pick-up lines
- Make it easy for employers to see your fit for the job
- Use the keywords from the job posting and the targeted industry
- Accurately relate your strengths and experiences to stand out
- Think about the following areas of your background: education, off-campus study programs, work and internship experience, volunteer and community activities, awards, honors, distinctions, special skills and competencies, professional affiliations and activities in which you have been involved.
- List the experiences as well as the skills you used in the experience. Write down everything that comes to mind! There may be pieces to your background that seem insignificant to the position/program for which you are applying, but these opportunities can show transferable skills.
Understand the industry: navigate unspoken expectations
- Specific industries evaluate applicants differently
- Know industry nonverbal cues and communication styles
- Engage in industry-specific knowledge communities
- Intended to secure an interview, not a job
- Have and utilize a comprehensive master resume
- Develop a master resume which contains all the details of your professional experience and transferable skills in one place. Create a targeted resume by customizing your master resume for a specific job or type of work.
- Experience can come from many different places
- Account for the real world: busy employers, timing, etc.
This is what employers, grad schools, and fellowship programs want to know! For each experience, ask yourself these four questions:
What is the measurable outcome?
- What did I achieve?
- What did the company/organization achieve?
- What problem did I solve?
- How can I show measurement?
Whom did I work with?
- Internal stakeholders (teammates, staff, managers, faculty)
- External stakeholders (customers, clients, audience, partners)
- What leadership role did I play?
Have I managed or trained?
- Which projects or processes have I managed?
- What was the outcome?
- Whom have I trained (formally or informally)?
- What training have I received?
Why did I do all of this?
- How did my work impact the company/organization as a whole?
- Have I explained the reasons for doing what I did?
- Organize your resume into categories (resume headings) that will showcase your background in a way that clearly demonstrates your “fit” for the position or program.
- Complete the first draft of your resume. Make sure that you:
- Pay especially close attention to content and formatting. Everything should be clear and concise.
- Take a look at our hints and tips located at the bottom of the page.
- Do not forget to use a wide vocabulary of action verbs, transferable skills, and resume headings.
- View example resumes for reference.
- Get feedback from CPD Peer Advisors, academic advisors, supervisors, faculty and other students. Revise your resume each time you get feedback. Schedule an appointment with a CPD Career Coach through Handshake for a final review.
There are no absolute requirements in the preparation of your resume, but there are generally accepted guidelines to follow. Below are the top 10 tips and hints to help you with your creation:
- A one-page resume is considered ideal for college students and recent graduates. There are a few cases where a two-page resume is necessary—check with a CPD coach to find out if two pages are right for you.
- Be consistent in your choice of font and layout. Use easy to read typeface that is no smaller than 10pt. Times, Garamond and Helvetica are compact fonts and allow for more information to be presented on one page.
- Aim to maintain balance between print and white space to enhance readability. Your resume should be uncluttered and visually appealing.
- Use bold, bullets, italics, and underlines to highlight but beware of looking cluttered or busy. Highlights should be used consistently and sparingly.
- Be factual and 100% honest.
- Avoid the use personal pronouns (I, we, my) in your resume. Start all statements with action verbs.
- PROOF YOUR RESUME! Your resume should be free of spelling errors and have perfect grammar and punctuation. Keep in mind that the resume is an example of your writing and communication skills.
- Print your resume on a laser printer. Use 20# bond resume paper in basic colors (white, off-white, cream, beige, or gray). If sending a cover letter and reference page, use the same paper as your resume.
- Be e-friendly if submitting electronically. Make sure your resume translates well with other platforms and browsers. Test by sending "practice" emails to friends to see how the information appears on their screens.