Select to hear or see audio/video on this topicYou should have three goals when writing a resume: first, to sell yourself through pertinent, unique details that stand out to a reader; second, to relate your skills and experiences to the specific position you’re applying for; and third, to tailor your resume to the organization, company, or school you wish to join. Be willing to prepare a different resume for each position you’re applying for. Resumes should be brief—typically one or two pages.

Audience

Before you write your resume, consider who will be reading it—usually a busy person with a whole stack of resumes to read. Your content and design need to be both memorable and readable. Make your statements succinct and strong and your details impressive. Include all the necessary information and nothing extraneous.

Your audience affects what you include. For instance, employers care about your college and work experience, so you shouldn’t include information about high school unless it’s pertinent. Also keep in mind that the older you get and the more work experience you have, the less even your college information matters.

As you write, try to adopt an employer’s mindset. Remember: hiring someone can be stressful. The person reviewing your resume wants to find the best possible individual for the job but is likely concerned that things might go wrong. What if the new employee turns out to be lazy, incompetent, rude, unreliable, or dishonest? You need to create a resume that reassures the reader you are a professional, dependable person with all the skills necessary to get the job done. Let your reader know you will solve problems, not create them.

Take time to research the school or company you’re applying to. Find out about the achievements, concerns, and culture of the organization. Ideally, you should also learn about the specific job, scholarship, or program you’re applying to, so you can tailor your information to fit that particular situation.

Formatting

Your resume’s appearance matters. This is your prospective employer’s first impression of you, so it should look professional and be easy to skim quickly. Avoid elaborate fonts that are difficult to read. Use boldface, italics, or changes in font size for emphasis. Don’t underline, except in headings, because it looks busy. Visually label the different parts of your resume (i.e., all dates in italics and only dates in italics). Remember, you can also use punctuation to help label. Use periods, parentheses, brackets, slashes and dashes to divide information.

Leave white (blank) space between sections to make the resume readable and emphasize important inform-ation. Use generous (one inch) margins; if you find yourself filling the entire page with text, go back and edit.

Making it Memorable

Strong verbs
Strong verbs are the first step to making your resume memorable. Each description should contain specific, action verbs that convey your abilities. (For an extensive list of resume action verbs, visit the Texas A&M Career Center’s website at careercenter.tamu.edu)

Don’t write: Participated in after school math tutoring program
Write: Encouraged and instructed sixth graders in algebra and geometry
 
Don’t write: Worked on research pertaining to virus development for a professor
Write: Evaluated data for a departmental study on virus formation and development
 

Impressive detail
Descriptions should also include specific details of your experiences. This creates “memories” of things you’ve accomplished in your readers’ mind. It also clarifies the relevance of your experiences to their company. The more detail you provide, the more they “know” and will remember you.

Don’t write: Initiated development of instructional material
Write: Initiated the development of self-help bookmarks for students featuring topics like Thesis Development and Avoiding Plagiarism
 
Don’t write: Managed a team of people
Write: Managed a design team of 10 individuals, assigning individual duties, scheduling meetings, supervising 3 major projects, and meeting deadlines
 

Employers are typically reluctant to hire someone who doesn’t have the exact qualifications they’ve listed. So, if you believe you have the skills to take on a position, you’ll need to convince the employer, even if you haven’t held a position identical to the one advertised. Almost anything can be “spun” to fit a position. For example, if you were a math tutor and are now applying for a managerial position, use your tutoring experience to highlight your ability to relate to and communicate with others in a friendly and productive way—skills imperative to a good manager. Remember that “spinning” your qualifications is about presenting your skills and abilities in the best possible light, NOT about inventing or embellishing credentials.

Direct language
Your sentences should be clear and straightforward. Avoid strings of prepositional phrases. Ask yourself if every word is the best it can be. Write each section and then go back and see how much you can cut or shorten it.

Don’t write: helped department organize the get-together for professors visiting from other universities
Write: helped organize department banquet for visiting professors
 
Don’t write: gathered lots of information for a really important survey for a newspaper asking people about their views on same-sex marriages in Texas through interviews and questionnaires
Write: Interviewed and surveyed Texans about same-sex marriage for The Houston Chronicle
 

Avoid slang and common phrases
You want to say something no one else can say. Using common phrases is, by definition, common—and usually longer than necessary. Using slang leads to a tone that is unprofessional and, often, immature.

