Resumes are “living” documents. A resume must be constantly adapted to speak to the needs of its intended audience and that audience changes based on the type of position you are seeking, the organization and the industry to which you are applying. A resume is not really just about you. It’s really about your skills, knowledge and experience that are relevant to employer you wish to impress. It’s your marketing tool, your 30-second advertisement designed to entice the reader to what to schedule an interview to learn more.
This guide will provide you with an overview of how to develop your resume to maximize its effectiveness in getting you noticed. Click on the subjects below to learn more.
Characteristics of a Good Resume
- Resumes must stress accomplishments and skills that are relevant to the kind of positions and employers you are seeking.
- Resumes must be visually attractive, well written and free of typos.
- Resumes must be positive, concise, and easy to read. Generally, they should only be one page. (It should only take 30 seconds to read your resume.)
There are multiple formats for resumes. They key is selecting a resume format that gets the information most relevant to your audience toward the top portion of the resume.
Chronological Format - Lists history in chronological order, starting with your most recent job down to your earliest. Under each job is a brief description of the position’s key responsibilities, followed by a bulleted list of relevant accomplishments. This is the most common resume format and the one often preferred by employers.
Best used - When you have a work history that supports the needs of the position you are seeking.
Functional (or Skills Based) Format – Focuses on skills and accomplishments relevant to the needs of the position you want. A list of 3 or 4 key skills, along with bulleted statements of accomplishments that demonstrate evidence of the skills are listed near the top of the resume. Work history is listed toward the bottom in a simple format that only includes the job title, company and dates of employment.
Best used - If you have a lapse in work history, are making a career change or a student who may not have relevant work history.
Combination Format – This format is just what it says; it combines a chronological format with a functional format. This can take several different forms. Past work history can be listed in chronological order, followed by key skills demonstrated in the position. Or, the work history can be listed first followed by a list of key skills or visa versa.
Best used - When you want to make it very clear that between your various jobs you have all the skills needed for your new job goal.
Student/Recent Grad Format – In this format, if you have only limited relevant experience, you will include a list of relevant course work and then list your relevant experience (internships, relevant part-time jobs or volunteer service) in chronological order. Non-relevant jobs are listed in a separate section titled “Additional Work History” and use the simple format that only includes the job title, company and dates of employment.
Best used – To ensure that your relevant education and experience are the focus of your resume. It also avoids the problem of your non-relevant “I had to do it to pay for college” job being the first thing the prospective employers see.
Sections of a Resume
Your name, address, best phone number and e-mail are located at the top of the page. You can include both local and permanent addresses if you are still in school.
Be sure that your e-mail address has a professional ring to it. A cute or funny email address won’t help you get the job. Additionally, make sure that your voice mail message is professional. If it’s not, your prospective employer may not leave a message and may not ever call you back. Finally, if you have a ring-back tone, choose music that doesn’t include words or subject matter that may be viewed by others as inappropriate.
If you are applying for a specific position, you don’t need to include objective in your resume. Your objective is that position and everything in that resume should speak to the needs of the position. However, if you are attending a career fair or sending your resume to a contact in company that currently doesn’t have an opening, you should include an objective.
If you do include an objective, it should clearly state your career goal. What kind of position are you seeking? It should focus on how you can benefit the employer, not on what you are seeking to benefit you. Once you’ve set your objective statement, the remainder of the resume should support that statement.
Sample Objective Statements
- A junior year Agribusiness major with a focus on commodity brokerage seeking a summer internship.
- A recent graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Child Development seeking an entry-level position facilitating adoptions and foster care placements.
- An internship focused on crop protection.
Highlights/Summary of Qualifications
Why do you need this section? Hiring managers are going through large piles of resumes and making very quick decisions about which resumes should get a longer look. To get that longer look, the “Highlights” or Summary of Qualifications should really point out your key qualifications for the position.
This section should consist of 4 to 6 bullet statements about your qualifications for this specific position. It could include:
- That you have received are currently pursuing a degree related to the position.
- That you have “X” months/years of relevant experience from internships or part-time employment.
- Special skills or knowledge that you have that are needed for the position. (Not that you know how to use Microsoft Office – in this day and age, it’s assumed that you do.)
- What personal characteristic do you possess and are know for that is of benefit to this position or organization.
The key to success in writing this section is having a solid understanding of the position and the organization to which you are applying. You need to do your research to ensure that you do.
Your summary of your education should include:
- Your degrees and Credentials and where you received them and when. For example:
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FRESNO – Fresno, CA May 2016
Bachelor of Science in Animal Science – Livestock Business Management Emphasis
For those of you who are still pursuing your degree, indicate the degree you are pursuing and your year in school. For example:
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FRESNO – Fresno, CA To be received May 2018
Completing Junior Year toward a Bachelor of Science in Family Studies and Consumer Sciences – Fashion Merchandising
If you have attended multiple colleges or universities, only include those you are currently attending and those where you received a degree. Additionally, if you are in your sophomore year of college, you no longer need to include your high school information.
- Your GPA if a 3.0 or greater.
- If you don’t have much relevant experience, include a list of key courses that show you have developed skills and knowledge needed for the new position.
- If you’ve been involved in campus clubs (particularly leadership roles) that are related to your career goal, include them on your resume.