Don’t write: Was in charge of club meetings
Write: Chaired weekly club meetings
 
Don’t write: Figured out how to incorporate attendance info into a cool computer system
Write: Discovered a solution for incorporating attendance records into computer system

Resume Sections

The sections of a resume generally include the following: personal data, objective, education, work experience, extracurricular organizations and activities, and special skills. Depending on the position you’re applying for, some sections can be given more attention and detail than others. If you’re applying for a job in marketing, for example, you’d provide more information pertaining to applicable marketing experience and less information about your years as a trombone player in the school band (unless you designed slogans and promotional material for your band).

Contact Data

Resumes generally use your first and last name (although you can include your middle name if you wish). Include the address at which you can most quickly be reached; you may include both permanent and mailing addresses but, presumably, you’re trying to conserve space for content since many resumes are only a page long. Be sure to include a phone number and email—and check them both regularly during your job search. Companies can’t hire you if they can’t contact you!

Contact information is usually included as a heading. Your name should be the largest text on the document for easy identification. Your contact information should be near the title, in a smaller font, and easily distinguishable from the rest of your text. Remember to achieve this by spacing or italics and not elaborate fonts. “Curlz” and “Impact” are not acceptable for a resume.

Ex. Contact information.
Griffin J. Montesquieu
713 Capulet Drive, Chicago, IL, 84928 . (123) 456-7890  quieu.griffin@gmail.com
Objective

This section consists of one sentence relating yourself directly to the job you want and the skills you have. It’s like a thesis for your resume. Avoid general statements like “opportunity for advancement” or “to acquire people skills.” Focus on what you can do for the employer, rather than what they can give you. The more specific you are, the more original you sound. You should write a new objective for every position you apply for.

Ex. 1  OBJECTIVE: Find a position involving the development of management information systems on mini- or microcomputers leading to responsibilities as a systems analyst.
Ex. 2  OBJECTIVE: Obtain a summer internship with a construction company for the spring.
 

Not every resume includes an objective. Alternately, some job seekers use a “Skills Summary” statement that gives an overall sense of the unique blend of abilities they have to offer.

Education

The education section should include information from all colleges you’ve attended, starting with the most recent. It should list your dates of attendance, the degree earned—if any, your major, any double-majors or minors, and your GPR (or GPA). Make sure the information is presented in a way that’s easy to read. If your grades aren’t particularly impressive, you can omit them or construct the layout in such a way to make them less noticeable.

Ex. 1 Standard entry.
Texas A&M University — Bachelor of Science — May 2007
Major in Civil Engineering — GPR: 3.7
 
Ex. 2 Emphasis on degree.
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, May 2001
Texas A&M University, GPR: 3.7
Work Experience

Work experience can either be listed in chronological order or in order of significance. Choose chronological if you wish to show growth or highlight personal skills. Choose significance if you have had many jobs related directly to the position you’re seeking. Remember to include active detail that portrays you as an involved worker. You can also include volunteer positions or unpaid internships if they’re relevant. Each job entry should include your job title, the place you worked, and the dates of employment. You can also place either the job title or the company name in the first line depending on whether you want to emphasize the position or the company.

Ex. Emphasis on position
Research Analyst
Cow Towne, Inc — Waterloo, Iowa — Summer 2001
- Supervised 13 assistants gathering information on cows’ eating habits
- Analyzed data to determine reduction of feeding hours while maintaining nutritional quality
 
Ex. Emphasis on company
Cow Towne, Inc — Waterloo, Iowa — Summer 2001
Research Analyst
- Supervised 13 assistants gathering information on cows’ eating habits
- Analyzed data to determine reduction of feeding hours while maintaining nutritional quality
Skills

Not all resumes include a skills section, but it is a good way to emphasize abilities, especially unique and highly coveted skills like second and third languages or advanced computer programming. You can also include important characteristics you have. List your skills with significant details under the appropriate heading, with both the skills and the details in descending order of importance.

Ex. of skills section.
Management
- Led committee to prepare and establish new Memorial Student Center Constitution
- Evaluated employees’ work progress for monthly reports

Programming
- Analyzed and designed a program to record and average student grades
- Designed a program to record items of fraternity’s $85,000 annual budget

References

Halpern, Jean, Judith M. Kilborn, and Agnes Locke. Business Writing Strategies and Samples. New York: MacMillan, 1988.

Houp, Kenneth W., Thomas E. Pearsall, and Elizabeth Tebeaux. Reporting Technical Information. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995.



Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The University Writing Center, Texas A&M University.