It’s important to rethink the definition of experience. Many students think experience is only when you received a paycheck for your work. Expand your definition of experience to include internships and volunteer service that demonstrate that you have the skills and knowledge needed for your new position. Employers are more concerned that you have that knowledge and experience than whether or not you got paid for it.
How you list your experience depends on the format you choose (Chronological, Functional, Combination or Student/Recent Grad). The key information that should be included is:
- Name of your employer. Not your supervisor, but the company
- Geographic location of job (city and state only).
- Your dates of employment – Month/Year to Month/Year.
- Brief description of duties/responsibilities followed by a list of accomplishments that demonstrate the skills needed for the position.
What are Accomplishment Statements and How Do I Write One?
Accomplishment statements are probably the most important part of a great resume. They are an opportunity to set yourself apart from other candidates (many of whom only listed their duties on their resume). Accomplishment statements provide evidence that you have the skills and knowledge needed for the desired position and that you have added value to your employer, beyond meeting the basic requirements of your job description.
Think about your accomplishments in terms of C. A. R. statements. C. A. R. stands for:
- Challenge: What challenge or task did you face? This could be during an internship, part or full-time job, volunteer experience, or research project.
- Action: What action did you take to address the challenge or task? This could be independently or as part of a group.
- Result: What was the result of your action that was of benefit to your employer or the people you served? The results could be quantifiable, such as a specific percentage of increase in sales or a decrease in work related accidents when compared to the previous year. Alternatively your results may not be quantifiable, but verifiable. Did you get positive feedback from your supervisors, colleagues or customers? What did they say about your efforts?
It’s highly recommended that when you are working (even at your non-relevant part-time job), volunteering, or interning you should keep a journal of your accomplishment. And keep in mind no accomplishment is too small. If you made a contribution, no matter how seemingly insignificant, document it! Think about how you have:
- Saved money for the organization.
- Increased profits.
- Saved time (because time is money).
- Made a process or task easier.
- Solved a specific program.
- Brought in new customers or ensured that current customers kept coming back.
- Received positive feedback from a supervisor, co-worker or customer.
To write your statements, start by writing a paragraph or two about the accomplishment. In essence, tell the story of what you accomplished. Don’t worry about being brief at this point. An added advantage of developing these statements is that you can utilize these accomplishment stories during your interviews for those questions that start with “Tell me about a time when…” or “What would you do if…?”.
Once you have your story on paper, you can then work to turn it into a two to three sentence summary statement of the accomplishment. Just make sure that you’ve addressed the Challenge, the Action and the Result. For example rather than:
“Developed safety policy and procedure manual.” The challenge is addressed – a policy and procedure manual was needed. The action is a addressed – you developed a policy and procedure manual. However no result is indicated.
Instead address all three:
“Developed new safety policy and procedure manual that was well received by supervisors, implemented throughout the organization and resulted in a 75% decrease in workplace accidents.”
By taking the time to create these accomplishment statements, you will set yourself apart from other candidates who simply list their duties and don’t demonstrate how they have added value to their past organizations. Employers love employees who offer “added value” beyond their job descriptions.
Additional Resume Sections
There are other sections you can include in your resume, provided that they support your objective. These can include:
- Special Skills – Do you have specialized skills that are relevant to the needs of your intended
employer? These skills might include:
- Computer Skills – No, not that you can use Microsoft Office). Rather skills such as experience in the use of software that’s specific to the industry, website development or graphic design experience, or corporate social media presence management experience.
- Foreign Language -Do you speak languages needed by the organization?
- Technical skills – Have you mastered the use of specific equipment that is used in this industry or with this type of employer? Have you conducted research or been involved in legislative or regulatory issues of importance to your prospective employer.
- Awards and Honors – These should only be included if they speak to something that the resume reader values.
- Activities and Associations – Include a listing of your memberships in professional associations related to your career (remember you can join these as a students at much discounted rates). You can also include your involvement in other community activities, particularly if they are activities that are valued by the prospective employer.
Additional Resume Tips
- Use light-colored (white is best) standard 8 1/2” x 11” resume grade paper, printed on one side. Resume paper is 100% cotton or linen content.
- Use a font size of 10 to 14 points. Your name can be as large as 20 points. Section headers can be up to 14 points. Text should never be smaller than 10 points.
- Use popular, non-decorative typefaces. Good options are Arial, Helvetica and Calibri, which are san serif fonts. Garamond, Book Antiqua and Cambria are good serif options. Times New Roman is another classic serif option, but it’s used very frequently and maybe too often.
- Avoid italicized text, script, or underlined passages. Capitalized words and bold face are okay. Many resumes are scanned and screen by computer programs. Italicized text, script or underlines can cause lettering to touch each other and may confuse the scanning program.
- There are no personal pronouns in resumes. Do not include “I”,“me”, “my”, “he”, “her”, etc.. Removing personal pronouns is unique to resume writing and can result in more powerful, condensed sentences.
- Avoid graphics and shading. Don’t include pictures of you or anything else in resume.
- Avoid staples and folds if you are mailing a hard copy of your resume. If you must fold, do not fold on a line of text. Folds can cause distortions in the text when copies.
- Your name should be the first readable item on the page. Templates that put your name anywhere else should not be used.
- Resumes should be one page. If you must use two pages, use the entire second page. Until you have over 10 years of professional experience, your resume should easily fit on one page. Employers are scanning resumes quickly and can be frustrated by longer resumes.